RIO Country Report Slovenia 2014
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The annual RIO Country Report analyses and assesses the development and performance of the Slovenian 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 progress of Slovenia towards achieving the Innovation Union, focusing on areas where action is needed.
- Progress in responding to the ERA actions, particularly in light of the ERA progress report findings published in September 2014.
- Country specific R&D and innovation recommendations as indicated in COM(2014) 400 final '2014 European Semester: Country specific recommendations, Building Growth' adopted by the Commission on 2 June 2014 and endorsed by the Council on 27 June 2014.
- Progress in tackling research and innovation system challenges beyond those outlined above.
- Areas highlighted by the Commission's Communication on 'Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth' (COM(2014) 339 final) and its accompanying Staff Working Document 'State of the Innovation Union, taking stock 2010-2014' (SWD(2014 181 final).
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.
Country Report file
The economic crisis that hit Slovenia in late 2008 had dire consequences on the national economy and political stability, which was for the first time since independence a relative shock for Slovenian citizens. Since 2011 Slovenia had two early elections and three changes of governments. The change in governments also changed the RDI policy-organisational structure. With the 2012 change the ex-MHEST was divided among two ministries – now being MESS and MEDT. The latter took the responsibility for the “technology” policy. This artificial separation between R&D and innovation policy still causes some problems, visible especially in the segregation and overlapping of authorities in the field of RDI.
The second ERA priority is one of the priorities of Slovenian National Innovation System mentioned in RISS 2011–2020. RISS presents two directions in which actions should be taken to strengthen the trans-border cooperation of Slovenian R&D stakeholder: multilateral and bilateral. In the field of multilateral cooperation, RISS auspices to intensify cooperation within the EU, especially in EU programmes and networks. Parallel with multilateral cooperation, RISS exposes the necessity of strong bilateral cooperation in the field of R&D, especially with BRIC countries. Next to them, RISS states that the scientific cooperation should be improved also with “the most advanced countries”, while for the South-Eastern European (Western Balkan) countries, Slovenia should become a “hosting country for their excellent researchers and enterprises”.
Even though RISS strongly supports the idea of peer-review, there is yet no practice to recognise the international peer-review evaluation as the national one. In the case of national project/ programme proposal evaluations, Slovenian institutions (predominantly Slovenian Research Agency) more and more often combine national and international experts. In some cases, the review panels are also composed of Slovenian and foreign experts. The only (known) case where the international peer-review is regularly taken as a basis for the national funding, is the case of EUROSTARS projects, led through the ex-Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (today MEDT, since the participation in EUREKA/EUROSTARS is coordinated by them).
In May 2011 the Slovenian National Assembly adopted a long-term strategic document of research and innovation, named Research and Innovation Strategy of Slovenia (RISS) 2011–2020. RISS defined the R&D priorities for the next decade (2011–2020) and can be summarised as follows:
a) Better integration of research and innovation;
b) Publicly funded sciences and scientists shall contribute to economic and social restructuring;
c) Enhancing/ensuring closer cooperation between PROs and the business sector;
d) Increasing scientific excellence, partly by increasing competitiveness within S&T stakeholders and partly by providing necessary resources, both human and financial.
The 2013-14 NRP is devoted mostly to the financial stability of the country, since Slovenia from 2009 onwards faces strong public debt and financial deficit imbalances. In spite of overall harsh economic situation, Slovenia acknowledges and reaffirms its commitments to increase R&D investments to the EU-agreed level of 3 % until 2020, which is in fact lower than initially committed under RISS (3.6%). One of the supporting instruments for achieving the settled goal is the RIS3 strategy, which will “define the priority areas in which Slovenia intends to invest resources from structural funds", help to “establish a single institutional framework for channelling subsidies (i.e. policy mix)” and “will provide the harmonised implementation of support instruments for industrial and innovation policies”.
The third ERA priority is quite developed in Slovenia, since already before Slovenian independence various measures have been introduced to establish attractive careers for scientists and RDI experts. Especially during the last 10 years many actions have been taken to accelerate the mobility between PROs and private sector. Here at least three instruments should be mentioned: Young researchers from business sector, Centres of Excellence (CE) and Centres of Competence (CC), and the Call for Basic and applied projects (issued on 24 December 2014 and closed on 12 February 2015), which strongly emphasises applications coming from the business sector.
Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment of researchers:
Slovenian researchers’ labour market remains relatively closed due to the internal restrictions, i.e. compensation limitations due to the classification of researchers (HEIs and PROs) as public employees, where salaries have to follow Public Sector Salary System Act and collective agreements for all public sector employees and specific collective agreements for RDI employees. In the case of HEI one of the requirements for the employment is also the active knowledge of Slovenian language. All in all it can be said that albeit the Slovenian RDI labour market is officially deregulated, there are some formal and informal barriers to the recruitment of researchers.
Access to and portability of grants:
RISS 2011–2020 implicitly focuses on the importance of cross-border cooperation and removal of (legal, political etc.) barriers, which hinder cross-border cooperation. However, there is no official document, which would deal with this issue in a more specific manner, by listing activities that should be performed or with some other particularities.
In Slovenia, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology by an internal decree in 2005 decided that the bridge-head organisation of EURAXESS (BHO) in Slovenia should become CMEPIUS. CMEPIUS is the national organisation entitled for mobility of pupils, students, university teachers and researchers. Under the patronage of CMEPIUS, the website for the promotion of mobility has been established, presenting key requirements and particularities of the intra-EU researchers’ mobility scheme. Next to the BHO, there are also seven national contact points, on each university (five), one at the International School for Social and Business Studies, and one at the Jozef Stefan Institute (Ljubljana). In August 2014 the University of Ljubljana obliged its members to publish all calls on the EURAXESS portal.
The doctoral training in Slovenia is well-developed and traces back in the period of ex-Yugoslavia. In the financial perspective 2007-2013, two measures were important in granting the development of the doctoral training, both receiving co-financing through European Social Fund: the innovative doctoral study scheme and the measure Young Researchers. The original scheme for young researchers, which goes back to 1985, was meant for young researchers to complete their Ph.D. studies. This scheme was expanded to Young Researchers from Industry, promoting doctoral training among research staff in industry and was significantly boosted with the funding received from ESF.
HR strategy for researchers (HRS4R) incorporating the Charter and Code:
The key document dealing with the development of human resources and Ethical dimension of RDI is RISS 2011–2020. RISS 2011–2020 emphasises that Slovenian research and innovation system needs some ramifications and corrections in (the) (a) higher number of researchers and developers in the economy; (b) increasing number of doctors of science; (c) strengthening the qualifications of the research personnel; and (d) ensuring effective inter-institutional and interstate mobility of researchers.
Education and training systems:
The Slovenian education system has some minor problems, but all in all is a well-known and well-performing system. Slovenian graduates and researchers easily compete with their ‘western’ colleagues on international tenders; Slovenian postgraduate students study at prestigious world universities and also are competitive on a world job market. One of the problems which the Slovenian education system is facing is the lack of clear demarcation of university studies and vocational colleges. Regarding the excellence in education, it should be noted that most Slovenian schools and universities have quite new and spatial building, they are computerised and they have the technology, which support the interactive modes of teaching. Most of the curricula are built of cross-disciplinarity, however one of the reproaches of Slovenian education system is that it lacks innovativeness and entrepreneurial education.
The Council of the European Union has recommended to Slovenia, upon examination of Slovenia’s 2014 National Reform Programme and Slovenia’s 2014 stability programme, that it should among others: “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.”
Most of the policy efforts in the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 have focused on the elaboration of RIS3, since the draft RIS, submitted in the end of August 2014 to the European Commission was not positively assessed. The new team at the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy (GODC) first had a very ambitious plan to rewrite the text completely, but under the time pressure agreed to revise the draft in the light of the recommendations of the reviewers and experts from other ministries.
The informatisation of the scientific field started relatively early in Slovenia. RCUM (Computer centre of University of Maribor), being a predecessor of Slovenian research e-infrastructure was established in 1983 as the informational trust of the University of Maribor. Realising that it has performed an important work for seven years and its contribution to the digitalisation, the Ministry of Science and Technology decided that IZUM (the renamed RCUM to IZUM) would become a platform for the development of digitalisation and knowledge access for all Slovenian libraries and interested public (COBISS). After the establishment of a database of all libraries and their units in 1999, IZUM made a step further for a scientific research, by establishing the so-called SICRIS. SICRIS is a system that quantitatively evaluates the research performance and scientific excellence of Slovenian researchers, by assessing their publications and other activities according to the criteria set by the Slovenian Research Agency.
e-Infrastructures and researchers electronic identity:
RISS is the key document related to the e-infrastructure. As already explained in the introductory paragraph, the most important platform for the preservation of documentation is IZUM/COBISS. COBISS contains key data on all materials available in public and some personal libraries. Regarding the measures for supporting the development of e-infrastructures, it should be explained that financing of COBISS is channelled through Slovenian Research Agency, especially by its infrastructural financing. Because of public funds, COBISS is available for all internet users, and in some cases, bibliographic note includes a link to the actual material, while in other cases, it is always clear which library has the needed material.
Open Access to publications and data:
More than 35 Slovenian scientific journals are indexed in Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) out of approximately 120 published. Researchers are still reluctant to publish in OA journals – because of the evaluation metrics they prefer hybrid journals of traditional publishers. The electronic versions of all publicly co-financed Slovenian subscription journals (approximately 65 titles) and final reports of research projects, financed by the Slovenian Research Agency, must be deposited into the Digital Library of Slovenia.
The RISS was the first legal document where both R&D and innovation policies were merged in a single framework. At the time, this was considered as a major break-through which would also allow for more systematic supply and demand-side policies and instruments. Yet the dissolution of the common ministry, many changes in the organisation of the government and poor implementation of RISS have resulted in a situation that Slovenia now lacks a comprehensive innovation policy, there is nearly non-existent policy coordination and complete lack of any systematic evaluation. The most elaborate system of support measures for business sector RDI was in place during 2008–2011, also due to the availability of EU structural funds.
Over the years, Slovenia has developed a rather complex scheme of institutions for R&D and innovation policy implementation and support of science-based entrepreneurship, from technology parks and centres (1994) to incubators (2003), clusters (2001), technology networks (2003), technology platforms (2004), centres of excellence (2005), different business information units like the Small Business Development Centre, Innovation Relay Centres, Euro-Info-Centres, regional development agencies, Slovene Enterprise Fund, etc. All of these were set up with the ambition to provide for as complete an innovation system as possible.
In Slovenia the level of RDI expenditures grows constantly from the year 2000. However it is not the level of GERD what matters, but also its distribution. As seen in the last five years, the problem in the Slovenian RDI financing is that the BERD is partially replacing the GOVERD expenditures. The next problem is also that the largest part of GERD is spent in BES, while the share of expenditures in PROs or HEIs is decreasing.
Project vs. institutional allocation of public funding:
The major amount of RDI funds are disbursed on a competitive-basis. The block funding (in our case known as the ‘institutional funding’) is provided only for the PROs (there are 15 such PROs), where the founder is the state itself. The institutional funding provided under the founder's obligations comprises part of the administrative costs, fixed operating costs and the fixed costs of maintaining and repairing property and equipment. In 2013 institutional block funding represented 18% of the total budget of SRA (between 10-30% of PROs basic running costs).
The largest share of the basic and applied research is funded through so called "Research Group Programme funding" (hereafter RGPs), a system established in 1999 to secure stability in funding of the basic and applied research. In 2013, the Slovenian Research Agency funded RGPs in the amount of €52.7 million or more than 36% of total disbursement of research funding (SRA financial report for 2013).
Another major scheme for financing is called “Basic and Applied projects”, also operated by the Slovenian Research Agency, distributing funds in 2013 in the amount of €25.5 million or 17.6% of the Agency's whole budget.
SRA’s more targeted funding mode is used for commissioning specific research to assist in public policy. These schemes are known as Targeted Research Programmes. In 2010 (for the period 2010–2012), €7.2 million were allocated to Targeted Research Programmes. Only minor call for project in the field of agriculture run in 2014, otherwise the programme is a victim of budget cuts and no new calls are foreseen in the near future.
The funding of public research organisations (government institutes and HEIs) is entrusted to Slovenian Research Agency. The Agency runs several programmes, from funding of the research programmes, basic and applied research projects, infrastructure funding for the national research institutes, targeted research projects, the programme for young researchers, international cooperation programmes, funding of science information services, research infrastructure etc. The R&I funding in business sector is to a significant extent provided by the sector itself, with additional approximately 20% coming from various R&I measures of the government and 6–7% from abroad.
After a very slow start, Slovenia finally started by the end of 2012 with the preparation of the RIS3. The coordination was entrusted to the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology (MEDT), yet the initial approach was not following the EU guidelines sufficiently, in particular not positioning the Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) as an overarching strategy of the country. The working group claimed that in the drafting of RIS3 they were taking under the consideration the RISS 2011–2020, as well as all different other consultations (Technology platforms, preliminary foresight), existing experience of the centres of excellence, competence centres and centres of development, co-financed under the current financial perspective from The European Regional Development Fund.
The Slovenian Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) is an autonomous body within the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. It is responsible for the field of industrial property and copyright. SIPO provides a range of information services, such as standard information about Slovenian and foreign patents, trademarks and industrial designs.
Traditionally, Slovenia commissions evaluations at the time when the strategic documents in the field of R&D are being prepared. That is how the ERAC and OECD evaluations of the R&D system in 2010 were carried out: they offered an external view of the system and its positive/ negative characteristics during the preparation of RISS 2011. Some of the recommendations were taken on board, some were to be integrated in the follow-up legal documents and some were dismissed.
The MESS commissioned in the beginning of 2014 the evaluation of the Centres of Excellence (COs) and competence centres (CCs) as the instruments (not the performance of individual centres, only the achievements of the instruments as such). On the basis of analysing the end reports submitted by the Cos and CCs and interviews with the members of the COs and CCs from all three research communities (PROs, HEIs and business), the assessment of achieving the policy objectives was carried out.
In the preparation of the RIS3, two different in-depth analyses were prepared: one prepared by FIDEA (2014) and one prepared by Burger & Kotnik (2014).
In accordance with the RISS 2011–2020, knowledge transfer is defined as one of the strategic missions of PROs. In order to attain this objective, it is necessary to enhance the interaction between the education, science and business sector and accelerate the transfer of the results of scientific research to business via contractual cooperation, the sale and licensing of intellectual property and the establishment of new companies. (RIS3, 2014: 17). Several instruments have been put in place in Slovenian R&D system to promote knowledge transfer, including the establishment of special institutional set-up, like centres of excellence and competence centres, where cooperation between public sector research organisations and business sector could flourish. Yet most of them are no longer receiving any financial support from the government.
The statistical data doesn’t reflect fully the current performance of the research and innovation system, since the data is still based on the period of extensive support to RDI. According to the statistics, especially in the enablers indicators, Slovenia is either above or at EU average. Outstanding are the figures on scientific publications per million population and R&D expenditures of business sector. Less favourable are the output indicators.
There are three challenges of the national RDI system, with which Slovenia has to cope in the following years:
(a) the issue of sustainability of the level of R&D financing, especially from the public resources;
(b) the insufficient coordination and streamlining of the RDI and innovation policy including governance structure and organisational set-up of the support infrastructure remains;
(c) the weak link between investments in RDI and the overall performance of the business sector.
Identified structural challenges are interlinked and only strengthen each other. This is why the policy to deal with either one of them, needs to consider all of them on equal footing. The frequent changes in the government have negative impact on meeting any challenge, and even more so in the cases of rather complex challenges Slovenia is facing. If at the time of preparation of RISS the overall opinion of the policy-makers was very favourable of RDI and potential contribution of innovation to economic development and growth of competitiveness, the absence of more explicit policy by the end of 2014 both at MESS and at MEDT suggests that research is increasingly considered as an unnecessary expense and not as investment in the future.
Business environment for SMEs was not particularly friendly in the last years. The access to credit has been much more limited and several government support measures have either ceased or been substantially downscaled. In 2014, no new policy measures have been introduced, even though the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology prepared an extensive programme of measures to support economic growth and create new jobs, which was accepted by the government on 10 April 2014.
Venture capital (VC) market is gradually developing in Slovenia. Since 2010, SEF provides support to private venture capital firms by special instrument of equity financing. The instrument is implemented through a public tender inviting private venture capital companies, which comply with terms and criteria of the tender. The VC companies can acquire additional capital as the stake of the Republic of Slovenia equalling up to 49 % of their total capital or a minimum of €1 million, respectively.
The current public procurement policy in Slovenia is subject to a lot of discussion and criticism, but not from the point of view of innovative procurement of goods and services. In the past, there were several initiatives from MESS to adjust the procurement policy to stimulate innovation, but the prime concern of the Ministry of Finance was given to transparency of the process and other legal stipulations. So further discussion on the possible innovative procurement schemes exists, but only within expert circles.
Slovenian innovation system has over the years evolved through a complex relationship between a relatively influential public R&D sector, increasing presence of business as the key investor in R&D and innovation and a search for optimal governance of innovation policy. In terms of R&D input indicators (the number of researchers, the amount of public R&D investment, and the high level of business R&D investment), Slovenia scores relatively well in comparison to the EU average and is grouped in the category of “innovation followers”. More problematic is the output side, particularly if measured by number of innovative firms, high-tech export or the number of patents (IUS, 2014).
Slovenia actively follows EU RDI policy and seeks to actively participate in ERA. Its involvement in Framework programmes has been constantly growing, as well as participation in many other activities of the European Commission. The national targets, especially those set in the National Reform Programme, follow the EU targets. Early on (already during the membership negotiation) Slovenia adopted the 3% target as its national target.
The GERD growth was mostly generated through growth of BERD, which in the last years increased sharply. In 2010 BERD represented 58% of total RDI expenditures, in 2011 the share grew to 61%, in 2012 the share of BERD was 62%, while in 2013 the BERD stopped at the level of 63.8% of total RDI expenditures. The trend in GOVERD were reversed; while in 2010 the GOVERD expenditures presented 35% of total GERD, the share decreased in 2011 by 4%, then in 2012 by another 3% and stopped in 2013 at the level of 26.9% of total GERD. Similarly Slovenia had a large decrease in GBAORD in the last four years. In terms of human resources Slovenia compares relatively well with the EU average. The number of researchers is increasing constantly and reached by 2013 8,707 in FTE, however the distribution of RDI personnel has changed in the last years. While in the first years after independence the majority of researchers were employed in the public research organisations (PROs) or higher education institutions (HEIs), in 2013 the business-enterprise sector (BES) employed 53.5% of all researchers (4,664 in FTE), comparing with 21% (1,825) in government sector and 25.4% (2,201) in higher education (ibid.).
The National Assembly is the top legislative body; the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport (MESS; ex-MESCS or MHEST) and the Ministry for Economic Development and Technology (MEDT) are in the executive branch responsible for the preparation of the policy documents in the RDI area and for implementation of RDI policy. An advisory body to the government in the RDI area is the National Science and Technology Council, with members from the research community, higher-education institutions, and the business community. The execution of RDI policy has been conveyed to two special public agencies: the Slovenian Research Agency (SRA) and SPIRIT. Among research performers the five universities and 47 research institutes should be mentioned.
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