The annual RIO Country Report offers an analysis of the R&I system in Greece, including relevant policies and funding, with particular focus on topics critical for EU policies. The report identifies the main challenges of the Greek research and innovation system and assesses the policy response.
The Greek R&I governance system has long been characterised by a lack of strategic vision and weak coordination between governmental bodies. An Innovation Council including representatives from academia and industry was set up in 2013 to provide R&I advice on strategic level and facilitate coordination between government agencies responsible for R&I activities and stakeholders. However, it produced very few recommendations and decisions so far. Supervision of the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT), the main body responsible for policy implementation and funding, was transferred back and forth twice from the Ministry of Development, Competiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks to the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs between 2009 and 2012. These shifts created inefficiencies and delays in policy implementation.
Until 2013, no systematic evaluations of policies and funding programmes were carried out, which means the knowledge base for policy learning and improvement is still very small. Universities and public research organisations are regularly evaluated, but evaluation results are not taken into account for budget allocation. Reporting of statistical indicators related to R&I was was not systematically organised and led to lack of data from 2011 to 2013, leading to discontinuities in time series that complicate performance analysis.
In February 2015 the government created the post of Alternate Minister for research and innovation within the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and established an R&I sector within the ministry in March. This role is expected to bring more top-level political guidance to R&I governance. After the September 2015 elections, the Ministry was renamed "Education, Research, and Religious Affairs", which may signal a commitment to put more emphasis on R&I.
A draft National Strategy for Research, Technological Development and Innovation (ESETAK) was adopted in 2014. In terms of planned programmes ESETAK is identical with the national smart specialisation strategy, but this may change in the future. A law to implement it was passed the same year, but has been under revision at the initiative of the Alternate Minister for R&I since spring 2015. Among other things, the revision aims to redefine evaluation regimes, improve working conditions for publicly employed researchers, and to facilitate timely absorption of SF funding. Furthermore, the country's high-level advisory body, the National Council for Research, Technology Development and Innovation (NCRTDI), is to provide recommendations on the formation of the national R&I strategy. The revisions emphasise the need to establish it in a non-bureaucratic and transparent way. Furthermore, Regional Research and Innovation Councils are to be created, which will have a major role in implementation of RIS3 strategies. They are intended to provide the link between GSRT's policy implementation at the national level and regional smart specialisation.
ESETAK and the corresponding implementing law introduced new methods to evaluate RPOs. Evaluations will take place every 5 years by committees of 5-7 (Greek and foreign) external evaluators. In 2015, GSRT was tasked also with project and programme evaluation, until it had completed creation of a registry of certified evaluators, which would then take over these responsibilities. The National Documentation Centre has started to regularly evaluate funding programmes. It has also embarked on a more systematic monitoring of the R&I system, with regular publication of related data and results. Problems with reporting statistical indicators have been resolved with a reorganisation of data collection mechanisms in 2013.
An assessment of the new R&I strategies' impact is not yet possible, as the corresponding law is still under revision which effectively stalls the implementation process. The changes in the R&I governance structure proposed in ESETAK have been judged largely positively by the European Commission as well as by independent consultants, but it remains to be seen to what extent these recommendations are modified in the ongoing revision. Continuing political instability might delay swift implementation of institutional changes. At the same time, severe budget cuts and personnel reductions negatively affect staff motivation for organisational change within government agencies.
Regarding evaluation and policy learning, the monitoring and data publication activities of the National Documentation Centre are a step in the right direction. However, the extent to which these results will influence policy making is not clear yet. For this aspect, design and implementation of new evaluation mechanisms mandated from GSRT will likely be crucial. Mandatory evaluations in the context of Structural Funds Operational Programmes may in the longer term also improve evaluation culture in general. The Evaluation Plan submitted to DG Regio, which is mandatory for the current Programming Period (2014-2020) lists a number of RTDI evaluations at national and regional level. They are not expected to start before 2017.