Margit Suurna (PhD)

Title: ‘Innovation and High-Technology Policy, Policy-Making and Implementation in Central and Eastern European Countries: The Case of Estonia’

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rainer Kattel

Opponents: Dr. Tarmo Kalvet, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

Prof. Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Defense: 17 May 2011

Abstract: High technology is seen as highly important for economic growth and development in research-and-development and innovation strategies and that also in Central and Eastern European countries (CEE). At the same time, the challenges to cope with are enormous. These challenges derive, firstly, from the complex (generic) nature and uncertainty prevailing in the areas (especially in science-based high-technology areas) and, secondly, from fundamental problems they are supposedly aimed to solve. The thesis aims to show what can be learnt from the experience of transition countries developing high-technology areas (from the feasibility of the chosen orientations to the preconditions necessary in the respective policies and policymaking mechanisms), relying hereby on the example of CEE countries and especially Estonia. The discussion covers the main trends in the evolution of innovation policies and policy-making mechanisms in CEE in general and also explores the very same aspects in the context of certain high-technology fragments based on the example of Estonia.

The thesis shows that the keen following of the trends in the innovation area as introduced on the level of the EU has had a rather contradictory effect on the response of local-context and technology-specific problems in CEE. The EU-centrism which has influenced the set of favourable policies as well as of policy-making mechanisms lacks the inputs and elements relevant for field-specific economic and innovation policies, but also cuts through the basis for feedback channels and interaction mechanisms to interconnect the policymaking to the development needs of the business society at the local level. The approach of the kind is particularly troublesome in the case of high-technology fields, generic in nature, referring to the fundamental change in how the areas should be treated: as means rather than goals by themselves. The question about context-specific policy-making and policy learning is highly bound to the sector-specific approach in innovation policies. Hence, the preconditions for effective policy-making are not only dependent on the socio-institutional environment prevalent on the local level (especially if one considers the issue of technological and socio-economic path-dependencies and the developed “core” and learning capacities respectively), but are strongly related to the dynamics of technology-derived developments together with the specific nature of technology progress in selected areas.

In policy issues, it has been proposed that innovation and high-technology policies need to be: nation-state specific and sector-specific together with deeper interdependencies between different relevant policy areas. In terms of policy-making and implementation issues, the positive impact of the prevailing trend of implementation agencies as well as the usage of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations has been questioned. 

Keywords: high technology, innovation and industrial policy, system of innovation, business models, agencies, Europeanization, ICT, biotechnology, Central and Eastern Europe, and Estonia.