European Structural and Investment funds has been a large driver behind many activities aiming to advance digital skills in Croatia in recent years and ensure the country taps into its full potential.

When R&D ambitions fall short of resources: state-of-play in Croatia

The Republic of Croatia is one of the countries in Europe with the lowest rate of investment in R&D in the economy. This was made clear by the “National Development Strategy Croatia 2030 Policy Note: Growth, Competitiveness, and Innovation” (click here to download the policy note), published in 2019 by the World Bank and financed by several mechanisms on EU-level including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)’s operational Program “Competitiveness and Cohesion”.

The Policy note equally highlights the need to reduce the extent to which Croatia is currently lagging behind compared to the EU average, especially in the context of proportionality when it comes to R&D investments. Recommendations are also provided across several lines: from strategies to drive investment in R&D up and action points aimed at improving the digital maturity of Croatian industry, to building a more favourable environment for knowledge-driven start-ups.

R&D (Research and development) has a direct correlation to a strong, competitive and sustainable economy. Targeted investment in R&D has the potential to remedy skills gaps and build up a more competent and digitally-savvy workforce. R&D is also one of the main enablers that make innovation possible – and without targeted investment, Croatia’s competitive advantage in Europe and the rest of the world is at stake. 

Boosted funding for some 60 projects on R&D in Croatia

The Croatian Association of Information and Communication Industries (HUP and HUP-ICT) supports the rights and interests of businesses and citizens, especially in the field of business conditions, relations with the state authorities, labour disputes and many others.

In Autumn 2020, HUP ICT asked line ministers to provide additional funds for around 60 projects throughout Croatia. At the time, these were all rated as “excellent” – yet no money could be found in the initial envelope for calls proposals. The appeal was then reiterated in February as crucial to support a strong, sustainable, and resilient Croatian economy.

Opportunities for investment in R&D and innovation should receive a larger volume of support: it is precisely these investments that make it possible to boost employment, find highly-educated staff to fill positions in dire need of competent staff, and create export-orientated quality products, as well as services with high added value.

More funding = more R&D and innovation

After several months of uncertainty in whether the set of Croatian-led R&D projects will go on as planned, line ministers in the government of the Republic of Croatia made a decision to increase the development of new products and services resulting from research and development activities, under Phase II’ (the so-called IRI 2 tender). 

The allocation was increased by HRK 536,903,873.84 (over 71 million EUR) in order to secure funding for R&D-oriented project proposals that have met all stages of the award procedure. The decision to boost funding is another validation of the potential impact and outreach of the R&D projects, and provided an additional leverage through which they can be implemented. 

What’s next?

HUP will continue to insist on changing the smart specialization strategy and including additional areas such as ICT as vertical priorities, whereby a larger number of companies could apply for co-financing of R&D projects. The future is bright, and is getting even brighter.


Source: European Digital Skills & Jobs Platform


Digital technology / specialisation

  • Digital skills

Digital skill level

  • Basic

Geographic Scope - Country

  • Croatia

Type of initiative

EU institutional initiative