On December 5th, 2013, Applied Research and Communications Fund, Еnterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria with the support of the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Medical Association organised the Ninth National Innovation Forum “Innovation and Sectoral 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.
Mr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Applied Research and Communications Fund, opened the Ninth National Innovation Forum and outlined several thematic fields with crucial importance for the competitiveness of the country. In the first place, he highlighted the need for a radical improvement of the public domain and policies not only in the field of innovation but also in education, health care and rule of law. Secondly, Mr. Shentov emphasized the accumulation of a critical mass of innovative companies and leaders, who manage to compensate the deficiencies of the Bulgarian public policies and innovation ecosystem and thanks to whom the overall national R&D expenditures experience a slight increase. In conclusion, he focused the attention on the need for a clear commitment on the highest political level for coordinating the efforts of the public and private sector with the aim to expand the existing innovative potential.
The President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rossen Plevneliev, underlined that innovation as a topic is not new for the political discourse of the country. Despite the existing consensus about their key role for increasing incomes, as well as counteracting negative demographic trends and brain drain, he sketched out the following persisting problems of the national innovation system: (a) unintegrated approach towards designing and implementing public policies in the field; (b) inconsistency between existing strategic documents; (c) lack of a national mechanism for coordination between relevant stakeholders; (d) instability and frequent shifts in the national strategic priorities. In addition, Mr. Rossen Plevneliev pointed out that innovation will continue to grow in importance during the next programming period 2014-2020 and that the European Commission will require more effective and smart management of EU funds. Finally, the President noted that in a postindustrial globalized knowledge economy Bulgaria should not solely rely on cost competitive advantages.
Mr. Ognian Zlatev, Head of EC Representation in Bulgaria, stated that a strong innovation policy is the most important component for overcoming the adverse effects of the crisis and for achieving higher rates of economic growth and employment. In this relation he reminded that against the backdrop of a shrinking EU budget for the next programming period the EU Commission and Parliament dedicated a historically large amount of resources for research and innovation, for which Bulgarian scientist and innovative businesses can compete on an equal footing.
The President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev awarded the winners in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2013 national contest.
Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Coordinator of Innovation.bg Group, presented the findings of the Innovation.bg 2013 report and summarized that the current situation in the country with regard to innovation is alarming. In this context, he highlighted important positive developments such as the considerable increase of business R&D expenditures, as well as the good relative performance of Bulgarian scientific teams in the EU framework programmes for scientific research.Mr. Stefanov drew the attention to the existing discriminatory practices applied to the payment of researchers on national and geographic grounds, which exacerbate the brain drain of high-quality human capital from the EU periphery. As an exception from the fragmented and inefficient management of government support for innovation he pointed out the successful transfer of management responsibility to the private sector under the JEREMIE initiative. Finally, Mr. Stefanov emphasized the key recommendations, which the Innovation.bg report has put forward for almost a decade.
Mr. Thomas Bruns, Senior Commercial Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, prized the valuable contribution of ARC Fund for the better understanding and improvement of the innovation capacity and competitiveness of the country. Within the framework of deepening bi-lateral relations between Bulgaria and the U.S., he made an overview of the main innovation absorption channels – FDIs, trade and license agreements – and highlighted the growing investment interest on the part of technology intensive U.S. companies in the fields of biotechnologies and telecommunications. In conclusion, he pointed out that potential U.S. investors no longer deem macroeconomic stability, low tax rates and low labor costs a sufficient incentive and the predictable IPR protection and effective innovation and entrepreneurship support measures play an increasingly important role.
Mr. Deyan Denev, chairman of the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies in Bulgaria, presented the features of the innovation activity in the Bulgarian pharmaceutical industry. Although globally the innovations in this field traditionally originate from USA, Japan and Western Europe, Mr. Denev believes that part of the long and complex innovation process can be drawn in Bulgaria. To achieve this goal, the successful participation of Bulgarian scientists and companies in European research programmes is important.
Mr. Ivaylo Penchev, CEO of Walltopia Ltd., Innovative Enterprise of 2012, put the emphasis on the well-functioning secondary education for the development of competitive and innovative businesses in the country. Despite the poor government policy in this field, he outlined successful examples of cooperation between the business and the NGOs for the early finding and training of talents.
Mr. Stefan Deevski, CEO of AMK – Gabrovo, Innovative Enterprise of 2010, shared the view that there is a need for well-developed education, especially in engineering disciplines, where the poor quality and the decrease in number of trained specialists leads to more and more tangible deficit of good professionals. Mr. Deevski pointed at the possibilities of the private sector to proactively defy these trends by individual or coordinated initiatives.
Mr. Ventsislav Slavkov, Chairman of the Mechatronics and Automation Cluster, noted the increasing number of registered clusters that distinguish this form of cooperation as a possible solution to increase the competitiveness and tackle the ongoing crisis. Mr. Slavkov expressed his view that given the special nature of innovation activity what is important is the institutional and business environment, and only after it comes the availability of effective mechanisms for direct support.