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Fifth National Innovation Forum entitled Innovation Infrastructure and Policy for Economic Growth

The Applied Research and Communications Fund, the EC Representation in Bulgaria, Enterprise Europe Network - Bulgaria, the Ministry of Economy and Energy, and the World Bank Mission in Bulgaria organized the Fifth National Innovation Forum entitled Innovation Infrastructure and policy for Economic Growth. The Forum was held at the Sheraton Balkan Hotel, under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Georgi Parvanov.



The Fifth National Innovation Forum was opened by Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of ARC Fund. In his opening speech Dr. Shentov pointed out a number of facts indicative of the national innovation policy implementation over the recent years: the necessity for the country to maximize efforts in carrying out the European and the national innovation policy; and the still-missing instrument for co-financing projects awarded to Bulgarian entities under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme of the EC. In the context of the global economic crisis Bulgaria should revise its economic policy and come up with solutions in three major directions:
- development and implementation of a national policy in the area of science, technology and innovation;
- Establishing a strong public body to be entrusted with the responsibility in the innovation domain and the overall support to the national innovation system;
- Effective long-term cooperation between the various elements of the national innovation system.
The implementation of these three measures was defined as the required condition for the country to step up to a higher ground.

The President of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Georgi Parvanov highlighted the appropriate timing of organizing the initiative at the start of the European year of creativity and innovation. Creativity and innovation are considered key factors for securing the welfare of society. The measures already implemented have hardly had the particular impact sought. He pointed out drawbacks such as lowered financing, weak motivation, insufficient concentration of resources and the negative influence of the financial crisis. The measures needed in this respect feature stronger support for public-private partnership, for innovation-oriented companies and for participation in innovation networks.

Mrs. Zinaida Zlatanova, Head of the EC Representation in Bulgaria, likewise noted the symbolic message of organizing this Forum at the start of the year 2009 – the European Year of Creativity and Innovations. In her view the aim of this initiative is to raise awareness regarding the importance of creativity as a key factor for private, social and economic development. The European Union aims at developing the potential of its citizens through encouraging innovation and creativity, which would shape Europe’s future in the context of global competitiveness. The European Commission defines innovation as major instrument for sustaining employment and development. The EC lays emphasis on the importance of investing in knowledge among the four priorities for the period 2008 – 2010 within the framework of the revised Lisbon strategy.

Mr. Florian Fichtl, Resident Representative of the World Bank Mission in Sofia, pointed out that Bulgaria, being a member of the EU, is to raise its life standard through increasing productivity and ensuring a sustainable development. The latter is highly dependant on several factors – institutional support, competitiveness-conducive environment, and investment in human capital. This process involves all representatives of the national innovation system yet the contribution to sustainable development by the business is still of highest significance. Bulgaria needs to introduce new technological solutions, to improve its institutional framework and the inter-links therein. Another key factor is to regularly evaluate the policy implemented.

Ms Meglena Plugchieva, Deputy Prime-Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, pointed out that the EU policy is targeted towards developing competitive and dynamic economies of the member countries. The main instruments in this respect are the Structure Funds, the Cohesion Fund supporting the EU Cohesion Policy; the Research Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. Two innovation initiatives will be launched in 2009 under the Competitiveness operational Programme – for high-tech start-up companies and for support for technological upgrade. The financing for these initiative amounts to 19,5 million leva. Additional opportunities for technology and innovation support are provided by the Human Resources Operational Programme where with simplified application procedures are envisaged.

The Forum featured the ceremony for awarding the winners in the the Innovative Enterprise national contest. The awards were presented to the winning companies by the President, Mr. Georgi Parvanov.





The Forum continued with the presentation of the annual report Innovations.bg 2009 by Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, coordinator of the Innovation.bg Group of ARC Fund. The report states that the number of innovative companies in Bulgaria has increased by 3 to 9% over the past year. 1/3 of the companies innovate on annual basis. The type of innovations most frequently introduced is the organizational innovations. Process innovations are implemented with the objective of increasing the reach-out to end users. According to the report export-oriented companies covering international standards have higher innovation index. Bulgaria continues its extensive development towards innovations – the percentage of innovations implemented remains the same and is independent from economic growth.

Mr. Patrick Lambert, Director of the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI) at the European Commission presented the main activities and programmes coordinated by the Agency. He highlighted the key role the small and medium enterprises play in the implementation of the Lisbon strategy and presented measures supporting SMEs. Such measures include the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), the Enterprise Europe Network, the Eco-Innovation Programme and the Marco Polo Programme. Enterprise Europe Network provides integrated support to companies and R&D organizations by fostering business cooperation, technology transfer and consultation on European programmes. For Bulgaria, the network is represented by a consortium of 13 partner organizations.

Professor Anders Flodstrom, Member of the Executive Committee of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, focused his presentation on the importance to build and sustain a bond between science, education and innovation building thus a “triangle of knowledge”. Most of the companies innovate through their own research and development units but they lack enough resource to increase their qualification via education. In this respect, professor Flodstrom presented the initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology - Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) which finances activities in the areas of sustainable energy, climate change and information society of the future.

Mr. Lyubomir Datzov – Deputy Minister of Finance, presented the financial policy of the government for building an innovation-conducive environment. Mr. Datzov pointed out that weaknesses are still related with business investments, cooperation and lack of innovation culture of both country and business sector. As primary measures to stimulate R&D and innovation activities Mr. Datzov pointed:
- The establishment of a Research and Innovation Fund that integrates the National Innovation Fund and the National Science Fund;
- The establishment of a national company for development of industrial parks;

Mr. Eli Anavi, Director of the Enterprise Policy Directorate at the Ministry of Economy and Energy noted that the role of the public sector in the innovation process is changing by drawing more attention towards innovative solutions through the public procurement policy. Mr. Anavi referred to the National Innovation Fund as a useful financial instrument that has concluded over 360 contracts amounting to BGN 60 million for a period of 4 years.

Mr. Vladimir Dimitrov, Regional Governor of Blagoevgrad District and Chairman of the Regional Development Council of the South-West Region of Bulgaria, presented several innovative pilot projects underpinning in the Regional Innovation Strategy of the South-West Region. The projects include development of a medical centre in Sofia, innovation centre for alternative energy sources and energy efficiency in Blagoevgrad and the operation of the mechatronics and automation cluster in the region.


Agenda and presentations
Innovation.bg report 2009 (in Bulgarian, PDF, 7,75 MB)
Innovation.bg report 2009 – summary
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)
Photo Gallery

Previous National Innovation Forums:
Fourth Innovation Forum 2008
Third Innovation Forum 2006
Second Innovation Forum 2005
First National Innovation Forum 2004



 

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