03 Sep 2015   |   News

Romanian President commits to boosting innovation

Political leaders of Romania, Latvia and Bulgaria, the poor performers in Europe’s innovation stakes, have all made commitments to support research and innovation, but progress has been poor

Romania’s national strategy for research and innovation, signed into law last year, is a “good document” but the implementation plan has not been followed, and only half of the proposed budget has been actually allocated, said Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in a speech this week.

“Romania needs to prioritise strategic areas of research and innovation and to encourage links between the economy and scientific performance,” Iohannis said at the Romanian Academy, in the first high-level political show of moving innovation policy up the government’s priority list.

The EU’s 2015 Innovation Union Scoreboard said Romania’s performance, “has increased for most innovation dimensions,” but indicators such as the sales share of new innovations and venture capital investments are in steep decline.

Despite some improvement Romania was bottom of the Scorecard ranking. “We can no longer stay in the last place in Europe,” Iohannis said. The immediate effects are, “low economic competitiveness and low added-value” of products and services from Romania.

Iohannis praised successful research projects in Romania such as the Extreme Light Infrastructure and Nuclear Physics project (ELI-NP) in Măgurele, near Bucharest. But copying the success of ELI-NP will not be very easy unless there is a, “sustained inter-institutional effort,” he argued. Legal constraints and a shortage of resources are discouraging researchers and innovators.

The modest innovators’ club

EU Member States’ innovation performance

Romania is not the only country in the modest innovators’ bloc that is seeking to boost its innovation capabilities. Latvian and Bulgarian politicians are also trying to beef up support for innovation.

Earlier this year, in a speech at the Financial Instruments for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurhip conference held in Riga, Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, said Latvia’s ranking in the Innovation Union Scoreboard is not satisfactory at all, and pledged more, “[Government] support for businesses in their efforts to invest in innovation and develop cooperation between industry and the science sector.”

The 2015 Innovation Union Scoreboard says Latvia performs below the average of the EU for almost all innovation indicators, and the country’s business sector is spending less and less on research and development. 

Bulgaria, the other modest innovator, has been making similar - verbal - commitments since 2004, when it launched its National Innovation Strategy. The Strategy was updated in 2008 by then Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, who approved a threefold increase of the National Science Fund budget.

Despite this, a 2012 report by Enterprise Europe Network said Bulgaria still lacks, “comprehensive public policy aimed at fostering economic growth based on knowledge and innovation.”

The latest data from Eurostat shows that all three countries in the modest innovators bloc are spending less than 1 per cent of their GDP on research and development. Bulgaria spends 0.65 per cent, Latvia 0.6 per cent, while Romania spends only 0.39 per cent of its GDP on research and development.