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Ratas: new targets must be set for research this year

15. January 2020 - 0:00

Riigikogu, 15 January 2020 – Prime Minister Jüri Ratas gave his annual overview of the state of research and development activity to the Riigikogu, and emphasised that 2020 is a year for setting new targets.

‘Many development plans are nearing their end, and new long-term plans are being prepared. With these choices that stand before us, we will be writing Estonia’s success story for the next decade’, said Ratas in his speech.

According to the Prime Minister, it is clear that in order to achieve results in research, the state must ensure the sufficient funding and effective organisation of research and innovation. Increasing research and development funding is a conscious objective of the government, and in absolute terms we will continue to do so. This year, the volume of funding for research and development in the state budget increased to more than EUR 219 million, from last year's EUR 207.6 million. However, additional funding was found under the conditions of overall austerity pressure. The share of research spending has also increased – in 2018, public sector research and development costs grew to 0.79 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The year before, it had only been 0.66 per cent. The change was related to the more active use of European Union funds as well as the increase in state budget financing’, noted Prime Minister Ratas.

Ratas said that all indicators point to Estonia’s research being world class and that it will play a vital role in shaping our future. ‘It is realistic for Europe to become a world leader in the field of environmentally friendly digital technologies. Estonia, as a smart digital nation and PISA leader, could take the lead role here, making contributions to the development of green technologies and looking for ways to address the country's and society's major concerns through new technologies and research’.

‘The development of technology generates revenue in both the public and the private sector. I like the example of SATIKAS, PRIA’s automated satellite based information system, which is tasked with performing the EU’s agricultural subsidy checks. SATIKAS uses satellite data and checks the current height of standing crops on a field or a coastal pasture – has the farmer used the subsidy correctly and fulfilled his or her obligations on time? This solution saves the state EUR 650,000 each year through the prevention of misuse, said the Prime Minister.

Speaking about state research and development investments, Ratas pointed out that the government is finding it difficult to achieve success on its own. ‘In addition to the state's contribution, it is essential that companies themselves breathe new life into innovation and private sector research and development’.

The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that in the year before last only 238 companies noted expenditures on research and development. I believe that this is a place for reflection, as there are approximately 100,000 or more operating companies in Estonia. Therefore, the number of companies investing in research and development should be several orders of magnitude greater. We can only increase productivity if companies themselves also invest in research and development activity’.

Full text of the speech: