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Tenth National Innovation Forum, 16 December 2014, Sofia

On December 16th, 2014, Applied Research and Communications Fund, Еnterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria with the Ministry of Economy, the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria and KIC InnoEnergy, with the support of the Norway Grants organized the Tenth National Innovation Forum "Innovation Agenda for Sustainable Growth and Competitiveness”.

During the Forum, the President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev awarded the finalists in the National Contest for Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2014.

Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Applied Research and Communications Fund, opened the Tenth National Innovation Forum and outlined its important role in both the process of building a sustainable professional community in the field of innovation and in identifying an elite group of innovative companies awarded for leadership in their respective fields. Mr. Shentov focused on two major developments which are of particular importance for the future development of the Bulgarian economy: the growth of innovation activity among local companies captured by ARC Fund’s Innovation index and the high contribution of the ICT sector to the country’s GDP.

Mr. Ognian Zlatev, Head of EC Representation in Bulgaria, emphasized on the priorities of the new European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker which aim at creating new jobs by mobilizing public and private sector investment. A large share of the Cohesion Funds and the European research programs will be allocated to economic sectors which are key for the competitiveness of the EU. Mr. Zlatev stressed that creating new jobs and stimulating economic growth is not only a responsibility of the public authorities, but also of the business and non-governmental sector. In conclusion, he pointed out that the regulatory framework, business environment and entrepreneurial climate are essential for increasing investment activity.

The President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rossen Plevneliev, stressed the key role of ARC Fund and the annual National Innovation Forums for channeling the efforts of the stakeholders within the innovation system and contributing to its development. Mr. Plevneliev underlined the positive economic impact of the financial engineering instruments under the JEREMIE initiative on catalysing private investments and stimulating the entrepreneurial environment. In view of the risk of de-commitment of EU funds Mr. Plevneliev proposed allocation of resources towards financial instruments. He also pointed out that the adopted Strategy for Smart Specialization as well as the funds provided for innovation and science in the next programming period 2014-2020 create the necessary prerequisites for turning Bulgaria into a regional innovation hub.

The President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev awarded the winners in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2014 national contest.

Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Coordinator of Group at ARC Fund, presented the findings of the 2014 report and outlined the main challenges ahead of the development of the national innovation system. According to ARC Fund‘s Innovation index, Bulgarian companies continue to innovate despite the ongoing economic stagnation. Findings show that 75% of innovative companies have introduced more than one type of innovation over the last three years while nearly 15% have introduced all four types of innovation (product, process, marketing and organizational). Mr. Stefanov drew the attention to the following positive aspects and developments of the Bulgarian innovation system: (a) existing instruments and measures in support of research and innovation; (b) increase of available research funding and in the number of research personnel; (c) sustainable contribution of the ICT sector to Bulgaria’s GDP in the amount of 5%; (d) the emerging entrepreneurial eco-system. At the end of his speech, Mr. Stefanov also presented the results of ARC Fund’s first Green business innovation survey.

Mr. Martin Ruppert, Managing Director of the non-profit IMP³rove - European Innovation Management Academy, highlighted the need for a broad perspective on innovation as a driver for economic growth. Service, process, organizational and business model innovations can represent over 30% of operational profits driven by innovation – regardless of the industry sector. He underlined that while funding of innovation is a basic ingredient, leading innovation management can generate competitive advantages even with comparatively lower available budgets. Following the IMP³rove Academy’s framework, leading innovation management requires capabilities in 5 dimensions: a smart innovation strategy, a leading innovation organization and culture, fast and integrated innovation life cycle processes, enabling factors such as a talented and qualified workforce and clear focus on successfully commercialized innovation results. In order to provide companies with an overview on their strengths and further potential in innovation management, the IMP³rove Academy has developed an online assessment and comparison to most relevant competitors in a data base of over 4,000 companies and works with policy makers, intermediaries, and consultants to foster the innovation eco-system in an integrated effort.

Ms. Tale Kandal, chargé d'affaires of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bulgaria, shared the Norwegian experience with achieving sustainable growth and promoting green industry innovation across Europe through the Norway Grants programme of the Innovation Norway government agency. She pointed out that incorporating environmental aspects in the current economic growth model requires consistent legislation and solid institutions, a vast range of obligatory and voluntary policy instruments, cross-sector collaboration, R&D and innovation, as well as international cooperation.

Mr. Stoyan Boev, executive director of Interconsult Bulgaria, Innovative Enterprise in 2013, put the innovation activity of a company in the context of the tension between tradition and change. Mr. Boev stressed that the ability to learn and change is a prerequisite for innovation creation and a matter of survival in today's economy. A company’s competitiveness according to him also depends on the ability to attract and retain talent and fruitful partnerships in the value chain.

Mr. Ryan Little, Project manager in the BMW Foundation, made a brief review of the current trends in the clean tech and renewable energy industries. He highlighted that global economic recession and the abundance of relatively cheaper resources like shale gas have a dampening effect on investments in green innovation. However, Mr. Little pointed as several clean tech sectors which attract investor’s interest such as water purification, irrigation, innovative agriculture, distributed energy generation, batteries and LED. In conclusion, he stressed the positive role of the emerging crowdfunding industry for allocating funds to social and green innovations.

Mr. Emil Georgiev, executive director of DeConi, Innovative Enterprise in 2013, outlined three key elements in the process of creating and implementing an innovative product. First he puts the building of a broad coalition of partners from the public, NGO, and private sector, which would enable the aggregation of the individual expertise of each participant as well as the diversification of the risk and the increased investors’ interest. Secondly, Mr Georgiev stressed the importance of a good market analysis and the smart choice of market approach. Finally, he emphasized on the pursuit of not only economic goals, but also pressing social problems solutions.

Prof. Rumen Nikolov, Head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Library Studies and Information Technologies, pointed as major deficiency of the Bulgarian policy in the field of innovation the lack of a single long-term vision for development. Mr. Nikolov mentioned the following five basic prerequisites for a successful innovation-based Bulgarian growth: human capital; maximum integration in European initiatives and programs for science, innovation and entrepreneurship; functioning innovation ecosystem; mass deployment of information technologies; active involvement of all stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Mr. Hristo Balinov, manager for Southeast Europe in KIC InnoEnergy at the European Institute of Technology, highlighted the importance of the support throughout the different stages of the innovation lifecycle - from prototyping to commercialization. Along with the provision of the necessary funding, Mr. Balinov outlined other important aspects of the innovation creating process such as the build of good team and the establishment of wide network of contacts.

Moderator of the session:
Prof. Bistra Boeva, University of National and World Economy.

Agenda and presentations 2014 (PDF)
Green 2014 (PDF)

Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)



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