ECONOMY

Gov’t bets on research and innovation to propel economy toward Lisbon targets

The government hopes in earnest to overcome Greece’s traditional weakness in research and development (R&D) and has given top priority to formulating and implementing a comprehensive national strategy for the sector, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said yesterday. «There is no doubt that strengthening the competitiveness of the economy and ensuring a dynamic Greek presence in the international economic environment depends on a quantitative and qualitative upgrade of research and innovation,» he said in a speech at the Athens Business Club 2004, the forum designed to forge contacts between Greek and foreign businesses during the Olympics. The government is targeting an increase in budget spending on R&D from 0.65 percent now to 1.5 percent by 2010, he said, but added this alone is not sufficient to bolster the country’s international competitiveness. «Research must lead to innovation, indeed, in all sectors, both public and private.» In the policy framework, emphasis is given to cooperation between productive and research organizations, to the operation of liaison bureaus in universities and research centers, the development of research activities in private firms, particularly recently established ones, and the formation of research consortiums in sectors of national priority, he said. Implementation of such initiatives is hoped to increase the number of permanent jobs, particularly in the knowledge-intensive vocations, boost productivity and create a new investment environment. «We want new investment, new businesses, new jobs,» he said. For this reason, the government is working on a radical tax reform, new investment incentives and a new institutional framework for the licensing and operation of businesses. According to Sioufas, the framework will erase the time-consuming procedures of the past and will actively support entrepreneurship, growth and job creation. The attainment of high growth rates depends on a strong productive base with an outward-looking orientation and partnership in production from the public and private sectors with the research and scientific community. «This would be a partnership oriented toward continuously improving productivity and the distribution of products and services of high quality and added value,» Sioufas said. Greece is making a new start and, apart from a bolstered productive model for the economy, the government’s vision includes an upgrade of the relationship between the citizen and State, and improvements in education, health and quality of life. It hopes for the fastest possible attainment of the targets set by the EU’s so-called Lisbon Agenda, which aspires to achieve parity or surpass the US in a number of key indicators by 2010.