Innovating in a traditional sector: Innovation in forest harvesting in Slovakia and Macedonia
Innovation ability and its implementation into practice are crucial for the success of enterprises in traditional sectors such as forestry and, in particular, in the context of countries with economies in transition. The main aim of this study is to gain a better understanding of the innovation processes in the forest harvesting sector in countries with economies in transition. The comparative analysis is based on six case studies of innovations, three from Slovakia and three from Macedonia. The main source of data were semi-structured interviews with the owners of forest harvesting companies that had conducted innovations in the last 5 years. The interviews revolved around questions related to the innovation type, funding sources, fostering and impeding factors and their cooperation with other relevant actors in the innovation processes. The results show that the actual situation for innovations in the sector in both countries is strongly influenced by the dominance of state forest holdings, a fact which does not favour innovation implementation in the harvesting companies. Despite of the similar history of the selected ex-socialist countries, the sector is more developed in Slovakia, and there is a higher technological level of innovation activities compared to Macedonia. While in Slovakia, innovations focused on the acquisition of new technology, in Macedonia, companies instead implemented smaller changes and improvements in the harvesting process. These are less demanding on finances, which is a critical factor because financing in Macedonia usually comes only from the entrepreneurs themselves. In contrast, the Slovak innovators can take advantage of the European Union membership of the country to obtain financial grants for innovations. In addition, they are more able to secure bank loans for innovation projects. Cooperation with the customers and the personal characteristics of innovators were important fostering factors in both countries. It can be concluded that the innovative firms have a similar level of innovation abilities, but the more favourable economic and institutional frameworks in Slovakia facilitate the implementation of innovations.
* Dr Gerhard Weiss from Forest Policy Research Network contributed to this publication.