Popular Science: Support for innovative companies in Czechia – where and who
Structural EU funds are a tool for social and economic cohesion throughout the EU member countries, which should provide a stable economy, social peace and smaller regional differences. But it is not clear whether these objectives are fulfilled. Some authors claim that they are, some do not, or that the funds at least contribute to smaller regional differences within the countries. The situation has become more complicated since poorer Central and Eastern European countries are involved in redistribution. From another point of view, this financial support of funds, which flows to the poorer regions, is in opposition to the much bigger amount of money from the periphery to the core of the EU as the profit of multinational corporations and banks with headquarters in core EU countries.
Hand in hand with contemporary trends and theories, the EU supports regional development based on innovations, but in less developed regions without a qualified labour work force and institutional support, the results may not be successful.
The authors evaluated the operational programme Enterprises and Innovations for competitiveness of companies. Between the years 2007 and 2015 this programme supported 12 000 projects in Czechia with a total volume of 73 billion Czech crowns (25 Czech crowns = approx. 1 euro). Scientists focused on priority axes 3.4. and 3.5., which are related to innovations (approx.4000 projects, 40 billion Czech crowns). The majority of this budget went to economic cores and their surroundings. For example, Prague is the one of the richest regions in the EU and its GDP is bigger than the EU average. Therefore, Prague can only use a small part of the EU funds. However, a lot of projects were done in Prague´s surroundings and these projects were often run by companies from Prague. Projects were realized in Brno (the second largest city) and also in the Příbram, Zlín, and Jihlava regions and north-eastern Bohemia and relatively less money went to the regions close to the border with Germany and Austria. It is maybe due to their peripheral position and history, or because those regions can use special programmes for structurally disadvantaged regions (for example the Ústí and Labem region after the decrease of coal mining).
We can see only few high-tech supported projects, even though their share was higher than in the Czech economy as a whole. This contains companies engaged in scientific research, IT, electronics, optical products and projects in the aviation and space industry and the pharmaceutical industry. They are concentrated in the aforementioned core regions (Prague, Brno, north-eastern Bohemia), where companies are running their businesses. Medium-high technologies are used by the automotive industry (automatisation); therefore, we can see relatively a high share of them in the Mladá Boleslav region with the Škoda factories. On the other hand, we can find an alarmingly low volume of money and low-technology innovations in regions along the German and Austrian borders.
As we can see, the support of innovations does not lead to smaller differences between regions in this case. Therefore, deeper research and debate about the fund set-up is necessary.
Hána, D., & Hellebrandová, L. (2018). Spatial and sectoral differentiation of support to innovative companies from EU funds in Czechia. European Planning Studies, 26(8), 1598–1615. https://doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2018.1485135