Entrepreneurs, representatives of the Ministry of Economy and regional administrations, experts from the non-governmental sector, industry and business organisations, and university professors from the six planning regions in Bulgaria took part in focus groups on the preparation of a concept for smart specialisation in Bulgaria for 2021-2027. The focus groups on the topic “Smart Specialisation in Bulgaria – Opportunities and Challenges” are part of the project “Effective and Transparent Smart Specialisation Policy for Bulgaria 2021 – 2027“. It is funded by OP “Good Governance” within the Priority Axis “Effective and Professional Governance in Partnership with Civil Society and Business” under the Procedure “Increasing Citizen Participation in the Processes of Formulation, Implementation and Monitoring of Policies and Legislation”.
On 21, 22 and 23 July, over 120 participants took part in online discussions on the Zoom platform, region by region, to discuss attitudes towards technological and economic profiling in the country and the results of the smart specialisation policy, with ideas for policies in this area in the next programming period. Representatives of the Ministry of Economy and the Fund of Funds participated in these meetings.
The discussion reflected the diverse perspectives – of business, of supporting and funding organisations, of university and development communities, of local authorities. Representatives of the entrepreneurial community presented good practices in the development of innovation projects and ideas, but noted that there is a need to improve cooperation between academia, business, secondary education, local government, funding organisations and managing authorities of operational programmes. “Research alone is not attractive to business. Businesses are interested in technology transfer and commercialisation/exploitation,” said a business representative from the South-Central Planning Region. He and his colleagues recommended a simplified procedure for setting up spin-off companies that would actively involve the Ministry of Education and Science, improve the education system and engage young people. Small and medium-sized enterprises lack support from local and regional organisations, as well as comprehensive sustainable financial support for innovation. The importance of communication with the general public to promote achievements in this field was also stressed.
Participants in the focus groups called for a meeting of the Ministry of Economy team with representatives of local government, business and academia and education from all planning areas. On the topic of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs), they specified that there should be national rules for the selection of DIHs, and that they should be in the thematic areas of the Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (IS3), as highlighted by Zhelyaz Enev, Director of the Economic Policy Directorate at the Ministry of Economy. After a brief presentation of the approach of the Republic of Ireland in the development of IS3, the participants suggested that this approach be discussed and part of it be used as a good practice in the development of the strategy in our country.
In general, participants expressed a willingness to change, both in terms of the process of developing the new ISIS and the priority setting model at the planning area level. Participants agreed on the proposal for a different approach to the development of the IS3 for the next programming period. Petko Georgiev, the chairman of the Southeastern Digital Innovation Hub, commented on his blog that participation in the focus group gave him the opportunity to put forward his suggestions and ideas for the preparation of policies in this area in the next programming period. “It seems that Informatics and ICT will be included in the IS3 as a priority for the South East region,” he noted.
The recordings of the focus groups will be presented publicly on the Applied Research and Communications Foundation’s YouTube video sharing channel. The project “Efficient and Transparent Smart Specialisation Policy for Bulgaria 2021-2027” continues with the preparation of a concept and recommendations for the development of an innovation strategy for smart specialisation for the new programming period.
The project is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Economy and has a duration of 24 months.