Like many EU countries, Lithuania has had to balance a health crisis with long-term development plans. While providing support to struggling businesses, the Lithuanian government is laying the foundations for an acceleration of its innovation ecosystem.
Aušrinė Armonaitė, who became Lithuania’s minister for economy and innovation in December 2020, explains the Baltic country’s strategic goals, including ambitions to become a hub for life sciences.
Q: How has Lithuania adjusted its economic development policies in response to the pandemic?
A: The situation in Lithuania, just like elsewhere in the world, is extremely challenging. We had two lockdowns, which were rather strict. We are currently making efforts to ensure that businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic can benefit from financial support. Businesses that have experienced a 30% drop in revenue can apply for grants and loans amounting to €180m in total. We are also launching the second business aid package measures of up to €150m.
Equally, this crisis is a great opportunity to transform our economies. Along with the measures aimed at helping businesses affected by the pandemic, we are getting ready for the future so that we emerge from this crisis stronger.
The main strategic goals of the Lithuanian economy include the technological renewal of Lithuanian companies and their re-orientation towards the creation of high value-added, digital and innovative industries; the promotion of talent development and attraction of foreign direct investment; and the creation of a more efficient innovation ecosystem.
We focus on investment in Lithuania’s information, communication and financial technology sectors, as well as on attracting investment in the fields of manufacturing and life sciences.
Q: What is the Lithuanian government’s strategy to develop its life sciences sector?
A: Lithuania’s life sciences sector has been growing tremendously in recent years. Currently, the sector contributes 2% to Lithuania’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is six times more than the EU average. The government has an ambitious strategic goal to achieve 5% of GDP by 2030.
Our goal is to create (enabling) conditions to help this strategically important sector develop and grow. The five most important pillars in developing the life sciences ecosystem are based on fostering talent; expanding existing clusters; adapting the regulatory environment to strategic sub-sectors; boosting funding through incentives; and providing infrastructure for start-up incubation and acceleration.
Q: How are you creating an enabling environment for foreign life sciences companies to set up in Lithuania?
A: The life sciences sector in Lithuania is high on the political agenda, which means that we offer exceptional support for a soft landing and are dedicated to delivering our goals.
We have attractive financial incentives for both R&D and manufacturing activities. We also provide exceptional government support to ensure the smooth running of business in the country and a pool of highly skilled and motivated talent, as well as a welcoming and value-driven ecosystem.
Attractive infrastructure for foreign companies is available throughout the entire country. Free economic zones provide favourable conditions for developing business by offering ready-to-build industrial sites with physical [and] legal infrastructure, support services and tax incentives.
Supporting and expanding innovative businesses is among our main goals.
Q: Are there any policy plans to further the ecosystem?
A: We are currently implementing the innovation reform in Lithuania based on the best examples of other countries. The reform aims to ensure a coherent national technology and innovation ecosystem to foster cooperation between science, business and foreign investors. We hope that the involvement of all interested parties will help us achieve our ambitious goal of becoming the life sciences hub of Europe.
In association with NorthTown Vilnius. Writing and editing were carried out independently by fDi Intelligence. This article first appeared in the April/May print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.