Why science does not help the economy in Belarus

We are seriously lagging behind the neighboring countries.

The growth of the Belarusian economy in 2019 are much more modest expected by the government, writes “Tomorrow your country”. The next few years, according to forecasts of international financial organizations, it will be even lower. On cheap energy, the country can hardly make a bet – even a permanent partner, Russia, does not wish to provide.

Human capital in Belarus is high, the availability of higher education is excellent, the level of technical education is still valued. What hinders the development of innovations and their convergence with the real sector of the economy?

No money for science – there is no incentive for growth

The research intensity of the Belarusian GDP is now hardly exceed 0.6%. From state sources for research and development spent only 0.19 percent. And in the early 1990-ies, these figures were more than 2 times higher.

— Difficult economic situation in 2015-2016 brought some changes, with the result that research intensity has declined. But now she is gradually growing, we have almost reached the level in 2012. But still we are lagging far behind neighbouring countries, noted researcher Belarusian economic research and educational outreach center Maria Akulova during a seminar devoted to the structural challenges of economic growth.

The program of socio-economic development for 2011-2015 included increased spending on research and development to 2% of GDP. However, as can be seen from the graph below, realize the intention is not managed.

Later the government planned by 2020 to increase the research intensity of gross domestic product to 1%. This compared with 2018, the year the expenditure was to increase by about 40%.

The share of innovative products produced in Belarus is low, and the cooperation of research centres with the business only a point.

However, the issues of export diversification and manufacturing modern, competitive products depend directly on the expenditure on research and development work. They play a significant role in the production of high-tech products and optimize the modernization of production processes.

The stability and growth depend heavily on its innovation. About 75% of the growth of the economies of different countries is determined by how applicable and how it innovations are implemented, according to Maria Akulova.

If Belarus is far behind other countries in terms of development of new knowledge and implementation of innovative technologies, to compete with them is like trying to outrun an electric skateboard on roller skates – expensive, complicated, inefficient and a priori losing.

How to revive interest in the inventions and innovations?

Ideally, the research intensity of GDP must be around 2.5%. 1% by public sources, according to Maria Akulova.

This will open up opportunities to perform science economic functions, decent return on investment in it, comparable to the level of developed countries.

Reality Belarus is such that, in recognition of the availability of education and high education of the population and human potential, including in the scientific sphere, is underutilized. There is almost no relationship between research institutes and higher education sector, which affects the quality of higher education. Integration of science and production, without which scientific development can not be used in the real economy, remains in its infancy. At the same time, implementation of venture projects is still at an early stage. In Belarus there is only one venture Fund that allows start-UPS to raise funds for development.

Domestic small and medium-sized enterprises significantly lag behind its Western neighbours and Ukraine on the level of innovation, the implementation of their innovative ideas and participation in joint projects with partners and market participants projects.

− Only in a few sectors there is a major innovation. Only 3.5% of small and medium enterprises trying to implement a grocery or process innovations, but less than 0.5% are involved in joint innovation projects, − says Maria Akulova.

On average, countries that show good innovation results, the role of the higher education sector working with him and the research centers are significantly higher compared to the public sector.

− Typically, the cost of the higher education sector exceeds that accumulate state structures. This is important because without scientific research in the universities, we can’t talk about the fact that our higher education is competitive in the market, and teaching at universities allowed students to accumulate new knowledge and ideas about products that are relevant today in the world, emphasizes the economist.

The gap in the research intensity of the GDP plays an important role in to be able to compete with immediate neighbours and countries facing the same markets as Belarus. Hence the importance of transformation of attitudes, a recognition of its role in the development of innovative economy, the transformation of universities from places where word of mouth passed the old knowledge structure in searching new ideas and developing innovative projects, communication of research institutes, universities and commercial structures. Without this, you can try to increase the growth of the economy, but it will continue to lag behind countries who rely on the latest developments and invest heavily in research activities.

As Kazakhstan has developed a road map for the support of innovation for enterprises depending on their size, markets, objectives, and in Belarus the government could not be rewritten in each of the new strategy the targets for expenditure on science and development, and implement real mechanisms to change the situation.

It’s various preferential loans for innovation for small and medium business, provision of tax holidays, development of venture financing, promoting the partnership between academic and business environment. As well as the development of innovation infrastructure, creation of favorable environment and changes in the migration policy, which would simplify the ability to attract foreign scientists, foreign innovative startups, says Maria Akulova.