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Innovation, technology transfer and digital transformation in South-East Europe, including Western Balkans

On 3-4 May 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria, JRC, under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, organises a high level conference. Its objective is to increase regional cooperation in South East Europe and to support the Western Balkans’ potential as competitive market economies. These ambitions follow from the European Commission’s strategy for Western Balkans.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister, Tomislav Donchev, the Mayor of Sofia, Yordana Fandakova and European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, were amongst the opening speakers at the conference "Smart Specialisation and Technology Transfer as Innovation Drivers for Regional Growth". Over 350 policy-makers, representatives of businesses, regional authorities, universities and research organisations discuss the innovation potential of the region, and the mix of policies needed to achieve it. The event is webstreamed.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for JRC said ahead of the event: “Sustainable regional development needs to be based on evidence-informed policy-making. The European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre, helps authorities tap into local strengths in developing their innovation strategies following the Smart Specialisation approach, along with Technology Transfer and promotion of the Digital Economy. Several good examples from across the EU could inspire also the Western Balkans to design their own unique future”.

Smart Specialisation – tailor-made approach for regional development in the EU and beyond

Smart Specialisation stands for participatory, place-based and evidence-based innovation strategies. It is the approach to territorial innovation in EU Member States and regions which is gaining worldwide appreciation. It advocates focusing public investment in research, development and innovation activities on a few, carefully chosen priority domains, where the impact can be greatest.

The European Commission has been supporting the Western Balkans in developing Smart Specialisation strategies since 2013. This conference will discuss good practices, success factors and evidence gathered in a new report by the Joint Research Centre.

Innovation agenda for the Western Balkans

"Supporting an Innovation Agenda for the Western Balkans" report provides initial evidence to advance Smart Specialisation and place-based innovation policies in the region. In the first part it presents an overview of the economic, innovative and scientific potential of the Western Balkan economies, and analyses the local strengths, a crucial element of the smart specialisation approach.

Technology transfer for strengthening R&I connections

The second part of the report presents tools and methodologies already being used in developing innovation systems in the region. Such tools include technology transfer as a process for strengthening research and innovation links on a regional and EU level. The JRC organises specialised workshops and conferences n technology transfer, engaging competent stakeholders and organisations in the region to discuss and share best practices.
On another occasion, international experts partnered with local authorities to map industrial sectors and identify priority domains for investment. The analysis led to a production of a case study focusing on the software sector. It also resulted in setting up of an innovation camp, i.e. a multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration exercise, to discuss the main challenges and opportunities and pinpoint crucial partners for future activities.

What remains to be done to tap the full innovation potential of the Western Balkans?

The report also highlights challenges in making use of the region's full innovation potential such as creating institutional frameworks, building innovation communities, nurturing cross-border cooperation or implementing monitoring and evaluation systems.

Other events related to technology, innovation and knowledge-based policies in Sofia

This conference is part of a number of events to celebrate innovation, technology and knowledge-based policies taking place in Sofia, such as the Watify Final Conference, a forum to learn, co-create and connect with individuals from across technology, transformation and innovation sectors.

The Joint Research Centre’s science exhibition in the National Palace of Culture will showcase activities of the European Commission's science and knowledge service, and provide examples of evidence-based scientific and technical support to policy-making (open from 2 to 19 May 2018).