Estonia is 24th in innovation index

In an annual survey co-published by the World Intellectual Property Organization, ISEAD and the Johnson MBA program at Cornell University, the Global Innovation Index, Estonia placed 24th – one better than last year.

The country was just behind Belgium and one spot ahead of Malta.

Estonia’s index score was 51.4 points of 100. Switzerland garnered 64.8 points and placed first, followed by the UK and Sweden; Finland was fourth. Of other neighbors, Latvia was 34th and Lithuania, 39th.

Source: ERR News

Crisis decreased the innovativeness of enterprises

According to Statistics Estonia, the data of the Innovation Survey show that 47.6% of enterprises were innovative in 2012. Compared to the previous, 2010 Survey, the rate of innovativeness decreased by 9.2 percentage points.

An enterprise was considered innovative in the Survey if in the last three years it had put into practise an organisational or marketing innovation, introduced to the market a new or significantly improved product, implemented a new or significantly improved process, or had expenditure on activities specifically undertaken to develop and/or implement a product or process innovation.

The share of innovative enterprises, 2008–2012

Diagram: The share of innovative enterprises, 2008–2012

The decrease in innovativeness varied slightly by type of innovation. While the share of enterprises with organisation or marketing innovations declined in 2012 compared to 2010 by 2.0 and 3.7 percentage points, respectively, the share of those having introduced a product innovation decreased by 4.8 and the share of those having implemented a process innovation by 7.4 percentage points. In other words, while in 2010 every fourth enterprise was product-innovative, then in 2012 – only every fifth.

Innovativeness was in decline practically for all economic activities. Among major ones, for example, in the textile industry, it fell from 70% to 35%, and in the timber industry from 64% to 41%. At the same time, the innovativeness of the food industry remained at the level of 64%, and for enterprises engaged in water collection, treatment and supply, innovativeness even rose from 45% to 66%.

The supplemental module of the Survey dealt with the enterprises’ strategy. Certain differences between innovative and non-innovative enterprises became evident. Innovative enterprises declared the increase of profit margins to be their most important strategic goal, while non-innovative enterprises were focusing on turnover increase. Increasing flexibility and responsiveness was considered the most valuable mean to reach the goals by innovative enterprises, reducing in-house costs of operation by non-innovative enterprises. However, there was an agreement about the most important factor that obstructs meeting an enterprise’s goal – both groups considered strong price competition to be that factor.

The data from other countries will be published in Eurostat’s database only in the autumn of 2014, but it is already possible to compare our results to the Finnish ones. That kind of a decline in innovativeness was not observed in Finland and it remained at the level of 53% both in 2010 and in 2012. It means that while in 2010 our enterprises outpaced the Finnish ones in terms of innovativeness, then in 2012 we were already lagging behind.

The innovation survey is conducted biannually across Europe, and in 2012 the frame of the survey consisted of 1,779 industrial and 1,706 service enterprises with at least 10 employees. Compared to earlier surveys, the coverage of service industries was extended to the economic activities with EMTAK codes 59 (motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing activities), 60 (programming and broadcasting activities), 72 (scientific research and development), and 73 (advertising and market research). Enterprises operating in the listed activities made up only 3% of the survey frame, so comparability is not danger major issue. Especially because, among the listed economic activities, only scientific research and development had an exceptionally high rate of innovativeness, reaching 94%.

Source: Statistics Estonia

Estonian R&D expenditures 2.19% of GDP

According to Statistics Estonia,  expenditures on research and development in Estonia amounted to 380.7 million euros in 2012, being 3.7 million euros or 1% less than in 2011.

The remarkable growth of Estonia’s expenditures on research and development (R&D) in 2010 and 2011 was the result of considerable investments in new technology in the oil industry. Despite the sizeable cut in investments in the oil industry in 2012, the volume of R&D expenditures in Estonia was preserved. That was possible thanks to the 14% rise in R&D expenditures in non-profit institutional sectors (higher education, government and private non-profit sectors) and to the growth in several economic activities in the business enterprise sector. Thus, for example, R&D expenditures increased almost one and a half times in information and communication, and in professional, scientific and technical activities.

Although the ratio of research and development expenditures to the gross domestic product (GDP) fell from 2.37% in 2011 to 2.19%, the fall was partly due to the GDP growth, with the R&D expenditures unable to show a similar growth rate.

At the turn of the century, the share of government in the financing of R&D expenditures was 60%. Since then, the vigorous increase in funding by the business enterprise sector has reduced this share, which in 2012 remained at 38%. At the same time, the volume of government financing has shown constant growth and in 2012 increased by 20 million euros or 16%. It is worth mentioning here that the EU supports received through the state budget are classified as supports received from the state. The share of government financing in the business enterprise sector is less than one tenth of total R&D expenditures, but even there government financing grew 22% in 2012, from 16.5 million euros to 20.2 million euros, mainly due to the support for small enterprises and research centres financed by Enterprise Estonia.

Even more important is the fact that the share of government-financed R&D expenditures in total general government expenditure continues to rise (with the exception of the year 2009 during the economic crisis). This gives hope that Estonia will fulfil its aims in the R&D domain as stipulated in relevant strategy papers.

Source: Statistics Estonia

R&D expenditures financed by government, 2003–2012
Year Government financing, million euros Government financing as % of general government expenditure
2003 32.5 1.07
2004 36.5 1.11
2005 45.3 1.20
2006 67.3 1.50
2007 79.3 1.45
2008 104.1 1.62
2009 96.4 1.54
2010 102.8 1.77
2011 125.9 2.07
2012 145.8 2.12

University of Tartu studies genetic factors behind weight

The University of Tartu and the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences based in Lausanne, Switzerland have signed a three-year collaboration aimed at better understanding the biological mechanisms involved in long term weight maintenance.

The purpose of the collaboration is to discover the molecular characteristics that define resistance to weight gain and it will be done by analyzing biological samples and clinical data stored in the Estonian biobank run by the University of Tartu Estonian Genome Center.

“It is known, for instance, that people who eat equal amounts of food gain or lose weight differently despite having equal levels of physical activity. The reasons for this are not known yet,” said the director of the Estonian Genome Center, Andres Metspalu. “Today, when health problems caused by obesity are a growing problem all over the world also health expenditures for treatment of Type 2 diabetes are increasing proportionally. Hence the subject that will be researched together is important not only for Estonia and Switzerland but in a much wider context,” Metspalu said.

“Understanding the biological reasons why some people are resistant to weight gain could provide new biological targets for weight management solutions. We are going to look for these targets in collaboration with the University of Tartu Estonian Genome Center. Our long term goal is to discover targeted nutritional approaches to improve weight management in obese people,” said Emmanuel Baetge, head of the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences.

The population based biobank of the Estonian Genome Center currently holds information about nearly 52,000 donors, with medical records and lifestyle data including eating habits.

Research for the collaboration will be carried out simultaneously in Estonia and Switzerland.

Source: Estonian Review / BNS

Education innovation center opened at Tallinn University

A center to study innovative and interdisciplinary solutions in classroom learning environments will be opened at Tallinn University today.

The center’s aim is to turn future and current teachers into pioneers of technological advances, who teach, rather than learn about new technology from children.

Eva Eisenschmidt, the Vice-Rector for Development at the university, told ETV today that the main problem currently seen in classrooms is that teachers do not know how to use technology for its intended purpose.

The center has eight laboratories and showpiece classrooms where current teachers and teachers-in-training can experiment with the most up-to-date technology and methods.

Source: Estonian Review

Estonian University of Life Sciences presents transgenic clone calf

The Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences is to hold a public seminar today to mark the birth of the first transgenic calf in Estonia.

In addition to presenting the transgenic calf named Juuni (June in English), the seminar will examine the development of cloning technology in Estonia and its links to the pharma industry, spokespeople for the Estonian University of Life Sciences said.

A transgenic female calf was born at the Estonian University of Life Sciences on June 22, 2013 whose genome contains the gene of human growth hormone. It is expected that in the future she will produce human growth hormone in her milk.

“There are only a few cows in the whole world whose milk contains human proteins that can be used to produce medicine,” Ulle Jaakma, vice rector of research at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, said. She added that in the pharmaceutical industry introduction of transgenic technology is of revolutionary importance, as it allows to produce high quality drugs at a lower cost.

As a result of research, the competence for cloning and transgenic technology has been developed in Estonia. Transgenic technology also offers new possibilities for future breeding, allowing to breed animals that are more resistant to diseases or produce milk that is enriched with certain health promoting components, said Jaakma.

The transgenic calf was born as a result of scientific cooperation between the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the University of Tartu and the Competence Center for Reproductive Medicine and Biology.

Development of transgenic cloning technology was financed by Enterprise Estonia (EAS).

Source: Estonian Review / BNS

Lottemaa theme park seeks builder for EUR 5m

Lottemaa, a popular cartoon-themed amusement park near Pärnu, has announced a new public procurement for construction works after its bids submitted in the first tender were deemed to have been too expensive.

The estimated contract is worth almost EUR 5 million.

Read more from BBN

Innovation to save Danish Flexa in Estonia

Danish Flexa 4 Dreams, the company created to take over the core business of the bankrupt maker of kids furniture Flexa Møbler, made a DKK 14.6m loss in 2012, but the CEO Carsten Dan Madsen still considers it to be satisfactory. Turnover dropped by DKK 26m to DKK 268m, writes news2biz ESTONIA.

Read more from BBN

Latvian startup builds reading platform for mobile devices

Latvian startup Fastr is developing a smartphone and tablet application for speed reading. Eventually, it wants to build an entire book distribution platform around the service, reported news2biz LATVIA.

The Fastr app, currently available for iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad, can be used for learning how to read faster, but it can also be a regular reader app. It works by displaying one or several words – up to several lines – at a time for a rather short duration, less than a second (although the speed can be adjusted). This encourages the readers to see the entire word as a whole, rather than spell out the letters; as a result, your reading speed can double.

Read more from BBN

Research and development strategy for 2014-2020

At the meeting of the Research and Development Council, several issues relevant to Estonia’s development were discussed on June 11, such as personalised medicine and the development plan of the information society. One important issue discussed was the Estonian Research and Development and Innovation Strategy until 2020 and the council recommended its presentation to the government for adoption.

The most important item in the agenda, which raised heated discussion before its approval by the council, concerned the Estonian Research and Development and Innovation Strategy “Knowledge-based Estonia 2014–2020”. This document is the third version to be drawn up in this area. According to Indrek Reimand, Deputy Secretary General at the Ministry of Education and Research, the new document takes into account both the experience gained and the recommendations of external experts. While previously the focus was on the development of R&D capability, the present document prioritises greater co-operation between research and business sectors.

The strategy sets four key objectives for Estonia: that Estonia’s research be of high quality and versatile; that Estonia be an attractive place for R&D and that the career of a researcher be a popular choice; that research and development activities serve the interests of Estonian society and economy; and that Estonia be active and visible in international co-operation in the field of R&D and innovation.

The council also heard the proposals of Andres Metspalu, Director of the Estonian Genome Center regarding the development of personalised medicine in Estonia. According to Andres Metspalu, a global trend is the integration of medical research and treatment. The studies show that 80% of people would change their behaviour, if they were aware of their personal genetic risks. This leads us to understand that it would be more effective to allocate a greater part of resources to the prevention of diseases.

Metspalu proposed specific steps for making personalised medicine available to every Estonian citizen. In his opinion, Estonia has all the prerequisites for this, ranging from high-level genome studies to e-medicine. Should the plan be put into practice, Estonia would be the first country where genome studies would be used in the making of treatment decisions for patients.

According to Prime Minister Ansip, the main question lies in the awareness of people. “If people knew their health risks, it is quite likely that they would change their lifestyle or seek help from health care,” Ansip said. Ansip stated that personalised medicine is undoubtedly a rapidly developing field, in which Estonia has all prerequisites and potential to become a forerunner. The council decided that the issues of personalised medicine would be discussed again in winter.

The council also heard an overview of the current status of the preparation of the new development plan for the information society and how it connects to the R&D and innovation policies, presented by Taavi Kotka, Deputy Secretary General at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. According to Kotka, the objective of the development plan is to create the environment for enhancing the competitiveness of the Estonian economy and the well-being of its people by the smart introduction of IT solutions.

Source: Estonian Review


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