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Ratas: we must make greater use of the potential of science in developing Estonia's economy

10. January 2018 - 17:56

Stenbock House, 10 January 2017 – According to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, science has a central role to play as the ensurer of societal coherence and the developer of the economy, and therefore the work of the state and companies with researchers must also improve.

According to Ratas, Estonian science is in good shape – it is internationally competitive, forward-looking, and serves society in a number of different ways. "It is difficult to assess the effect of our national research on the development of language and culture, the effect of the expert opinions of researchers on the attitudes of the broader public or the security of the state," said Ratas at the Riigikogu, providing an overview of the state of research and development.

According to the Prime Minister, the goal of Estonia's Competitiveness Strategy is to raise the productivity of workers to 80 per cent by 2020. According to Eurostat, we have had little luck in recent years with this indicator. "In order to improve the situation, the Government, for its part, will make the effort to resolve worries concerning the labour market, education and health care, and to support businesses, but more is needed – a common effort by all of the parties involved," he emphasised.

Ratas said that, on the one hand, low and medium quality value-added products and services are being created and exported and, on the other hand, research by Estonian researchers is often not associated with the development of those same products and services. According to him, much of it has to do with the fact that the pressure by companies on the selection of research topics has been weak. In this way, according to Ratas, the utilisation of research potential in changing the structure of Estonia's economy into one that is more research-intensive has been underutilised.

"Investments in development activities are expensive, risky and have a long payback time, which is why they tend to be deferred. Under conditions in which wage growth and the labour shortage having reached a critical limit, Estonian companies are increasingly thinking about how to raise productivity with the help of new technologies and knowledge," said Ratas.

According to him, the inclusion of researchers in the creation and development of new products and services must be promoted. "By raising the incomes of researchers and improving working conditions, we can motivate them to pay greater attention to the projects of companies, and state measures will help companies to mitigate the mentioned high risks. The broader public in general will win when it comes to the most capable companies, in the form of better job opportunities as well as tax revenue," said Ratas, according to whom it is important that scientific potential also be better used, in terms of the development of the state, when it comes to making national decisions.

Therefore, he believes it is important that the message to researchers regarding the expectations of the state, as well as companies, is much clearer than it currently is. "This message does not arise on its own, and it is here that the state can assume a driving role and, in cooperation with the private sector, set clearer priorities," he said.

According to Ratas, the more widespread adoption of new knowledge requires a change in attitudes and value. "A knowledge based society means the ability to recognise, adjust, adapt and adopt the use of new capabilities. Therefore, we must ourselves become smarter, more clever and creative, stepping out of our comfort zone and not being satisfied with mediocrity. This can only happen if we work together: taking stock of and using the knowledge that exists in our country," he added.

Overview by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas in full length: