Eager to boost Slovakia's economy and raise living standards in the longer term, the Slovak government has launched the Minerva programme for innovation and science. This four-pillared initiative will help brand the country as a source of technically sophisticated products and services to compete with the best worldwide.
While foreign investment that seeks lower labour costs is welcome in the short term, Slovakia quickly wants to raise its game, and thus raise the living standards and salaries of its people to match those of its partners in Western Europe. The Minerva programme to “mobilise innovations in the national economy and develop research and science activities” is a key element in this policy.
|“We want people to think of Slovakia as a producer of interesting and technically sophisticated products that are competitive with products from Japan, Finland or even the US.” Minerva programme|
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Named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and education, Minerva will help to create a Slovakia, in the words of its creators, “blossoming with science and research activities [that is] filled with highly educated and creative people” who design and build innovative, high-quality products and services.
Commenting on the first action plans, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulás Dzurinda emphasised that, as a small country in the heart of Europe, the optimal solution for Slovakia is to develop its human resources through education. These first Minerva actions are aimed at putting this theory into practice, he said.
A temple to progress
Naturally, when a Roman goddess and the Lisbon goals get together, the outcome is a many-pillared affair. In this case, four pillars to be exact. The first, education and employment, includes concrete plans for support to ICT technologies in schools and new financial schemes for universities. In addition, plans to improve adult and lifelong learning, as well as foreign language education, are stressed.
The second pillar, research and innovation, offers stronger state support to science and technology, both in the public and private sectors through a new, strong central agency for R&D support. Linking to the first pillar, this includes financial support schemes for post-graduate education and a commitment to boosting mobility among researchers. And to encourage participation in building the knowledge economy, a new national web portal will engage both the general public and companies in the progress and successes of the Minerva programme.
Slovakia more than doubled its participation in EU Framework Programmes for research (FPs) between FP4 and FP5, and this growth in European co-operation will be encouraged by the new national science policy – to appear as part of Minerva – and also by the proactive approach of the Slovak Academy of Sciences which has 57 scientific research institutes and is a leading proponent of a multilateral approach to basic and applied research.
Of the remaining two pillars, the third – building an IT-based society – seeks to spread the use of ICT technologies throughout Slovakian society, including linking state institutions. It includes ensuring basic computer skills throughout the population and easily accessible internet connections. The fourth pillar of Minerva, called the ‘business environment', is actively being addressed as reforms pass through the Slovak parliament aimed at encouraging businesses, and in particular their participation in the knowledge economy – so vital to the new Member State's development.
The introduction to the Minerva programme sums up its vision: “We want people to think of Slovakia as a producer of interesting and technically sophisticated products that are competitive with products from Japan, Finland or even the US.”