Czech firms get mixed marks for innovation

Photo: Filip Jandourek

Czech companies have scored pretty high in a global survey on their openness to innovation and ability to push through new products and processes. But they still have some significant weak points and the government too is attempting to up its game so that it can give a better lead on where to channel state funds and what to expect from the investment.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
The modern day mantra is that developed companies and countries can only succeed long term through innovation. It’s a mantra that most of the influential global bodies, such as the OECD, and governments, including the Czech one, subscribe to.

And for the Czech Republic, the good news from a worldwide survey by consultancy AT Kearney appears to be that Czech companies are keen foster and run with new ideas. The survey stemmed from the second staging of its ‘Best Innovator’ competition which was last held in 2012.

One of the strengths of Czech firms was that they are especially open to taking on suggestions from outside sources, such as customers, on how they can improve their products and performances. Outside input, according to the survey, was the source of more than half of the innovations carried out by a quarter of Czech companies. Worldwide, that source of inspiration accounted for an average of just one in 10 innovations.

Czech companies are exceptionally active when it comes to following worldwide trends in their sector. The survey found 85 percent of Czech companies kept close tabs on the latest development while the worldwide average was just 65 percent.

Getting expert help on board from when selecting what new innovations and developments to run within the company itself though seems a more problematic process. Whereas university experts are called in to help pick the winners 80 percent of the time in other countries, Czechs draw on the latent academic expertise only 60 percent of the time. The frequently expressed goal of developing closer links between academia and private companies still appears to have some way to go.

Czech firms also appear to fall down when it comes to measuring the results of their time and money invested in innovation. Less than half of them get a real grip on how quickly the innovation could be launched on the market, compared with an average of 73 percent worldwide but they are just about on par with their peers when it comes to weighing up when some return and profits from the investment might start to feed through.

At the government level, the Czech Republic also seems to have a mixed performance on innovation. It is now one of the coalition priorities with deputy prime minister and leader of the Christian Democrats, Pavel Bělobrádek, in charge. He seems to have found the whole system for handing out state grants to academic institutions for innovative research and development and the parameters for evaluating the final results in a mess. So the selection committee has been shaken up and the evaluation criteria – which apparently would judge the renowned CERN experiments outside Geneva as a downright failure - are being revamped.

A longer term perspective of at least five, and ideally seven years, for government guidelines and priorities for Czech research, development, and innovation have also been targeted.