The future of the Czech Republic lies in innovation

Innovation in industry and other sectors of the Czech economy is an increasingly important driver not only for the many companies operating in the Czech Republic, but also for research institutes and universities that work with business. In this respect, the Czech Republic's research and innovation potential has strengthened significantly in recent years.

Bilateral cooperation between the business sector and researchers, with effective government support, is becoming one of the pillars of the Czech economy. Not only have we succeeded in increasing private sector expenditure on research, we have also stabilised public spending. The public administration uses the results of the research sphere in the exercise of its competence. A long-term plan to increase the institutional component of research funding by 4% year on year has been adopted. The Czech Republic offers a high-quality network of scientific infrastructure facilities whose construction was financed in the past through European funds.

In terms of the number and quality of its research centres, the Czech Republic is one of the EU's leaders. Research infrastructures will also be one of the key topics of the forthcoming Czech Presidency of the EU Council in 2022.

The ecosystem of European research infrastructures has evolved over the past two decades. Research infrastructures are a place of global, European and national cooperation, a place for unique experiments, and a source of knowledge used by industry and other research organisations on the principle of open access across the international research area.

The Czech Republic strives to provide Czech and foreign researchers with state-of-the-art equipment to achieve excellent results.

Czech research infrastructures have also become an important part of the expert response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In 2020, the Government Council for Research, Development and Innovation began closely monitoring information on the involvement of research organisations in combating the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus and currently stresses the role of research in addressing crises having an impact on society as a whole. In the current context, the Ministry of Science and the Council will therefore continue to give their full support for the stability and development of the R&D system with a view to strengthening its capacity to respond appropriately to unexpected risks and threats.
Subsequently, the National Research, Development and Innovation Policy 2021+ was adopted, which enables flexible financial support for specific research programmes aimed at addressing defined threats with a global impact.

In the Czech Republic, the RD&I environment has been developing vigorously in recent decades. Total expenditure on research and development in the Czech Republic has increased over the long term; in 2020, a record EUR 4.45 billion was spent on R&D.

Businesses invested nearly EUR 2.74 billion in research and development in 2020, mainly in in-house R&D. In 2020 statistics, EUR 1.51 billion was spent in domestic public funding. However, the main objective funding is to create conditions for R&D expenditure to be 2.5% of GDP in 2025.

The involvement of respected foreign scientists in Czech research institutions is one of the most important forms of international cooperation that we have been able to develop recently. With ongoing support from the government, RD&I Council is reinforcing its emphasis on scientific diplomacy with the aim of presenting the Czech Republic in selected regions as a country supporting public-private cooperation, including support for foreign investment. Research is now an important employer in the Czech Republic. At the end of 2020, almost 118,000 people (headcount) worked in research and development, of whom 55% were researchers.

Furthermore, a government-approved change in the methodology for evaluating research quality in accordance with international standards (Methodology 2017+) became a key step in strengthening effective cooperation between the research sector and business. In line with the state investment policy, only those companies whose activities are linked to R&D will receive investment incentives in the Czech Republic.

All of the aforementioned achievements of Czech science policy are supported in the Innovation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2019-2030. At the same time, science and research comprise one of the declared priorities of the government. Research infrastructures and support for them undoubtedly belong to this priority. However, it is important that they bring forth cutting-edge science and, where possible, that they are attractive partners for private innovative companies.

Traditional Czech industry must take advantage of the challenges of, among other things, IT, robotics, cybernetics and biotechnology, and strengthen its competitiveness on the international scale by introducing new technologies. Connection to the digital economy, where most private-sector R&D expenditure is heading, can help in this respect, as can existing support for the growth of the national start-up and spin-off environment. The automotive sector has the largest share of Czech industry and its exports; this is also reflected in its research and development.

Inducements for foreign scientists

Today the Czech Republic can boast numerous excellent research organisations and research teams at universities, which are beginning to have a significant impact on the quality of research.

Currently, the aim of research centres is to be able to generate top-level results over the long term, to employ top foreign scientists and to be attractive to private innovation firms, which should also increasingly participate in their operation and financing. Research facilities would then complementarily provide technological expertise that keeps step with the advanced international environment. Research infrastructure facilities and centres thus offer a suitable opportunity, for example, to form consortia with international participation or other forms of cooperation where larger and smaller companies will join together with research institutes and universities.

Helena Langšádlová
Minister of Science, Research and Innovation
Chair of the RD&I Council