The annual RIO Country Report analyses and assesses the development and performance of the Slovak national research and innovation system and related policies in the perspective of EU strategy and goals.
The report highlights recent national policy and system developments occurring and assesses the match between national policy priorities and the structural challenges of the research and innovation system. It addresses among others:
The RIO Country Report 2014 builds on the experience of the ERAWATCH project. The ERAWATCH Country Reports from previous years are also available for download on this page
Slovakia has a small, underfunded and centrally managed system of research and innovation. Key features of the R&I system include: (i) strong position of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports in drafting and implementing R&D policies; (ii) low national expenditure on R&D; (iii) increasing reliance on the EU financial resources; and (iv) slow progress in implementation of the RIS3 strategy.
Slovak gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) was €610.9m (0.83% of GDP) in 2013 (2012: €585.5m and 0.81% GDP). The 2014 National Reform Programme for the Slovak Republic set 2020 targets for GERD and the business expenditure on research and development (BERD) to 1.2% and 0.8% respectively.
Research, higher education and innovation (R&I) have been traditionally considered matters of central government in Slovakia. Support to R&I, higher education and innovation have been traditionally considered matters of central government. The state budget and Structural Funds were the main sources of public support to R&D in Slovakia in 2010s. The 2014 Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS) data indicates that Slovakia has made a modest progress towards developing knowledge-based economy since 2009.
National research and development policies are drafted, implemented and co-ordinated by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports (MESRS). The MESRS co-operates with other ministries (Ministries of Economy and Finance in particular), the Slovak Academy of Sciences, higher education institutions, and associations of employers and industrial research organisations, respectively. The MESRS also manages key research performers (higher education institutions, Slovak Academy of Sciences) and three research funding agencies.
The Slovak government referred to the austerity measures and debt ceiling criteria and limited public expenditure on R&D and tertiary education. The institutional budget of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) was cut from €59.71m in 2014 to €58.52m in 2015. Public support to higher education decreased from €457.2m to €453.1m in the same period. The government also prepared a plan for the transformation of the SAS into public research institution in 2015.
The Smart Specialisation Strategy is the key R&I document for 2014-2020. It sets four goals and policy measures aimed at research, innovation and education: (i) tackling challenge of the dual economy and increasing embeddedness of key industries in Slovakia; (ii) supporting economic growth via results of excellent science; (iii) creating dynamic, open and inclusive innovative society as a condition for improving quality of life; and (iv) improving quality of human resources for innovative Slovakia.
The 2014 National Reform Programme for the Slovak Republic confirmed government’s intention on the ‘cancellation of scientific-pedagogic and artistic-pedagogic titles of assistant professor and professor, while retaining only the relevant functional positions’. This should ‘make the academic career more flexible and the system open also for persons interested from abroad or from practice’. No specific policy actions toward these targets were taken.
The 2014 Country-specific Recommendations for the Slovak Republic include actions to be taken on ‘improving the quality and relevance of the science base and implementing plans to foster effective knowledge transfer and co-operation between academia, research and business’. These recommendations are addressed in the RIS3 document and the Operational Programme Research and Innovation (major source of finance for Slovak R&I in 2014-2020).
The share of gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) in GDP was 3.88% by 1989, but 0.83% in 2013. The 2020 national targets for shares of GERD and BERD in GDP (set by the 2013 National Reform Programme) are 1.2% and 0.8% respectively. The GERD target may be realistic provided that the EU assistance to Slovak research system continues. The BERD target is more challenging, because of the extremely low R&D spending of Slovak firms.
The 2014 the total public support to research and development was set to €574.87m, of which HEIs salaries were €192.31m and resources provided by the Operational Programme Research and Development €270.94m. The 2015 State Budget Law set the corresponding volumes of public support to €358.45m, €189.88m and €108.49m. The austerity measures affected the Slovak Research and Development Agency (the most important R&D funder in Slovakia). Its budget dropped from €27.97m in 2013 to €26.27m in 2014 and €26.29m in 2015.
Project vs. institutional allocation of public funding:
Institutional funding supports basic research in public higher education institutions and the Slovak Academy of Sciences. It is provided via (i) block grants) and (ii) competitive VEGA grants from the state budget divisions (ministries and other central authorities). Project funding is provided through national and European resources. According to the Eurostat, the share of national project funding in the total national funding was 21.3% in 2012.
The Structural Fund schemes provide some €4b for projects supporting research, innovation projects and human resources in 2007-2013/15. All the schemes supported from the Structural Funds also rely on grants, except for the JEREMIE programme. All the schemes supported from the Structural Funds also rely on grants, except for the JEREMIE programme (€100m). R&D tax reliefs were introduced in 2015.
The RIS3 document envisages policy measures aimed at increasing the embeddedness and related variety of key Slovak industries (linking Slovak SMEs with branches of the multinational enterprises via clusters, innovation partnerships, joint research centres, applied research grants, etc.). The final goal of these measures is the integration of Slovak firms into the global value chains and increasing levels of value added in products made in Slovakia.
The higher education institutions (HEI) are evaluated every six years by the Accreditation Commission. The Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) has its own accreditation commission. The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports evaluates the inputs and the outputs of major R&D policy instruments on an annual basis. Results of evaluation have little impact on quality of research performance by key research performers, as budgets of HEIs and SAS are fixed. Slovak HEIs and the SAS have been sliding down in the SCIMAGO list of World research performers in 2010s.
Joint research / programming is inadequately addressed by Slovak research policies. Slovakia participated in nine out of 31 ERA-NET projects, 18 out of 36 European Technology Platforms and three out of 11 joint programming initiatives by 2013. The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports supported 15 multilateral schemes and 10 bilateral schemes with €10.59m in 2013.
Slovak public research institutions (Slovak Academy of Sciences in particular) and higher education institutions (HEIs) enjoy a relatively high level of internal autonomy in terms of electing their top representatives and bodies, and setting the research agenda. The actual autonomy of the SAS and HEIs is limited by (i) their strong dependency on public (national and European) financial resources, and (ii) nation-wide laws on employment conditions.
Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment of researchers:
Public research institutions may hire teaching staff, technical staff and/or researchers for fixed-term contracts and/or tenure, depending on their financial resources. Tariff wages are set by regulations and reflect the experience and the excellence of the researchers. Experience is defined by years of service, and excellence by academic degree. The Slovak labour market for researchers is, in theory, fully open for the EU and third country researchers. In practice, the Slovak labour market is characterised by low wages and high unemployment rates. There is also is a considerable language barrier for foreigners wishing to work in Slovakia.
Access to and portability of grants:
Researchers affiliated in foreign institutions are not allowed to apply for grants funded from the Slovak State Budget, except for schemes on bilateral and multilateral co-operation in science and technology. No plans for portability of national grants were scheduled in key R&I policies in Slovakia.
The Slovak Academic and Information Agency manages the Slovak version of the EURAXESS webpage since 2004. The EURAXESS offers its services in Bratislava and five other regional capitals. The EURAXESS Slovakia mainly quotes available jobs for Slovak researchers wishing to work abroad. For foreign nationals wishing to work in Slovakia the EURAXESS publishes practical information on entry conditions and legal stay, health insurance, social security, taxation, recognition of diplomas and qualifications, and daily life.
Two types of PhD courses are provided in Slovakia. ‘Internal’ PhD students get fellowships paid by the state, and distributed via HEIs and accredited training places (including the Slovak Academy of Sciences). Fellowships are awarded for three years. ‘External’ PhD programmes are designed for people employed outside research and HEI sectors and do not involve any direct financial support. There is no explicit support measure aimed at the innovative doctoral training in the Slovak Republic. The closest measures include (i) The Support to Human Potential Programme by the Slovak Research and Development Agency, (ii) National Scholarship Programme and (iii) European initiatives, including Marie Curie Actions.
HR strategy for researchers (HRS4R) incorporating the Charter and Code:
The Slovak Republic participated in the ERA-SGHRM Working Group on ‘Human Resources issues, including the HRS4R’. Two national research organisations signed the Charter for Researchers in Slovakia, the Rectors of the Slovak Higher Education Institutions and the Slovak Academy of Sciences. These two bodies represent about 80% of the total researchers in Slovakia.
Education and training systems:
The number of PhD students increased from 3875 in academic year 1988/1989 to 10,009 in 2013/2014 (including distant form of study). Social science and humanities (SSH) accounted for 45.1% of total PhD students. The Slovak Government was worried by the limited quality of mass education and declared the need for the sufficient supply of (post)graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as to ensure an appropriate mix of skills among the population.
e-Infrastructures and researchers electronic identity:
The policies for research and education-related public e-infrastructures and for associated digital research services are implemented by the Slovak Academic Network (SANET). Slovakia was member of the TERENA network and represented via the SANET. The SANET also worked on changeover to dark fibre infrastructures and enhancing backbone capacities to 100 Gbps. The new infrastructure should be ready by 2015-2016.
Open Access to publications and data:
The 2013 report Proportion of Open Access Peer-Reviewed Papers at the European and World Levels—2004-2011 indicates that some 35% scientific papers accounted for the Green & Hybrid Access, 11% for Gold Access and 46% for Open Access in Slovakia in the abovementioned period. The corresponding numbers for the EU28 were 37%, 8% and 45%.
The framework conditions conducive to business investment in research and innovation are underdeveloped in Slovakia. Slovakia has no law on support to innovation. The first document on innovation policies was introduced in 2007 and was aimed at absorbing Structural Funds. The R&D Stimuli were introduced in 2009, but the overall amount of support was too low to generate a significant impact on innovation development. Tax reliefs for R&D were introduced in 2015 projects. They are likely to improve the framework conditions for the development of applied research and innovation in Slovakia.
Science-based entrepreneurship has a short history and is underdeveloped in Slovakia. The Slovak Government invested considerable resources from the Operational Programme Research & Development supported 93 Research and Development Centres (€190m), eight Competence Centres (€57.59m), and 11 University Science Parks (€300m) in 2007-2013/15. Policy measures aimed at science-based entrepreneurship had to cope with low absorption capacity. Less than half of the budget for the abovementioned policy measures was spent by December 2014.
The knowledge markets are in their embryonic stage in Slovakia. The Slovak legislation on patents was harmonised with the European one in 2001, but the supply of EPO patents by Slovak research bodies is very low. 255 patent applications were made at the EPO in the period 2000-2010 in Slovakia and 415 patent applicants took the PCT route. The National Patent Office received over 2242 applications in this period.
The Slovak Republic used the means provided by the Operational Programme Research & Development and supported two national projects in knowledge transfer: (i) the ‘Transfer of knowledge and technology from research and development into practice' project (€226.9m) and (ii) the ‘National infrastructure supporting technology transfer in Slovakia’ (€8.2m). The Operational Programme Competitiveness and Economic Growth allocated about €530.5m to over 1181 businesses by December 2014. Bulk of assistance supported purchase of new technologies by Slovak SMEs in manufacturing industries. Most projects will conclude in 2015 and it is yet too early to evaluate their impacts.
Innovation activities in small and medium enterprises are supported via financial and non-financial schemes in Slovakia. The JEREMIE initiative provides risk capital for small and medium enterprises and allocates €100m in period 2007-2013/15. The Slovak Business Agency (SBA) manages several microloan and risk capital schemes, provides analyses of business environments and introduces projects aimed at the implementation of the Small Business Act and promoting clusters, innovations, eco-innovations, and support to female entrepreneurship.
The Slovak capital market accounts for low levels of development. The 2013 Central and Eastern Europe Statistics Report on venture capital states that the total private equity investment was €97.8m in 2012 and €2.0m in 2013 (0.138% and 0.012% of GDP respectively). The venture capital shares of GDP were well-below the European averages (0.262% and 0.253% respectively in 2013).
The Slovak Republic has not yet set any national target for public procurement of innovative goods and services. The procurement of innovative technologies is financed from European resources and concentrates in e-government services. Procurement of e-government services generated mixed results. The public administration services (including Electronic Identity Card project) and Central Register of Contracts operate well. The e-Health and tax administration projects failed to deliver positive results by end of 2015.
The 2014 Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS) data indicates that Slovakia has made a modest progress towards developing knowledge-based economy since 2006. The absolute value of the Summary Innovation Index (SII) changed little in period 2006-2012 (0.295 versus 0.328). The gap against the EU-28 SII value (0.517 versus 0.554) remained about the same. Slovakia’s position against its main competitors in the region (the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland) somewhat improved in the above-mentioned period.
The key challenges in the national innovation system have been continuing for many years and relate to (1) weak R&D system, which disables co-operation between academia and industry sectors; (ii) underdeveloped system of innovation governance; (iii) dual economy; (iv) low shares of domestic innovative enterprises and (v) inadequate national innovation funding.
The Slovak Government attempts to address structural challenges via a number of policy initiatives. The RIS3 document proposes a specific policy measures aimed at (i) increasing embeddedness and related variety of the key Slovak industries, (ii) reform of R&I governance; (iii) reform of public R&D performers; (iv) building foundations of excellent science and (v) supporting innovations in SMEs.