The Czech Republic is aiming to carve out a space for itself among Europe’s most innovative countries by 2030 as part of the ‘Innovation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2019–2030.’ While a number of promising steps have already been taken, it is far too soon to tell whether the Czechs can realistically be part of the same league as the likes of Switzerland, France or Germany.
The launch of the Pharmaceutical Applied Research Centre (PARC) earlier this year is one of the initiatives that stand out. The idea of the establishment was propelled by representatives of national pharmaceutical champion Zentiva, together with the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Biotechnology and Biomedical Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University.
The goal of the PARC is clear: to create a place where top-level basic research in new medicines can be transformed into realistically applicable and manufacturable pharmaceutical products and drugs. 25 postgraduate students are already participating in the program.
Elsewhere, a Czech start-up – bio-nanotechnology company InoCURE – has been recognized at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)’s Health InnoStars Awards.
Although InoCURE shared the recognition with Central and Eastern European peers from Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, it is a promising sign that innovative projects fostered by the Czech Republic’s talent pool are crossing national borders.
InoCURE’s vision for their product InoMATRIX is, “A medicine delivered in the right amount at the right time in the right place is a medicine delivered well.” InoMATRIX is notable for being the first active 3D cell culture membrane that enables faster, more reliable and ethical preclinical testing.
The ‘Innovation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2019–2030,’ headed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and approved by the government back in February 2019, consists of nine pillars and supports key trends at the intersection of research excellence, the potential of Czech companies and future technological trends such as Smart Specialisation Strategies.
One of the pillars is dedicated to the funding and evaluation of Research & Development. Strengthening R&D funding is one of the program’s main objectives. Currently, the share of total R&D and innovation expenditure in the Czech Republic is 1.79 percent of GDP. The aim is for this total to reach three percent of GDP by 2030.
While these ambitions are laudable, and the progress already made tangible, the growth forecast does not, however, seem strong enough to achieve the ambition of becoming “The Country for the Future,” as the strategy lays out. The Czech Republic still has a long road to travel towards truly becoming a serious contender in European innovation.