Prime Minister: the key priority in R&D is to invest in people and quality

13.12.2011 | 11:13

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Tallinn, Riigikogu, 13 December 2011 – Prime Minister Andrus Ansip gave the Riigikogu an overview of the status of research and development activities in the country and emphasised that the government continued investments in education, research and innovation during the economic crisis. With an eye on the future, the key success factors in Prime Minister’s opinion are Estonian researchers and engineers and the efficiency of research and innovation funding.

The government’s sustainable policy has according to the Prime Minister supported structural changes in Estonian economy. “Increased expenditure on research and development, growing export, improving productivity and new foreign investments do not result from good luck but are the outcome of consistent efforts,” he stressed.

According to the Prime Minister, investments in research and development both in the public and private sector guarantee Estonia’s competitive power. “Manufacturing industry that generates high additional value is the instrument which allows us to spread the risks concurrent with turbulent external environment and to increase Estonia\'s competitiveness in foreign markets,” said Ansip.

The Prime Minister was pleased with the fact that nominal scope of total expenditure on research and development in 2010 in the amount of €238.8 million was the highest ever. This has raised the expenditure on this area to 1.63% of GDP. The Prime Minister stated however, that it is essential to further support the area so that the volume of investment would increase to 2% of GDP by 2015 and to 3% of GDP by 2020.

He said that great results in this area were ensured by purposefully implementing the ‘Knowledge-based Estonia’ strategy. As compared to the previous strategy, in this strategy the focus of investments and strategic key technologies have been outlined more clearly: information and communication technologies, biotechnologies, material technologies and key areas – energy, national defence and security, health care and environmental protection. The Prime Minister noted however that the state cannot designate very narrow strategic areas. “This would set clear limitations to the self-realisation and business opportunities of Estonia’s researchers and companies and would cut off possibilities in many new developing spheres.”

Looking at the future, the important key words in the new funding period according to the Prime Minister are people and quality. “The new generation of engineers and top specialists has to become the cornerstone that reinforces the sustainability of the changed economic structure,” noted Ansip. According to the Prime Minister’s vision, by 2015 Estonia should be able to employ about 1500 researchers and engineers more than today. “This cannot be understood as the maximum, this target is to be taken as the minimum of what we actually need,” he said.

By quality the Prime Minister meant giving more thought to supporting and funding innovation. In the Prime Minister’s words, the key words for describing the innovation model suitable for Estonia are demand-based development, effective and functioning innovation environment created by the state, availability of risk capital under favourable terms and successful commercialisation of research output. “We need to strengthen connection between resources allocated to research and innovation and their outcome.”

The Prime Minister concluded by saying that the investment decisions made by the Riigikogu and the government have influenced Estonia’s development in positive terms despite of the complex situation in the global economy. According to Ansip, we have to carefully think about new long-term plans if we want to maintain our success. It is essential to increase research community, concentrate funding models, be capable of selecting the activities with high positive impact and be open to novelties on a continuous basis.

Read the full text of Prime Minister’s address here (in Estonian):

Watch the video recording of Prime Minister’s address to the Riigikogu here:

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