Research and Innovation

Recent reforms are intended to put the Czech innovation system on path to converge with the EU innovation followers by 2020. The Czech Republic International Competitiveness Strategy for 2012- 2020, which includes the new National Innovation Strategy (NIS), aims to strengthen the importance of innovation as a source of competitiveness for the Czech Republic. It builds on the ambitious reform programme presented in the 2011 and 2012 NRPs to increase the effectiveness of the national research and innovation system, including the quality of its output and the links between the science base and the business sector.

This includes amending the Investment Incentives Act to offer investors (as of July 2012) tax incentives for creating or upgrading manufacturing facilities, R&D centres and business support centres; amending the Income Tax Act so that private firms can (as of January 2014) deduct from their taxable income the cost of R&D activities contracted out; launching new programmes to stimulate cooperation between R&D institutions and industry in sectors such as transport, energy and environment through the ALFA Programme of the Technology Agency (which also supports the development of Competence Centres); developing a new evaluation methodology to ensure that longterm R&D financing is based on excellence/quality and that support is focused on the best research teams; creating a fund to improve access to venture capital for financing innovation; reforming the tertiary education system and improving researchers' career prospects, especially for top scientists, in order to prevent brain drain. The implementation of the International Competitiveness Strategy is coordinated by an intergovernmental Steering Committee which is also responsible for the National Innovation Strategy.

However, the governance of the national research and innovation system would benefit from a clarification of the respective roles of this Steering Committee and of the Council for R&D and Innovation which advises the Prime Minister on related matters. The national R&D target currently only covers public funding of R&D. The lack of commitment to an overall R&D target, encompassing both public and private R&D intensity, could jeopardise the adoption (and/or endanger the rigorous implementation) of important policies and measures to incentivise private R&D investment. There are also important delays in implementing the planned reforms which may lead to a loss of attractiveness for domestic and foreign R&I investors. This is particularly the case for the overdue modernisation of the higher education system which is a prerequisite to a change of attitude of academia towards the business sector with whom it should start developing stronger collaborations.

A broad set of priorities for applied research, development and innovation had been defined for the period 2009-2011 by the Council for R&D and innovation, covering in particular biological and ecological aspects of sustainable development; molecular biology and biotechnologies; sources of energy; smart materials; competitive engineering; information society; security and defence. As part of the revision of the National R&D&I policy 2009-2015, the Government adopted in July 2012 a new set of better targeted priorities focusing on six major societal challenges (competitive knowledge economy, sustainable energy and material resources, environment for quality life, social and cultural challenges, healthy people and secure society). The priorities were identified on the basis of the work of expert panels and cover the period up until 2030. A detailed plan of implementation (starting in 2014) will be submitted to the Government by July 2013.