BSMEPA Initiated a Meeting of Western Balkans Organizations Responsible for Innovation
The Executive Agency for the Promotion of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (BSMEPA) has initiated a meeting with leaders of organizations responsible for innovation development and start-up ecosystems in the Western Balkans region, with its main objective being to give new impetus to business integration between countries in the region.
BSMEPA Executive Director Boyko Takov will present to the Western Balkan startup leaders the conditions for business development in Bulgaria, having prepared a busy program for their two-day visit. Visits to Sofia Techpark, SoftUni, acquaintance with the startup association BESCO, as well as with the Fintech association. According to him, the association between startup associations in the region is already underway, but the meeting will give a new impetus to the interaction between the countries of the Western Balkans.
The official guest of the meeting was Bulgarian Commissioner and Vice President of the EPP Mariya Gabriel, who, according to Takov, could be very useful in the talks because she will be able to acquaint the guests from the Western Balkans with the opportunities that they could use to successfully develop their activity. According to Mariya Gabriel, Europe is doing very well in the field of research and prototyping, but in order to be as competitive as possible, it must also make efforts in the field of innovation in all areas. She said that innovation cooperation between the Western Balkan countries under the Horizon 2020 programme gives positive result, participation in projects had increased by more than 50%. In just four years, they received from 10 million in 2014 to $ 30 million in 2018. There are also funds under the programme to support young people to stay at work in their places of origin and thus limit brain drain.
The Horizon Europe program is a package that provides around 100 billion for investment in research over the period 2021-2027, a natural extension of the current Horizon 2020. The third pillar of the proposed Horizon Europe Framework Program will focus on improving innovation outcomes in order to make Europe a leader in the field. In this context, the proposed European Innovation Council (ESI) will provide European funding for high-tech and advanced technologies, as well as for innovative companies with potential for development.
Gabriel presented the benefits of the European Innovation Council, part of the programme: "There will be two funding mechanisms. One so-called "Researcher" from the idea to product, and we all know here how difficult it is for small and medium-sized enterprises to succeed in this phase. And the second one - "Accelerator". The Accelerator scheme will allow to claim a niche in the market from the product, from the prototype and create a market of the future, which we so far also consider here as a weakness, that Europe is doing very well with prototyping, we are very good at scientific research, but it's time to turn them into innovations."
Gabriel indicated that after 2017, the Western Balkan countries are seeing a significant increase in their participation in the current Horizon 2020 Framework Program, with Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina performing above the EU average.
The meeting was also attended by the Chairman of the Board of the Association for Innovation and Technology Iliya Krastev, who pointed out that the industry in Bulgaria is developing very dynamically, achieving almost 20% growth for the period 2017 - 2018. For the last 7 years the average growth in Bulgaria has been about 16%, which is probably the highest growth of all industries in the Bulgarian market. "We expect it to continue in the next 3-4 years, Chairman of the Board of the Association for Innovation and Technology Iliya Krastev told reporters before a meeting of leaders of organisations for innovation development and startup ecosystems in the Western Balkans region", Focus News Agency reported.
According to Krastev, in the context of the development of the global economy, innovations must be leading in every industry, since without them bankrupt seems quite possible.
"In almost every field, innovation is leading. The classic analysis, where it's mostly IT companies, is no longer what it was. Innovation is being developed in all companies in the market that operate even in activities that are classically less innovative by definition. The global economy is evolving in such a way that, if innovation is missing, companies are generally dropping out of the market, he explained.
During the meeting, representatives of the Innovation Fund of the Republic of Serbia and the Innovation and Technological Development Fund of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, as well as Mr. Sasa Ivanovic, Secretary of State, Directorate for Innovation and Infrastructure of the Ministry of Science of the Republic of Montenegro, and Sokol Nano, Executive Director, Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA), had the opportunity to present the activities of their entrusted institutions to Commissioner Gabriel and to ask questions that concern them about a politician European Union in the field.
After the meeting with Mrs. Gabriel, the event continued with a presentation session in which the participants, as well as representatives of the Operational Program "Innovation and Competitiveness", represented by Mr. Mustafa Chaushev and Mr. Iliya Krastev, Chairman of the Board of Bulgarian Outsourcing association, presented their activities and exchanged experience in promoting business.
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