Priit Lumi

Title: 'R&D developments and policy challenges in the Estonian biotechnology sector'

Supervisor: Dr. Erkki Karo

Opponent: Kaija Valdmaa, MA, Junior Research Fellow

Defense: 27 January 2014


Abstract: The thesis aims to analyze the evolution of the Estonian biotechnology R&D system in the broader context of the Estonian innovation system and its development trajectories. It draws upon the literature on innovation systems, innovation policy and evolutionary economic theory. A review of the relevant literature provides the theoretical framework to analyze the biotechnology R&D system and supportive policies. The empirical part seeks to investigate how well the broader context of the Estonian innovation system has suited the development needs of the biotechnology sector and its main R&D actors. Thus, the institutions, actors, policies, and knowledge flows of the Estonian biotechnology sector are analyzed. The case study is complemented by in-depth analysis of biotechnology research groups in public R&D institutions supported by interviews with the leaders of key research groups. The paper shows that while the Estonian innovation system and its policies have largely followed the linear approach to innovation (from lab to market), and biotechnology could be considered a prime example of a technology field suited for this logic, there are still significant challenges in bringing about effective and successful linkages between sectoral R&D capabilities and market demands, and R&D and innovation policies. It can also be concluded that research in Estonian biotechnology science groups has taken a course towards even more fundamental research despite the constant EU’s rhetorical emphasis on commercialization and more applied research.

Keywords: R&D policies, biotechnology, small states, national and sectoral innovation system.