Addressing the conference "CIRAZ 2016: Harnessing Innovation to Drive Economic Growth – The Ron Brown Legacy" in Dubrovnik on Monday, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic warned that Croatia is lagging behind in the field of innovation, underscoring that that was the reason for the adoption of the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3), to facilitate the absorption of 664 million euro from the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion to strengthen research potential.

Innovations drive the modern world and Croatia has to find a way to be more actively involved, Oreskovic told the conference at Dubrovnik University.

He warned that the country did not find the best response to the difficult economic crisis it experienced and that it was the government's job to set the foundations for long-term and sustainable economic growth and development of society. That is planned through strategic steps and key initiatives, the priorities being fiscal consolidation, a better credit rating, restoring investors' trust and stepping up economic growth and reforms in the public sector, Oreskovic said.

In that regard, we are aware of the significance and role of science, research and development, technological progress and innovations and we intend to focus on that, Oreskovic said.

In that area, Croatia is in line with the European Union which recognises innovations as one of the key drivers of economic growth and development in the new financial perspective 2014-2020, he added.

Croatia has a long tradition of innovations - from Tesla, Penkala, the parachute, torpedo and in more recent times, sms-parking, azithromycin, wireless transfer of power and the world's fastest electronic car, however, it is still lagging behind comparable countries with regard to investments in research and development, Oreskovic warned.

The main reason for that situation is the lack of investments and insufficient focus on innovation, particularly their application in creating new value, he said.

"Croatians are good innovators, but the hiccup is applying those innovations in production process, transforming good ideas into products, into a market success," he warned.

The government is aware of these problems and as such has adopted the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3)  – a strategic initiative aimed at creating an efficient environment for innovations. Its development is in accordance with the EU's growth strategy Europe 2020 and is a key condition for absorbing European structural and investment funds, he underscored.

The main aim of the strategy is to strengthen economic growth and open new jobs through better cooperation between the economic and research sectors. "This is where we see a huge space for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth based on our competitive advantages, territorial and human capital and potential for further progress and excellence," the prime minister said.

The S3 strategy focuses on thematic areas - health and quality of life, energy and sustainable environment, transport and mobility, security, food and bio-economy. These areas, Oreskovic said, are not sectors or technologies "but areas where research and development can be applied, which is a new concept of development that strengthens research potential and economy."

"We believe that by adopting this strategic framework, together with the allocation of EU funds, we have set up an efficient institutional framework for innovations that will be recognised and used by all those involved in the innovation chain of values," the prime minister said and stressed that the Centre for Industrial Development (CIRAZ), to be presented today, is an important element in the system.

"The aim is to position Croatia again as a country from where significant innovations that improve the quality of life come," he said, adding that he was convinced Croatia can succeed in this.

The Dubrovnik conference was co-organised by the US Embassy and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and is the continuation of conferences known as the Brown Forum which brought together business leaders and representatives of the public and private sectors from Southeast Europe and the USA.

A part of the conference will be dedicated to the presentation of the Centre for Industrial Development (CIRAZ), which was jointly founded by the Economy Ministry, the HGK and the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAZU) and is co-funded by the EU and the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds. Its mission is to encourage economic development by connecting the business and science sectors through innovations, research and development.

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