by Dr. Ognian Shentov,
Chairman, Applied Research and Communications (ARC) Fund
To participants at the National Innovation Forum,
Sofia, 22nd October 2004
Mr. President Parvanov,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are at least three reasons why ARC Fund has undertaken to organize this National Innovation Forum:
First, the innovation environment in Bulgaria has reached a sufficient level of institutionalization. In the private sector this fact is demonstrated by the efforts of the Innovation Relay Center-Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Industrial Association and Bulgarian Academy of Sciences – organizations which have established themselves as leading and cooperating ‘system integrators’ supporting technology transfer and promoting the innovative potential of Bulgarian enterprises. In the public sector the recent decision by the government to set up a National Innovation Fund is the latest example of this institutionalization of innovation.
Second, the country has already piloted two of the best European instruments for innovation policy making – the regional innovation strategy and technology foresight. The first RIS was implemented at the Sought-Central planning region of Bulgaria, and the foresight technique was applied to two pilot areas: biotechnologies and e-government.
Third, the private sector in Bulgaria is already showing a serious interest in continuous innovation and readiness to cooperate with the other players in the innovation system. These innovation efforts are bringing impressive results, as proven by the number and quality of applications submitted to the National Contest for Innovative Enterprise of the Year which we organized under the auspices of the World Bank Country Mission and the Ministry of Economy.
For developments on these fronts and, in a broader context, Bulgaria’s progress towards a knowledge-based economy to be sustainable, it is necessary that we devise and use effective instruments for benchmarking, and such that provide policy feedback and early warning signals for the transformations ahead. ARC Fund has developed two such instruments which assess Bulgaria’s position on two of the major pillars of knowledge economy – the information and communication technologies (ICTs) and innovation. In the first area ARC Fund has just released its e-Bulgaria report (copies of which are included in the conference materials). We are currently preparing an Innovation.bg report whose conceptual framework and main hypotheses will be presented to you today. The successful use of these instruments is guaranteed by the public-private partnerships that stand behind them and validate their results.
In conclusion, I would like to underscore the fact that Bulgaria’s accession to the EU requires that we formulate and put in practice a much more dynamic and aggressive national innovation policy. The results of the European Innovation Scoreboard 2003 point to a few alarming conclusions for Bulgaria:
- Bulgaria is ranked 28th (out of 33 countries) in its overall innovation index; and
- Bulgaria is the only candidate country to fall below the average EU level.
In order to stay on the European, and global, innovation chart Bulgaria needs much more social innovations in support of such processes. I am very much hopeful that, when we reconvene next year, we will be able to report on the positive contribution which this Forum and its participants have made to Bulgaria’s enhanced innovation potential.