News archive - Fostering Innovation in Croatia

Since 2000 Croatia made significant effort in establishing the Croatian national innovation system (NIS) and introducing innovation policy (IP) as a specific policy framework for accelerating transition of Croatia towards a knowledge-based economy.

The new impetus for strengthening the Croatian innovation system was provided by the accession negotiations of Croatia with the EU (opened on October 4, 2005), which brought Lisbon and Barcelona targets into the policy agenda of the Croatian government. The perspective of European integration and a wider exposure to competition on the European and global markets stresses the need for fostering productive use of knowledge through innovation and new technologies. Thus, the innovation policy (IP) has a growing significance for strategic development in Croatia.

Currently it is characterised by constant evolution and change towards progress in policy documents, IP programmes and institutional set-up.
The development of an IP and NIS in Croatia has gone through several phases, since Croatia gained its independence in 1991. Broadly speaking, before 2000 the national IP was mainly perceived as a part of science policy. The importance of the national innovation capacity, science-industry co-operations and the technology capability of companies for structural adjustments to global economic changes was poorly perceived and understood. A new perspective for an innovation system emerged by establishing a separate Directorate for Technology within the Ministry of Science and Technology and a new Ministry for the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in 2001.
Although these institutions were reorganised in the meantime, they signified a completely new approach to development of SMEs and in supporting technology development and innovation. Nowadays, for example, the Ministry of Economy, Labor and Entrepreneurship (MELE) as one of the pillar institution of the Croatian NIS supports the entrepreneurship with business infrastructure that consists of 27 business centers, 16 business incubators, 6 regional development agencies, 15 economic free zones and 235 entrepreneurial zones, out of which 140 are fully functioning.
The turning point towards an IP and establishing the NIS was made by launching the first IP programme – the Croatian Program for Innovative Technological Development (HITRA) – in 2001 by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (MSES). HITRA capitalised on the experience and policy learning collected through establishing and managing the technology centres established in the previous period from 1996 to 2000. Presently, there are 6 technology centres supported by the MSES (Centre for Technology Transfer Zagreb, Technology Centre Split, Centre for Innovative Technology Rijeka, Technology and Innovation Centre Osijek, Research and Development Centre for Mariculture Dubrovnik, Centre for Karsts, Gospić). Besides, there is the Business Innovation Centre of Croatia (BICRO) and the Croatian Institute of Technology (HIT). In addition to the central government initiatives, there is a range of activities on local and regional level on fostering entrepreneurship, innovation and related infrastructure. The most prominent one is the Technology Park Zagreb, the first incubator for technology based business in Croatia - established in 1994 and currently supported by the City of Zagreb (see next article).
A basic idea of HITRA has been to create an institutional, administrative and financial framework for researchers, entrepreneurs and SMEs in order to support them in developing their commercial ideas using national research resources and to provide a framework for direct co-operation between entrepreneurs and scientific institutes/universities. It introduced a range of completely new instruments into the standard science policy, e.g. grants for prototypes and feasibility studies, arrangements of intellectual property rights among partners, subsidies to companies for research and development and favourable commercial or conditional loans in case of highly-risky projects like academic spin-offs. HITRA has also initiated socio-cultural changes in the academic environment with regards to the idea of linking domestic R&D, industrial development and commercial exploitation of research results.
Since 2005 the reforming process of the whole HITRA programme has been in progress supported by the Science and Technology Project (STP), which began in fall of 2005 and is co-financed by the World Bank. Presently, the overall aims and objectives of the IP include key policy targets, measures and stakeholders, which are given in the Science and Technology Policy of the Republic of Croatia 2006-2010 and enacted by the Croatian Government in July 2006. The main stakeholders of the innovation system are the BICRO, HIT, Technology Council of MSES, and STP Implementation unit. They actualise a range of programmes targeted at fostering different parts of innovation system.
BICRO has significantly enlarged and extended its activities since its foundation in 1996 and currently manages the five programmes targeted at the development of the knowledge-based companies (HITRA - RAZUM), technological infrastructure (TehCro), a public-private risk capital fund (VenCro), R&D services for companies (IRCro) and a business competitiveness upgrading programme (KonCro). HIT was established in 2006 with the main aim to administer the Technology-Related Research and Development Programme (HITRA - TEST), to provide support for the participation of Croatian scientists in the EU framework programmes, to develop an intellectual property rights (IPR) infrastructure for the R&D sector and to foster technology foresight and business intelligence in Croatia.

The Science and Technology Project (STP) covers a substantial part of the Croatian technology programme by co-financing BICRO programmes, e.g. the Unity for Knowledge Fund aimed at a research co-operation with the Croatian Diaspora, the modernisation of management of selected research institutes and the support of the activities of “Ruder Innovation”, a newly established centre for commercial application of research results - created at the Institute “Ruder Bosković”.

Jadranka Švarc
Juraj Perković
Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Zagreb

Entry created by Jadranka Švarc on April 30, 2008
Modified on May 4, 2008