The annual RIO Country Report offers an analysis of the R&I system in Slovenia, including relevant policies and funding, with particular focus on topics critical for EU policies. The report identifies the main challenges of the Slovenian research and innovation system and assesses the policy response.
In 2014, the Council suggested that Slovenia should "Streamline priorities and ensure consistency between the 2011 Research and Innovation and the 2013 Industrial Policy Strategies with the upcoming strategies on Smart Specialisation and Transport, ensure their prompt implementation and assessment of effectiveness."
In its attempts to find the most efficient distribution of tasks among the different ministries in 2012, the Slovenian government decided to move the technology section from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (now MESS – Ministry of Education, Science and Sport) to the Ministry of Economy, which became the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology (MEDT). Although this separation can be found in many countries with well-functioning R&I systems, the specific problem with moving the technology section is that it requires a certain transition period before it becomes fully operational again.
The shifts in the structure of the R&I resulted also in delays in the implementation of the “Research and Innovation Strategy of Slovenia 2011-2020” (RISS). The document was partially dismissed after the 2011 early elections and revived again in 2013. One of the key priorities of the strategy was the "establishment of an effective common governance system for the research and innovation system, involving all stakeholders". RISS puts forward as a measure in this respect the "[f]ormation of a uniform Government advisory body – the Council for Research and Innovation will replace the Council for Science and Technology and the Competitiveness Council", which requires a change in the Law on R&D (see below). The RISS, the Industrial Policy Strategy (2013) and the National Programme on Higher Education (NPHE) were taken into account when drafting the Smart Specialisation Strategy, but the latter was submitted to the European Commission only in July 2015 and approved in November 2015, which has caused delays in making the planned measures operational and publishing new calls.
The establishment of a Council for Research and Innovation is somehow delayed if not left apart for the time being. The Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy (GODC) was re-established in March 2014, whose primary task is to speed up the preparation of the necessary national documentation for the EU structural and cohesion funds, including the preparation of the Smart Specialisation Strategy. After two unsuccessful drafting of RIS3 in November 2013 (prepared by MEDT) and August 2014, GODC published an open call to RDI communities to submit proposals for the entrepreneurial discovery process. The RIS3 draft received 170 proposals and was discussed in a specific conference with more than 400 participants. On the basis of the discussion and expressed interests, the GODC is planning to identify strategic partnerships, which would focus on priority areas. GODC is developing the implementation process as well as coordination mechanism in cooperation with other ministries and responsible agencies.
With regards to the coherence of the strategic documents, 2015 National Reform Programme (NRP) insists that "The Research and Innovation Strategy of Slovenia (RISS) from 2010 and Industrial Strategy Policy (SIP) from 2013 are mutually harmonised, while their objectives (introduction of excellence and competition at the international level) are completely included in the Smart Specialisation Strategy".
The proper implementation of the RISS and NPHE calls for two legal acts to be adopted: the Law on Research and Development (R&D) and the Law on Higher Education (HE). The initial idea was that they reflect the interconnectedness of research and innovation and deal with the financing of research at university level and suggests higher level of autonomy in internal distribution of research funding, especially of so-called institutional block-funding for research at HEIs. The two acts were drafted by the previous government, but in May 2015, the newly-appointed Minister of Education, Science and Sports stated that new drafts of the two key laws are to be prepared by late fall 2015 for public discussion. Apart from the preparation of these two laws, no major policy action has been put in place since 2011. Each ministerial team had different views on the implementation of RISS and the content of the key legal documents, but fell short of adequately completing the policy changes.
Although the Slovenian R&I system seems to function rather well compared to other similar economies, the streamlining of its strategic priorities and coordination between the actors in the governance system could further be improved. As stated by the new government, there is a policy commitment that would help push through the necessary steps to adopt the two laws and start implementing effectively existing and new strategies. Setting up widely agreed national R&I priorities would certainly better bring about policy continuity and guarantee succession of instruments and measures deemed valuable for the system. Indeed, what is important in the long run is to put in place sustainable governance mechanisms which will allow having predictable outcomes from the implementation of the strategic documents.