“the Czech Republic has great potential for innovation”

A new priority 

Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Karel Havlíček


July 2020 The Interview / Text by Andrew Howitt / Photos courtesy of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Japan 

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Czech Republic has developed a platform called Connecting Czech Republic — under the umbrella of the nation’s Country for the Future innovation strategy — to facilitate greater communication between the public and private sectors and academia. This initiative has been successfully led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic Karel Havlíček, who was appointed to his post in April 2019. He is also deputy chairman of the Council for Research, Development, and Innovation.

Could you describe the Country for the Future innovation strategy and what you aim to accomplish through it?

The government of the Czech Republic has decided to make support for science, research, and innovation its top priority. Czech Republic — Country for the Future is the name of the campaign to establish our country as an innovation leader in Europe. The crucial part of this campaign is the Innovation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2019–2030, published a year ago, which is essentially a roadmap of measures aimed at improving our nation’s entire innovation system, covering everything from strategic management to education and research to the monitoring of the latest trends and achievements in digital and other modern technologies.

This strategy was conceived by a team of our most accomplished personalities in business, science, academia, and public administration. Each of its nine pillars — which include education, research, investment, and digitisation — has its own action plan specifying how to meet stipulated objectives, as well as clearly defined management responsibilities for achieving these objectives. Every year, guarantors will prepare action plans that will be evaluated on a monthly basis by the governmental Council for Research, Development and Innovation. We are aware that efficient management and control is fundamental for the future success of the strategy.

We are ready to make record investments in science, research, and innovation to see the Czech Republic become synonymous with knowledge and advanced technology — a nation that hosts some of the most important international scientific institutions from Europe and the rest of the world.

Prague is already home to an office of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, which operates the Galileo satellite system. Additionally, the European Research and Innovation Centre on Advanced Industrial Production was established at the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics, part of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CIIRC), and a European Centre of Excellence for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence is currently being built in Prague. The government intends to gradually raise investments into both public and private R&D to up to 3% of GDP by 2030 and introduce a variety of non-fiscal measures to make the Czech innovation ecosystem more productive.

What is the Connecting Czech Republic project, and how is it working to help in combatting Covid-19?

The Connecting Czech Republic platform was founded by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in order to fully employ our existing capacities of innovative technology in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The platform connects relevant government bodies with professional associations, open data experts, universities, and communities. This enables them to cooperate in a flexible manner on the identification, conception, development, and manufacture or implementation of new products and services.



As we can now see the initial results — including the creation of many new products — we are pleased that the platform has proved viable and useful. What are a few examples of successful projects that have emerged from the Connecting Czech Republic platform?

Among the many outstanding success stories of the platform, I should mention the certification of an advanced half mask respirator — which can be printed on a 3D printer — recently presented by the CIIRC. The platform not only helped to accelerate certification procedures, but also enabled a connection to be made with a manufacturer of external filters for masks. This company, Sigma, succeeded in meeting the strict requirements for the certification of this innovative protective equipment with the highest degree of safety.

Czech companies involved in the fight against the coronavirus invested considerably in their production capacities and managed to meet the needs not only of the Czech Republic but also of some other countries. In addition to respirators and masks of the highest FFP3 class, there are a number of other top-class products with very good export potential, such as masks and respirators made from nanomaterials, special hospital beds, and decontamination products.

We are content that these results prove that the measures adopted by the government have been effective and adequate and that the Czech Republic has great potential for innovation. We believe it is very important for the future of our economy and for reaching self-sufficiency in certain fields. •

“We are ready to make record investments in science, research, and innovation”