Science policy is covered by several sustainable development goals, given that scientific and research capacities are required to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Quality education (SDG 4) includes research, particularly such aspects within higher education, innovative approach to employment, entrepreneurship and start-up industry (SDG 8), and the use of science to develop industry, technology and competitiveness of the national and the global economy (SDG 9, SDG 12). UN Agenda 2030 envisages linking science with the fields in which it can create synergies, such as affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) and maritime technologies to preserve seas and oceans (SDG 14). All of the above is comprised within the SDG 17, which promotes collaboration in science and research, knowledge transfer, mobility of scientists, researchers, association of research institutions with a view to better global connectedness.
The National Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2020 nationalises sustainable development goals, envisaging for the area of science several measures and sub-measures in different thematic areas:
4. Improving economic resources – measures 4.1.2 Introduce low carbon technologies in industry in accordance with best available techniques, 4.1.3 Increase share of renewable energy sources and promote rational use of energy, 4.2.3 Incite research and development in the area of resource efficiency and development of human resources, 4.5.1 Develop and promote sustainable consumption and production practices and solutions that support efficient use of natural resources and minimize environmental loads 4.7.3 Initiate and realize incentive financing programmes to enable better availability, accessibility and approach to finances for entrepreneurs and SMEs, especially for innovative and export-oriented companies.
Science policy is continuously aligned with the EU accession obligations stemming from the negotiation chapter 25 Science and research, notwithstanding that it was provisionally closed on 18 December 2012. Montenegro is a forerunner in many significant projects in this area: it was the first candidate country that adopted the Smart Specialisation Strategy, and it launched the SEEIST project, fully aligned with the EU Green Deal, as one of the six priorities of the new European Commission.
The obligations concerning the role of science in strengthening competiveness and economic relations stem from negotiation chapter 20 Enterprise and industrial policy, which Montenegro opened on 18 December 2013. It includes a closing benchmark concerning the development and implementation of a comprehensive industrial strategy, with the support of the evaluations system for indicators and benchmarks, as proposed in the EU industrial policy. In 2019, following the Industrial policy 2016-2020, the Industrial Policy 2019-2023 was adopted, which gives emphasis to improvement of the industrial sector through investment in science and innovation, and partnerships between the industry and researchers.
Although science and research are not the primary focus of chapter 7. Intellectual property law and 8, Competition, there is a strong link among these chapters in the EU context, particularly taking into account that most I&R investments in the EU refer to improving competitiveness, and that intellectual property rights are protected through strong regulatory mechanisms.
The impact of science and research in increasing competitiveness is recognised by the ERP 2020-2022.
Since 2011 European Commission has been advising regional and national decision-makers on development and implementation of their Smart Specialisation Strategies through the Smart Specialisation Platform. Montenegro received substantial assistance when developing the national S3 strategy from the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The bulk of measures for the upcoming period are presented in the political guidelines of the new EC, and apart from the European Green Deal, the issues of research and innovation can also be recognised in priority 2 – An Economy that Works for People and 3 – A Europe Fit for the Digital Age. The three main goals of the EC policy since 2015 within the DG RTD are linked with open innovation, open science and open world vision, and refer to boosting jobs, innovation and investments, linking the single digital market, strengthening the global impact and resilience of the Energy Union with strategic climate policy planning.
Special attention should be given to the developments within IPA funding, and new EU programmes, such as Horizon Europe as the successor of the Framework EU Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. The last progress report on Montenegro noted that the country takes part in the H2020 programme below the desired level and the recommendation was to step up efforts to increase the number of successful applications. In addition, Montenegro should continue partaking in other programmes –EUREKA, COSME, COST actions to fit into the European Research Area as best possible. In 2020 Montenegro is expected to improve its innovation and research statistics and join the European Innovation Scoreboard for 2021.
European Innovation ScoreboardEUROSTAT ESIF Research & Innovation achievements
Given that in Montenegro science is increasingly linked with the sectors of industry, business, energy, agriculture, tourism, information and communication technology, this policy should be pursued in synergy with economic, agricultural, ecological, energy and other policies, and in tight co-operation with the academia and the civil society. The science policy focuses on two key projects fully aligned with the UN 2030 sustainable development goals and the political priorities of the EU:
Montenegro has greatly increased its science budget, but it is still quite low and in need of more substantial investments. The 2017 data show that science and research received only 0.32% of GDP, while the Economic Reforms Programme 2020-2022 reports a 120% increase over the period 2018-2020 (somewhat above 0.8% GDP). This certainly remains a priority, given the EU average of 2.06%, and the 2020 target of 3% GDP.
On the other hand, investments in science are also seen in scholarships for doctoral studies, with the main aim of strengthening institutional and research capacities. To date 36 scholarships were awarded (since 2018), through public competitions, with monthly payments to researcher in the range of 700 euros, free tuition for doctoral studies at Montenegrin universities, research funding, with international or cross-sectoral mobility as an important segment, in the amount of 10,000 euros a year. In addition, grants are available for research and innovation projects, setting up centres of excellence, providing co-funding from the national budget for EU programmes (Horizon 2020, COST, Eureka), and the Ministry of Science gives awards to best scientists, researchers and innovators. The Naučna mreža (Science Network) platform was set up to link scientists in the country with the ones from the Diaspora, link research institutions, innovative organisations and gather data on projects and publications. The platform registers 2197 researchers, 286 researchers in the Diaspora, 46 research institutions, 60 innovative organisation, 321 projects and 1,357 publications.
Montenegro increased its international activity, and now it takes part in several projects and programmes, such as the European Social Survey (ESS). It is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Molecular Biology Organisation/Laboratory EMBO/ EMBL, it is involved in the work of the European Space Agency (ESA), and it also joined the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, a part of the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
During Montenegro’s presidency over the Central European Initiative (CEI) in 2020, science diplomacy was in the forefront, with the focus on promoting the Southeast European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST).
The challenges Montenegro is to respond to, apart from more appropriations for I&R, refer to better connections with the private sector and industry, the development of innovative products and processes, human resource development for I&R, support to MSMEs and start-ups, particularly in I&R, to increase competitiveness of Montenegrin economy and generate jobs.
Most of these challenges are well recognised in Montenegro’s strategy papers. The Economic Reforms Programme 2020-2022 identifies the reform area 5.3.4 Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) and digital economy in reference to the recommendation from EC Report on the Implementation of Recommendations from May 2018 in reference to the quality of innovation statistics, and fiscal incentives to research and development. As regards the first Medium-term Government Work Programme 2018-2020, the measures aim at better quality of research, the recruitment of researchers and access to large international infrastructures, which is in line with Montenegro’s participation in the SEEIIST project. This document envisages setting up the Science and Technology Park in Podgorica. Similar measures, aligned also with the NSDS, and focusing on development of human resources in science and research, greater international visibility and improving higher education are set by the Development Directions for Montenegro 2018-2021.
The overarching document for developing science in the function of economy is the Smart Specialisation Strategy 2019-2024 and the development priorities envisaged in several sectors –agriculture, energy, tourism, and information and communication technologies, combined through the common component of the innovative approach and the use of science and research potential and infrastructure. The document aims to strengthen Montenegro’s competitiveness through innovative science projects which may improve the situation in critical sectors of the economy. The two strategies dealing more specifically with these areas are the Innovation Strategy 2016-2020 and Scientific Research Strategy 2017-2021. Given that for a while now, both in Europe and internationally, science has been developing towards its practical use and generating employment, this policy area is closely related with enterprise and industry policies. The Programme to Support Innovation Start-ups 2019-2021 is closely linked with the goals of the MSME Development Strategy 2018-2022 (Operational objective 4 Improve SME innovation within the strategic goal 4 Strengthening SME competitiveness) and the Industrial Policy 2019-2023 (Strategic goal 3 Foster innovation, technology transfer and entrepreneurship). The link with the Industrial Policy can also be made through the development of the ICT infrastructure and energy, given that both are covered by the S3 Strategy. Closely linked with the science policy is the higher education, which is governed by the Higher Education Development Strategy 2016-2020 and the Strategy for Higher Education Development and Funding 2011-2020, with the improvement of science and research and greater participation to EU projects as its goals.