Greece is lagging in innovation

Greece is among the European Union’s laggers in innovation, particularly in the technological domain, though faring somewhat better in non-technological fields, according to a study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) released yesterday. The country ranks 20th in its overall innovation performance among the 27 EU members, doing poorly in most indicators, the report says, especially regarding copyrights, lifelong learning and corporate spending on research and development. But the IOBE study argues that the knowledge that leads to innovative «behavior» is not present solely in technology-intensive sectors, but is equally important in traditional sectors of the economy, such as foodstuffs and non-metallic minerals. In these sectors there is accumulated knowledge which is tapped, often systematically, leading to «hidden» innovation. Greece’s record is about average in the so-called «input» indicators, such as number of college graduates, educational level, state funding of enterprises for innovation, percentage of small and medium-size firms with organizational innovations and sales of new products. Despite the lag in technology-intensive innovation, IOBE notes that high-technology sectors have been growing fast, with 26,000 start-ups in the last 15 years, making a significant contribution to employment. They also accounted for 3.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2006. According to the study, these sectors have now entered a growth phase and can provide new boosters for the Greek economy. «They are gradually overcoming their teething problems and joining the mainstream in the international environment. Building on high-quality human resources, they provide products and services on a par with advanced markets abroad. Even though they constitute pioneering sectors in innovation terms, they make a much more important contribution to improving the innovative performance of the other sectors of the economy.»