The INNOVA 2016 conference organised by the Economy Ministry started on Monday with a presentation of a possibilities for applying for 100 million euro in grants for entrepreneurs for the development of new products and services that result from research and development in accordance with the European Union's (EU) Smart Specialisation Platform (S3).

A permanent call for applications, advertised last week on the ministry's website, relates to grants earmarked for micro, small, medium and large entrepreneurs that will be financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

The scheme is aimed at stimulating the development of new products, technology and business processes through increased private investments into research, development and innovations and strengthening capacities of research, development and innovation companies by improving their cooperation with research and development institutions.

Opening the INNOVA conference, Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic said that these funds should be a boost to growth and development and not just to companies that apply for the grants.

Panenic underscored that Croatia is lacking in high-tech industries that could engage the scientific-research sector which has a negative impact on the economy.

In an effort to change that situation, he said, three documents have been prepared: Industrial Strategy, Strategy to boost innovations and the Smart Specialisation Strategy which set the foundation so that these funds can be absorbed from the EU.

Panenic  pointed to the Smart Specialisation Strategy, saying that the creation of that document is "an opportunity to develop new products and services, patents and know-how and to set up at least 200 of these companies and open 3,500 to 4,000 new jobs for people with higher qualifications."

Jaksa Puljiz, who is Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic's advisor, stressed that this programme indicated "real added value of EU funds and that is sound structural changes in financing research and development."

Commenting on the S3 strategy, Puljiz said that it was "searching for winners who will pull its entire sector with them or several sectors even," and that is why it was incorporated in the National Reform Programme.

Regional Development and European Union Funds Minister Tomislav Tolusic recalled that Croatia currently invested only 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product in R&D, while the EU average is 2% of GDP. The aim of this government, Tolusic stressed, is to double that percentage by 2020 and to reach the EU average by 2025.

The grants to be issued through this programme range from a minimum of HRK 190,000 (approx. 25,000 euro) to a maximum amount of HRK 56 million (approx. 745,000 euro).

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