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Innovation business club: “Social and Green Innovation: Cross-Sector Collaboration and Clustering”

On 8 October, 2014, the Applied Research and Communications Fund, together with the BMW Foundation and Enterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria, organized an Innovation Business Club meeting on cross-sector collaboration on green and social innovation. Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Applied Research and Communications Fund, opened the forum by identifying the shared value concept as a new platform and instrument to collaborate across profit and nonprofit boundaries.

Mr. Markus Hipp, Executive Director of the BMW Foundation, discussed the potential of social innovations for facilitating cross-sector collaboration and strengthening the overall competitive environment. He emphasized the importance of cultivating and promoting business leaders with diversified skills, who understand the general concept of shared value and get their brands involved in social innovation. Businesses and civil organizations should work together and promote social entrepreneurship and pro bono transfer of knowledge by sharing their experience. The Executive Director of the BMW Foundation also highlighted the idea of venture philanthropy, which aims to build stronger social purpose organisations by providing them with both financial and non-financial support in order to increase their societal impact.

Mr. Delyan Dobrev, Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, 2012-2013, stated that despite planning to spend more money on innovation in the 2014-2020 period, Bulgaria is still seriously falling behind in that area. Mr. Dobrev also briefly touched on the topic of green energy innovation by commenting that the bad interaction between the industry and the government has caused major damage to the national economy and has provoked the society’s disapproval.

Mr. Ilian Vassilev, Managing partner of Innovative Energy Solutions Ltd., described a negative value chain circle that currently takes place in Bulgaria, where political populism and state capture create a barrier between the corporate world and the public sector. Mr. Vassilev stressed the need of integrating and connecting the islands of individual entrepreneurship and innovation that currently do not cooperate with each another. He also mentioned the low levels of public awareness on urgent problems and concluded that the overall change should start with the personal behavior and responsibility of each individual.

Ms. Nikolina Hinkova, Manager of Mechatronica J.S.C., which has been chosen as Innovative Enterprise of the Year for 2013 in the “Market Leadership” category, spoke on the logical connection between green and social innovation and specially highlighted the importance of public-private cooperation. The practices and summer camps for students interested in cryptology and robotics and the professional training center for young engineers, all organized and developed by the Gabrovo-based company, provide benefit to the whole community and boost the competitiveness of the whole region.

Mr. Kiril Mitov, Manager of Robopartans - Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2013 in the “Social Impact” category, pointed out that sustainable activities should be more social oriented and more people should be engaged in the field of education. Robopartans currently has 300 students participating in its training classes. The company also helps other organizations to build their own education centers and schools of robotics. By mentioning that the company could make more money in the consultancy business rather than in the sphere of education, Mr. Mitov highlighted just how difficult it is to find balance between market economy and social activity.

Mr. Stoyan Boev, Managing Director of InterConsult Bulgaria, which was chosen as Innovative Enterprise of the Year for 2013 in the “Innovation Hub” category, commented on the readiness of the Bulgarian society to think innovatively and the need of creating favourable environment for innovation along with a system for talent preservation. Mr. Boev described skills sharing, cultural readiness, venture capital and access to human resources as the most important components of the concept of shared value. He also defined the constant political changes as main obstacle to increasing competitiveness and achieving economic growth. A market that is not efficient and stable is wasting social resources due to lack of cooperation.

Ms. Tzvetelina Borislavova, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Bulgarian American Credit Bank and Chair of the Credo Bonum foundation, underlined the psychological aspect of the matter by stating that Bulgarians should be more positive and proactive. Credo Bonum foundation and Clever Synergies Investment Fund support and implement different projects and technologies and focus on green innovation.

In the subsequent discussion the participants talked about the differences between philanthropy in Europe and North America. The amount of financial resources and funding available, the fault tolerance level and the entrepreneurial culture were identified as main advantages of the US venture philanthropy environment. Impressed by Mechatronicha J.S.C. local community involvement, Mr. Hipp emphasized the importance of educating and creating opportunities and added that the secret of the German success lies in the strong binding between small innovative businesses and local communities.

Agenda (Adobe PDF, 88KB)

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