This report gives an overview of the Western Balkans region, looking at challenges and emerging potentials for innovation. It also presents tools and methodologies available at the JRC to support an innovation agenda for economic transformation and inspired by Smart Specialisation. Each challenge is supported by a concrete implementation example.
The Western Balkan region has significantly improved in terms of innovation performance in the last ten years. However, in catching up with other European regions, the focus of innovation efforts should be enhanced. Exports are still far more focused on medium- and low-technology products. Innovative efforts mostly accommodate traditionally strong sectors, which do not necessarily reflect the ideal competitiveness paths for economies in the region. Although some Western Balkan economies record increases in patent activity, patent intensity in the region is still low, while, on the other hand, scientific publication production displays a stable growth trend. While Western Balkan economies are at different stages in the formation of research and innovation (R&I) policy governance systems, national research and innovation policy frameworks are continuously being improved.
The enhancement of governance in the area of R&I came as the result of increased capacity building activities in the region, as well as of the real needs emerging as a result of social and economic transformation. On the other hand, R&I systems in the Western Balkan economies need to continue shifting their focus towards businesses to provide better balance between public and private sector orientation. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission is committed to supporting the shift in innovation policies and improvement of R&I efforts and governance in the Western Balkan economies through a number of tools and activities, allowing policy instruments to be matched with the specific needs of the economy. This approach seeks efficient governance mechanisms for R&I policy by reaching out to the business sector and other important actors of the innovation ecosystem. It determines sustainable development directions for economies and ensures the continuity of policy monitoring and evaluation cycles. This ambitious challenge is translated into four specific lines of activity: (i) the application of the smart specialisation methodology to design and implement innovation strategies; (ii) capacity-building activities for technology transfer, in particular through specialised workshops, tools and instruments specifically designed to assist the academic institutions in the regional economies; (iii) support to transnational collaboration and linkages in the context of EU macro-regional strategies; and (iv) data quality enhancement. The analysis of the development potential of the Western Balkan region in terms of economic, innovative and scientific capabilities in this report is supported with the good practices addressing specific challenges in the region.
Supporting an Innovation Agenda for the Western Balkans - To.pdf