The Place of Natural Resources in the Estonian Knowledge-Based Economy*
The article looks at the Estonian earth’s crust and bio-economy resources on the basis of two large applied research projects. The concept of the article has been prepared with the support of funding from the Estonian Research Council. On the basis of the experiences of the practical carrying out of these projects, it can be discussed if, why and how Estonia as a country with a large renewable and non-renewable resource stock should invest in the research and development of resources in order to realise its development potential.
There are many different renewable and non-renewable resources on Estonian that can be used for the well-being of the future knowledge-based economy and society. In order to research them, it is necessary to adapt the existing global mining, cultivation and processing knowledge. The reasons are the nature of the resources as well as policies, commitments assumed internationally, etc. This cannot be done without social desire and tolerance or public and private sector research and development [R&D] contribution and investments.
On the basis of analysis of the current resource usage it can be stated that Estonia is successful in creating some resources, including biomass, but less successful in refining the resources. For knowledge-based resource management it is important to have business models that are established by linking the knowledge of raw material, technologies and market opportunities. So far we have paid too little attention to the earth’s crust, seas and lakes as resource sources. Development of fisheries and aquaculture as well as earth’s crust resources would help increase and diversify the ability to create economic added value. In addition, several bio-resources growing in water also have the capability to support ecosystem services, e.g. to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus from water and to bind carbon dioxide.
In order to avoid the failures and negative consequences experienced in resource usage, suitable coordination mechanisms need to be found. They may be, for example, public and private sector partnership in investments and research and development projects, greater local community participation in resource management and profit distribution, etc. Today’s research funding system in Estonia does not contain mechanisms to enable wider participation of researchers and research institutions in the shaping of strategic decisions, and a system of goals for resource usage is also lacking.
* Peer-reviewed article