The Lisbon Strategy of the European Union defines innovation as essential for the future of Europe. Strengthening cooperation in this area is crucial for all European countries. Dissemination of information on opportunities for cooperation and exchange of ideas on new technologies and innovation speeds up the economic development and raises the competitiveness of local companies and research institutes.
In recent years innovation-driven company strategies have proven to produce better results for growth and prosperity than cost-price cutting strategies for existing products and services. What makes innovation work is the successful implementation of a novel idea in production, services or management.
Since January 1997, ARC Fund has been hosting and coordinating the work of the Innovation Relay Centre in Bulgaria. The centre is the only Bulgarian member of a Europe-wide network of 71 IRCs covering the EU Member States, Bulgaria, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey and Chile. The main goal of the IRC Network is to promote the spirit of innovation across Europe, and to improve the competitiveness of European industry through innovation.
From the beginning of 2008 the European Commission’s two largest business consulting networks with a history of more than 10 years – the Innovation Relay Centers Network and the Euro Info Centers Network – joined efforts and were integrated to form the new Enterprise Europe Network. The European Commission considers Enterprise Europe Network an important European and national public service in the field of innovation, technology transfer and support for small and medium-sized enterprises at European and national level, as well as a key element in achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy at macro- and micro-level. It is a key tool of the EC for implementing its policy in support of small- and mediumsized enterprises (SME) without geographic or sectoral limitations. The portfolio of Enterprise Europe Network’s services includes: o search for business partners and mediation for technology and knowledge transfer; o information about EU policies, programs and legislation affecting business; o visits to individual companies for expert assessment of their innovative and competitive position; o support to the participation of SMEs and research organizations in international projects; o tools to include SMEs in the development of European policies. The network in Bulgaria offers the entire spectrum of services for business, which are also offered by the European network, as well as an additional set of services specific to this country – information to companies about participation in the operational programs funded by the Structural Funds; specific financial sources and tools; problems related to the application of European standards, as well as many more subjects related to Bulgaria’s EU membership.