On December 18th, 2012, the Applied Research and Communications Fund, Еnterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria and the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism with the support of the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria organised the Eighth National Innovation Forum “Innovation and Competitiveness”.
Mr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Applied Research and Communications Fund, opened the Eighth National Innovation Forum and provided a brief summary of the main results of the Innovation Forum achieved over the eight years of its existence. In the first place, he praised the efforts of ARC Fund in assembling valuable information, analyses and recommendations related to the innovation landscape, system and policies in the country. In cooperation with the public administration, scientific institutions and innovative firms, ARC Fund has managed to develop an analytical capacity that is being highly valued both within the country and by the European Commission. Secondly, Mr. Shentov underlined the significance of the collated information about a few hundreds innovative Bulgarian enterprises, which have undergone a thorough evaluation process conducted jointly by internal experts, representatives of ministerial departments as well as World Bank professionals. In conclusion, it was emphasized that successful innovation development cannot happen without active and proper government support.
The President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rossen Plevneliev reassured that the creation and nurturing of the country’s innovation ecosystem is among the priorities of the presidential Institution. Mr. Plevneliev underlined that the rising entrepreneurship and innovative culture contribute to a faster and more integrated implementation of the necessary reforms. He mentioned the on-going discussions on the Law on Innovations, the amendment of the Law on Investment Promotion, the creation of a separate Operational Program for science and innovations. Finally, the President noted that the Bulgarian ICT sector has managed to become a regional hub and that the automobile industry has also shown potential to further gain importance for the national economy.
Ms Zinaida Zlatanova, Head of EC Representation in Bulgaria, commenced her statement by reminding the indisputable role of innovations as a tool for overcoming economic downturns. In this relation, Ms. Zlatanova pointed out that this is among the reasons why the European Commission plans to increase its spending for science and innovation in the next programming period by 50% in a budget that is about to remain constant in terms of size.
The President of Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rosen Plevneliev awarded the winners in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year national contest.
Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, presented the findings of the Innovation.bg 2012 report that referred to (a) improving the governance of state support for R&D by administrative concentration and by increased funding, (b) elaborating a long-term strategy for the scientific development of the country and including an innovative component in all existing Operational Programs, (c) exploiting the possibilities for filling market niches by introducing pre-commercial procurement, (d) attracting the R&D centers of large multinationals, and (e) adopting measures for fostering the development of an innovative culture (e.g. specialized innovation journalists, science and technology museums).
Mr. Borislav Stefanov, Executive Director of InvestBulgaria Agency, represented the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism. He underlined that the findings of the Innovation.bg report have proven useful for the Agency as a reliable source of information for foreign investors when inquiring about Bulgaria as a destination for high-tech investments. After sketching the existing state mechanisms for supporting of innovations and science, he outlined future priorities of the Ministry, amongst which are more project instead of institutional funding as well as supporting measures tailored to innovative firms.
Ms Tsvetelina Borislavova, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Bulgarian Amerian Credit Bank, elaborated on the interlinks between innovations and green economy. She stressed on the need of a more sustainable economic growth in accordance with the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit.
Mr. Valeri Borisov, Deputy-Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, drew the attention to the application of innovative IT solutions in the realm of e-government. He underscored that by implementing the two large projects currently funded within Operational Program Administrative Capacity the Ministry strives to catch up for the overly delayed introduction of high-tech solutions in service of citizens and business.
Mr. John Gabriel Goddard, from the World Bank office in Bulgaria, underlined that it is difficult to precisely define what accounts for an innovation and hence it is also difficult to devise smart supporting mechanisms. He also presented the strong institutional framework, proper sequencing of the support measures, and intersectoral and international collaboration as key determinants of a successful innovation-based economic development based on innovations.
Mr. Yehoshua (Shuki) Gleitman, Managing Partner of Platinum VC and former Chief Scientist and Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, expanded on the components of a successful national policy for innovation. He talked about the justification for a state intervention in the field of science and innovations and the right set of measures a state should adopt in order to foster the innovative behavior of economic actors.