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Science, Technologies and Innovations in Belarus

Belarus is an industrialized European country with an open export-oriented economy. The state policy is aimed at promoting a favorable environment for innovation activities. The country has a developed industry, an actively growing services sector, agriculture, and a highly developed human capital. The contribution of the medium and high tech exports of goods and services to the total export exceeds 32% and 47% respectively. The share of innovative companies in the total number of industrial companies is over 25%.

Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union that unites the markets of five countries (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia) with a population of more than 175 mln and a total GDP exceeding 1,500 bln USD. The creation of the Union is aimed, among other issues, at removing barriers to the movement of goods, services, investment, and labor resources.

Selected STI indicators (2019) 

Gross expenditures on R&D, mln BYN / mln USD

779/372

GERD as share of GDP, %

0.59

Number of R&D personnel

27 735

Number of researchers

17 863

Number of organisations implementing R&D

460

Share of innovative companies in the total number of industrial companies, %

25,5

Share of innovative products in the total amount of shipped industrial products, %

16,6

Share of middle and high-tech exports in total exports of goods, %

32,1

Share of middle and high-tech exports in total exports of services, %

47,5

Source: Statistical Book “Science and Innovation Activities in the Republic of Belarus”, 2020.

In Belarus, the share of gross expenditures on R&D in GDP has been fluctuating at the level of 0.5 – 0.7% since 2001. In 2001-2008, GDP rose very rapidly, so the stability of these shares at that period was consistent with rapid increases in the amount of funding in nominal terms.  In 2019, the GERD exceeded 370 mln USD in current prices that, according to UNESCO Institute of Statistics, equalled in PPP to 907,5 mln USD. 44,2% is invested by the budget and 34.0% – by business while foreign sources make 9.6%. The budget for STI, including the special line for international S&T cooperation is formed by the State Committee on Science and Technology of Belarus in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences, Ministry of Economy and branch ministries and is approved by the President.

The number of R&D personnel is 27,7 thous. Researchers account for 17,9 thous. of which 1/5 have an academic degree of a “candidate of sciences” (eq. PhD) or “doctor of sciences”. The highest absolute number of research staff of higher qualification is engaged in natural sciences, engineering and technology while the largest share of researchers with academic degrees in the total number of researchers is typical for humanities (50%), medicine (41%) and agriculture (39%). Female researchers’ share is 41%.

The majority of R&D personnel (65,4%) works in the commercial sector while the organizations of the public sector and higher education institutions accumulate 24.2% and 10.4% of the total R&D staff respectively. The distribution of R&D staff within the country is irregular: it is mostly concentrated in Minsk City (69%) and Minsk region (11%) followed by Gomel region.

Overall, R&D activities are carried out by 460 organizations of which 89 belong to the public sector, 296 – to the commercial sector and 74 – to the higher education. The largest  and the leading R&D organization is the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (1928), that unites under its umbrella over 100 research institutes, companies and other entities of variable legal status. In the higher education sector, the leading role belongs to the Belarusian State University (1921), the largest classic university, as well as to the National Technical University  (1920), the largest technical higher school.

 

The structure of the Belarusian R&D system by discipline is strongly dominated by technical sciences in which over 60% of the total number of researchers are engaged. They form the basis for the machine-building sector, the largest and the most developed sector of the national industry and the major investor in R&D. This strong specialisation is an asset to exploit, provided that it generates increasing returns through clusters, spillovers and knowledge exchange. With an exception of ICT, numerous efforts undertaken by the government to promote other disciplines, e.g. life sciences and biotechnologies which are increasingly important on a global scale, they are relatively poorly represented so far.

The innovation support infrastructure has been growing rapidly: by 2021, it includes 17 technoparks many of which are university-based settings, 9 technology transfer centers and the Belarusian Innovation Fund (1998). Special incentives have been provided to the High Tech Park (2005),  that is specialized in ICT but is not limited to it, as well as to the “Great Stone” Belarusian-Chinese Industrial Park (2014). By 2021, the High Tech Park with its 1000+ residents and more than 71 thous employees provides over 30% of the Belarusian export of services and drives the national economy by making 4% of GDP.

 

Strategy and legal basis of the national STI policy

 

The vision and the strategy of the national STI policy are reflected in the following strategic documents:

According to the latter, the main tasks of state STI policy in 2016-2020 are as follows:

  • creating the key elements of the national innovation system as a basic mechanism for transition to a knowledge economy with the integration of individual elements into regional and global innovation systems;
  • motivating business to take part in R&D;
  • completing the set-up of the intellectual property market and promoting the commercialization of R&D results by developing of a full-fledged network of innovation support infrastructure and technology transfer centers;
  • concentrating the scientific and technological capacity on breakthrough research and development, providing their practical implementation in production.

Due to limited domestic funding and lack of FDI, Belarus R&D actors and the system as a whole are excessively oriented towards the commercialisation of R&D results, to the point that, according to the UN analysis, it possibly sometimes undermines scientific excellence. The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the need in innovation and investments more than ever before.

The legal basis of the STI policy is currently formed by >400 legal acts issued by the President, the Parliament, the Council of Ministers and state bodies dealing with these issues. The main ones are as follows:

  • Law of 19.01.1993 2105-XII “About the basics of the state science and technology policy”,
  • Law of 21.10.1996 708-XIII “On scientific activities”,
  • Law of 05.05.1998 159-Z “About the National Academy of Sciences”,
  • Law of 05.05.1999 250-Z “About scientific and technical information”,
  • Law of 17.05.2011 262-Z “On the author’s right and related rights”,
  • Law of 10.07.2012 425-Z “On the state innovation policy and innovation activities in the Republic of Belarus”,
  • Edict of the President of the Republic of Belarus of 04.02.2013 59 “On commercialization of the results of science and technology activities created with the support of the state funds”,
  • Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 12.08.2010 1326 ”On selected issues of financing research, technology and innovation activities”.

The full list of updated STI legislative documents in Russian is available here.

 

In May 2020, the priority areas of STI activities in Belarus for 2021-2025 have been approved by the Edict of the President of Belarus:

  • Digital information, communication and interdisciplinary technologies and productions
  • Biological, medical, pharmaceutical and chemical technologies and production
  • Energy, construction, ecology and environmental management
  • Engineering, engineering technologies, instrument making and innovative materials
  • Agro-industrial and food technologies
  • Ensuring human, social and state security

Each of the areas is further detailed in 5 to 15 sub-areas, see. The above priorities are the basis for shaping public programs in research, technology and innovation and providing the budget support for their implementation in 2021-2025. By summer 2021, the development of the new cycle of public programs has not been finalized.  The main types of STI programs:

  • state programs for scientific research (support basic and oriented research)
  • state science and technology programs, including regional and sector SSTPs (support applied research and developments)
  • State Program of Innovative Development of Belarus (supports innovation, modernization and development of innovation support infrastructure).

In the last completed program cycle (2016-2020), the following programs were implemented:

Under each program, selection of projects is based on the open call for proposals and independent evaluation.

The national STI programmes are open for participation of foreign legal entities (R&D centres, universities and companies).  However, the cases of foreign participation are not numerous so far.

Belarus state STI policy and activities undergo regular benchmarking and independent evaluation. The latest ones are the UN “Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook 2020: Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus” and Innovation for Sustainable Development Review (2017),

Belarus in selected global rankings:

 

  • Global Innovation Index 2020: 64 out of 131
  • Competitive Industrial performance Index 2020: 47 out of 152
  • Human Development Index 2019: 53 out of 189
  • ICT Development Index 2017: 32 out of 176.

Policy-making and coordination

Within the national innovation system, the STI policymaking and coordination are carried out by the President, the Council of Ministers and a triangle of public bodies which share responsibilities in the following way:

Besides these three bodies, different sector ministries, e.g. Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Transport, etc include in their structure departments dealing with research and innovation activities.

The special role belongs to the Commission on the State S&T Policy at the Council of Ministers, a high-level inter-ministerial advisory body chaired by the Prime Minister that considers the key issues of STI policy and provides recommendations to the Government and the President on decisions to be adopted.

For more information on Belarus STI visit also:

 

 

Science and Innovation Activities in Belarus, Statistical Book (2020), 

Belarus: Science, Technology and Innovation (2020), 

Technoparks in Belarus (2021), 

Catalogue of High Tech Products 2020-2021.

 

BelISA

28.06.2021 

 

  • BelISA
  • IncrEAST