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Seventeenth National Innovation Forum: Economic Resilience through Innovations

On 7 December 2021 the Applied Research and Communications Fund held the seventeenth edition of the National Innovation Forum Building Innovation Recovery and Resilience and the award ceremony of the Innovative Enterprise of the Year national contest.

The forum was organised by the ARC Fund, ARC Consulting, Joint Innovation Centre of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Enterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria, with the support of the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Executive Agency and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of ARC Fund, noted at the opening that the EU has reconfirmed its priorities for digital transformation as a basis for a more ecologically and socially oriented approach for the solving of global challenges. “Bulgaria has to find its unique place in the EU innovation and industrial framework, in view of the annual EU funding equal to 5% of the country’s GDP it expects to receive. As the report shows, it is the EU that covers the better share of innovation funding in Bulgaria”, reminded Dr. Shentov. He emphasised that Bulgaria needs to go further than that to position itself convincingly on the investment map of international technological leaders. The country has to make a major approach shift and a series of breakthroughs to be able to attract investments with high added value. Dr. Shentov pointed out that a number of Bulgarian innovative companies have the potential to turn into unicorns.

Thorsten Geissler, Director of Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s Sofia Office, underlined the key role of innovations in generating economic growth and prosperity, and pointed out that innovations need to be sustainable in recognition of the fact that the Еarth‘с resources are limited. “Climate change is the biggest challenge humanity is facing and must be mitigated with the help of innovations. This is one of the core ideas of the European Union’s Green Deal”, clarified Mr. Geissler. He also referred to the significance of innovations in education as a prerequisite for future success.

The President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev reminded in his keynote address: “In 2021, Bulgaria moved two positions up in the Global Innovation Index, ranking 35th out of 132 countries, according to the methodology of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. This is the best performance of the country since 2013. We have to overcome the bottlenecks related to the market environment indicators and the access of enterprises to external funding. As President, I am proud that we rank first in Europe by number of women employed in science and technologies”. President Radev pointed out that having reached the beginning of the third programming period since Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, the time is ripe to define tasks precisely and choose the method that would help overcome current setbacks. He noted that “The moment has come to identify and outline all the strengths Bulgaria has and to mobilise the scientific potential of the leading higher schools, research institutions and centers of excellence and competence“. The 2021–2027 MFF has a record-high innovation budget of about 130 billion euro, which could be the foundation for Bulgaria to step up, unlocking its full potential, and become the leader in the region in all areas where the Bulgarian economy excels.”, the President concluded.

The forum gathered entrepreneurs and experts from the business and NGO communities to discuss the challenges and achievements of the Bulgarian innovation ecosystem analysed in detail in the annual report 2021.

Ruslan Stefanov, Coordinator of ARC Fund’s Group, noted that Bulgaria is a dual economy whose level of education is below the European average. While Bulgaria’s ICT sector is on the grow, local people don’t seem to use digital products actively enough. He pointed out that there should be larger investments in education as well as efforts on the part of the government to draw investments with high added value from the U. S. and EU private sectors. “We need a consensual policy vision with clear-cut priorities and continual national funding devoted to the development of innovations, technologies and talent up to 2050. Considering the experience of CEE countries, we should aim at amounts equal to 250–500 million euro per year. A negligible share of international investment in innovation enters Bulgaria, since we rely predominantly on grant financing from the EU“, he explained.

During the discussion, moderated by Lilia Goleminova, the manager of Ondo Solutions Ltd Ilia Yordanov spoke about the dynamic 2021 that the company went through, managing to attract both new investments and partners and clients from Bulgaria and abroad. Elena NIkolova, Community Manager of CEO Angels Club outlined the main steps through which start-up entrepreneurs seek and find investors (via angel funding through successful venture capital funds) and highlighted the potential of crowdfunding. Ivan Yosifov, CEO of Naikoms Ltd, observed that entrepreneurship and innovations clearly go together and that the business community should be able to work in a dynamically changing environment.

At the Innovative Enterprise of the Year national contest, for the first time the honorary statuette was awarded to two companies in the same category – Cupffee Ltd and Orenda Group Ltd were distinguished for Market Leadership at this year’s edition of the National Innovation Forum entitled Building Innovation Recovery and Resilience. The President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev presented honorary awards to 9 more innovative Bulgarian companies.

The videostreaming of the Seventeenth National Innovation Forum was conducted by MP Studio, the Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2017 award winner in the Creative Industries category.

Report 2021
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)
Selected companies with the Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2021 award
Videostreaming of the event

Previous National Innovation Forums

Sixteenth National Innovation Forum 2020
Fifteenth National Innovation Forum 2019

Fourteenth National Innovation Forum 2018
Thirteenth National Innovation Forum 2017
Twelfth National Innovation Forum 2016
Eleventh National Innovation Forum 2015
Tenth National Innovation Forum 2014
Ninth National Innovation Forum 2013
Eighth National Innovation Forum 2012
Seventh National Innovation Forum 2011
Sixth National Innovation Forum 2010
Fifth National Innovation Forum 2009
Fourth National Innovation Forum 2008
Third National Innovation Forum 2006
Second National Innovation Forum 2005
First National Innovation Forum 2004


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