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Third National Innovation Forum

On December 19th, 2006 ARC Fund, in cooperation with the Center for the Study of Democracy, organized the Third National Innovation Forum at the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan. The event was carried out jointly with the Ministry of Economy and Energy and the World Bank Sofia Mission. It is carried out with the financial support of the European Commission through its IRC-Bulgaria initiative and and the kind sponsorship of SD ELTA-R, awarded as most innovative big enterprise for year 2005.

The Third National Innovation Forum was opened by Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of ARC Fund. In his keynote Dr. Shentov emphasized the challenges before the future development of the National Innovation System (NIS) in the context of Bulgaria’s accession in the EU. He highlighted three key issues required for the successful development of a dynamic innovative Bulgarian economy:

• Concentration of a significant share of the EU funding in fostering development of innovative infrastructure, R&D and education as corner stones of a knowledge-based economy in Bulgaria
• Improved coordination of the Bulgarian innovation policy and its correlation with other national and EU policies related to investments, SMEs, ICT, science and education, etc. Bulgaria needs an investment policy conducive to attracting higher number of investors from among the 100 most innovative companies in the world. The government also has to ensure co-financing for Bulgarian SMEs that receive partial funding from the Cohesion and Structural Funds, the EU Framework Programmes and other funding sources originating from the European Commission.
• Development of successful national innovation policy requires firm personal commitment at highest political level as demonstrated by the governments of Finland, Germany and UK

Ms. Anna Yaneva, Deputy Minister of Economy and Energy and Deputy Chair of the National Innovation Council, welcomed the participants in her keynote and stressed upon Bulgaria’s challenge to accelerate the EU integration process. It is important to foster SMEs in adopting new technologies and developing their innovative potential. The Lisbon Strategy requires the identification of the most effective instrument to encourage technological development and that has recently been devised within the National Innovation Strategy and fostered by the National Innovation Council. Mrs. Yaneva underlined that the 3 sessions of the National Innovation Fund held so far provide the ground for improvement of participation rules and monitoring of the projects implementation.

The Ambassador of Finland to Bulgaria Mr. Kauko Jamsen welcomed Bulgaria on the occasion of its joining the EU family and recognized the important role of the National Innovation Forum in the context of the Finn Presidency of EU main goal – to foster entrepreneurs’ competitiveness. Mr. Jamsen presented the key issues that brought Finland from the crisis in the 1990’s to its current position of world-leader in innovations: capital accumulation from privatization processes, investments in human expertise and regional innovation centers, measures against corruption, allocation of 3,5 % of GDP to R&D, women participation in policy, effective public administration and legal system, and best school system in the world according to OECD data. The Ambassador recognized Bulgaria as a very dynamic and creative country that has the potential to contribute to the competitiveness of EU And pointed out the Bulgarian NGOs as very good partners and key players in that. Mr. Jamsen emphasized that only open innovation networks could be competitive on a world-wide scale and could meet the challenges of the future innovation processes.

The Forum’s overall objective was to contribute to the dialogue and cooperation between the participants in the national and regional innovation systems. The annual report Innovation.bg 2007: Bulgaria’s Innovation System in the EU was on focus during the event. Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Coordinator of the Economic Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy and Coordinator of Innovation.bg Group at ARC Fund presented the report's main findings on the opportunities and challenges to the Bulgarian innovation policy after Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, and the key conclusions and policy messages. The report is a tool for benchmarking the local innovation knowledge and expertise with the European and international best practice. Following the established methodology of the previous edition, Innovation.bg 2007 analyzes the dynamics of the development of the national innovation system over the last year and the development opportunities in 2007 through five groups of indicators. This year the report was enriched with a special Innovation Index of the Bulgarian enterprises, based on the results of the annual surveys carried out by the Innovation Relay Center - Bulgaria, and with a profile of the Bulgarian innovative companies based on panel data and in-depth statistical analysis. The Innovation Index of the Bulgarian enterprises indicates that most of them (over 65%) have not implemented any innovations over the last year. The index illustrates the low ability of the Bulgarian companies to combine several types of innovations, it likewise illustrates that mostly innovations with low degree of novelty are introduced (novelties only within the company or on the national market but not on the international one). Innovation.bg 2007 draws a set of conclusions and recommendations.

The event then featured speech by Ms. Lydia Shouleva, Member of the Economic Policy Committee at the National Assembly, who expressed concern about the continuing tendency of weakening and disrupting business-academia links which will impede the ability of Bulgarian companies to cope with the competitive pressure on EU level. Mrs. Shouleva appealed for a more precise directing of EU Structural Funds through linking the “Competitiveness” Operational Programme (OP) with for the ones on “Human Resources”, “Regional development” and “Agriculture”.


Mr. Todor Modev, District Governor of the Sofia City District and Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS) for the Southwest Planning Region, conveyed the importance for Bulgaria to define key regional development priorities on the verge of EU accession especially in view of the pursued effective management of the Structural Funds. Mr. Modev outlined the advantages of the Sofia district as well as the latest infrastructure developments that positioned the district among the leaders in Southeast Europe. He pointed out the Regional Innovation Strategies as key instrument for building regional innovative capacity, for preparing the region to apply in EU funds and for wiring up interregional collaborations both within the country and across the border. In that context the District Governor of Sofia stressed on the existing demand for setting up a National Network of RIS regions.

Mr. Lyubomir Datzov, Deputy Minister of Finance of the Republic of Bulgaria, shared with the audience his excellent impressions from the establishment of the first High-tech Nanotechnology center with the financial contribution of banking institutions. By giving insight to a number of strategic documents of the Ministry he demonstrated good political will towards meeting the Lisbon goal and implementing effective reforms for fostering innovation. As key hindrance to the latter he pointed the low level of management skills in science and innovation, underdeveloped innovative infrastructures and portfolio of innovative services provided to SMEs, lack of effective collaboration between stakeholders in the innovation system. Co-funding the participation of Bulgarian SMEs and other organizations in EU Framework Programmes for RTDI was presented to be among the measures foreseen in the National Reform Program.

The trends and good practices in innovation policies in OECD countries were presented by Mr. Gernot Hutschenreiter, Science and Technology Policy Division of OECD, who emphasized the importance of domestic R&D, not just in itself, but also in view of absorbing technologies from abroad. He shared the common vision of all speakers on the strong dependency of innovation performance on the intensity and quality of networks among innovators, in particular on linkages between industry and science. The countries successful in innovation have common characteristics such as high and sustained investment in knowledge in education, ICT and R&D, а diversified population of innovators, strong regional poles of innovative activity, such as dynamic clusters, and openness with respect to and good use of international knowledge flows.

Mr. Stanimir Barzashki, Chairman of the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, appealed towards achieving the two main goals of the national innovation policy – to provoke innovation activity and to ensure favorable conditions for business-academia collaborations. He also emphasized the necessity of increasing national resources and venture capital funds for fostering SMEs’ innovation activities, this being based on the continuous increase in number of proposals for the National Innovation Fund and the estimate that the grant schemes under the Competitiveness Program will be sufficient for up to 5-6 % of the Bulgarian enterprises. The lack of business conditions conducive to commercializing the know-how at the universities was stated as major hindrance to building successful business-academia partnerships.

A number of obstacles met by the researchers and academia were put forward by Prof. Kamen Vesselinov, Rector of the Technical University in Sofia. The critical notes arose from the National Innovation Fund’s operation mode which illustrates the break points between the authors and managers of innovations, from the lack of administrative capacity and skilled personnel because of low quality education system.

The plenary session was concluded by Mr. Thomas Hockaday, Director, Isis Innovation Ltd, The Technology Transfer Company of the University of Oxford who illustrated the best practice experience of the technology transfer Isis Company – a 100% university subsidiary. Mr. Hockadey presented the wide range of ways for interaction with universities such as collaborative & contract research, training, consulting services, regional liaison, science parks, entrepreneurship and technology transfer. He also gave insight to the specific activities carried out by a technology transfer company related to IPR, start-ups, management of seed funds, consulting and service contracts by providing as input from the University patent budget, human expertise, networking and concept proof for seed funds. The returns to the university range from the development of own patent portfolio through to generating income from licensing, consulting and spin-off shares. Active leadership of the university together with culture shift towards entrepreneurship were perceived as keys to successful technology transfer.

During the discussion Mr. Atanas Tchenkin, Manager of SD ELTA-R company, winner in the contest for 2005’s most innovative big enterprise, presented the view of the Bulgarian innovative companies, their observations on the improvement of the innovation environment over the last 2 years and their support to the conclusions and recommendations of the Innovation.bg 2007 report. Mr. Tchenkin assessed the financial support provided by EU programmes and National Innovation Fund as extremely insufficient but useful for developing project management skills. Major problem is the lack of qualified personnel due, in his view, to the brain-drain and the collapse of both the education system and the planned industry. Special attention was drawn to the various tax reliefs and financial contributions to the salary funds as governmental measures for fostering the development of innovative SMEs in Bulgaria.


Innovative Enterprise Award 2006

The annual Innovative Enterprise of the Year Award acknowledges Bulgarian enterprises that have successfully introduced innovations or scientific accomplishments, thus transforming their operation mode and achieving sustainable economic effect. A panel of renowned innovation and technology experts from industry and academia assesses the innovation achievements of the contestants on the basis of in-depth company technology audits performed prior to the Forum.


The winners in the 2006 Innovative Enterprise contest included the following companies:

The First Prize under the Small Innovative Enterprise category (up to 50 employees) - honorary statuette and diploma - went to Saturn Engineering Ltd. The Second and Third prize and honorary diplomas went to Diavach Ltd. and BODI-D – Dobri Dobrev SP, respectively.

Under the category of Medium-Sized and Large Innovative Enterprises (over 50 employees) the First prize - honorary statuette and diploma - was presented to Ficosota Plc. The Second and Third prize and honorary diplomas were awarded to Denima 2001 Ltd. and Optix Co .

Last year's winner in this category, Daisy Technology Ltd. received a special award and honorary diploma for continuity of their innovation process.

Previous winners of this award have included companies, such as SD ELTA-R, Point L Ltd. and Mauer Locking Systems Ltd.

The Forum was attended by representatives of EU institutions, national and local authorities, businesses, scientific and academic organizations, NGOs and S&T intermediary organizations, educational institutions and mass media.

ARC Fund launched the National Innovation Forum (NIF) initiative as part of its Innovation Relay Centre operation in 2004 with the idea of encouraging national innovation policy debates and bringing innovation to the forefront of the economic policy agenda. By involving high-level international speakers, the Forum is also seen as a mechanism for benchmarking the local innovation knowledge and expertise with the European and international best practice. It is ARC Fund’s main innovation policy annual event.

Traditionally the NIF is organized in cooperation with the World Bank Sofia Mission and the Ministry of Economy and Energy. It is supported by the European Commission through the IRC-Bulgaria initiative.

Resources

Agenda and presentations
Agenda (PDF, 1,31 MB)
Media Advisory (in Bulgarian)
Report Innovation.bg 2007 (PDF, 11 MB)
Summary of the Report (PDF, 0, 7 MB)
Profiles of the awarded enterprises in the National Contest for Innovative Enterprises 2006
Presentation of the awarded enterprises of the National Contest for Innovative Enterprise 2006 (Power Point, 2.85 MB, in Bulgarian)
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)

Previous National Innovation Forums:
Second National Innovation Forum, 2005
First National Innovation Forum, 2004


National Innovative Enterprise Award website




 

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