Implementing the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

  • 18 Oct 2022 to 19 Oct 2022
  • Skopje, North Macedonia

  • Live streaming available

The conference “Implementing the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport - Support to Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans and Türkiye” brought together high officials, policy makers, innovation practitioners, representatives from start-ups and SMEs, as well as members of academia, business society and civil organisations from the EU Enlargement region but also from the EU member states. It aimed to discuss the progress made by the Western Balkan economies in Smart Specialisation with the particular focus on the implementation stage and the contribution to the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (Western Balkan Agenda).

The Western Balkan Agenda advances efforts undertaken in the region and seeks to facilitate necessary socio-economic transformation processes, encouraging creative solutions to foster economic growth and stability across the region. It is fully aligned with President von der Leyen’s Commission priorities and its ambition for Europe to be a strong global actor, to lead the transition to a healthy planet and to a new digital world. The overall objectives of this Agenda are to: 1) Transform national research and innovation eco-systems in the region, 2) Stimulate a sustainable economy (post COVID-19), 3) Counteract climate change, 4) Nurture knowledge-based societies, 5) Enhance quality of education and training, 6) Boost human capital development and encourage citizens engagement, 7) Improve mobility, connectivity, and brain circulation; 8) Create prosperous Western Balkans inside Europe, 9) Foster regional cooperation. 

Smart Specialisation represents the approach that has the capacity to support reaching these objectives. Therefore, the panels included reflections on the advancements and success stories from the Smart Specialisation processes of the Western Balkan economies that highlighted the achievements that help meeting the goals of the Western Balkan Agenda. Particular emphasis was given on promoting potential collaborations in innovation priorities across the Western Balkan region by enabling a discussion between the Smart Specialisation teams of all economies from the region. 

The event also showcased the progress made by North Macedonia in the Smart Specialisation process. North Macedonia is one of the countries that demonstrated strong recent advancement in the process of identifying priority areas for Smart Specialisation and was the host country of the conference.

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Programme

Day 1 - October 18, 2022

  1. 09:30-10:00
    Registration of participants
  2. 10:00-10:50
    Opening and welcome speeches
    • Fatmir Bytyqi, Deputy of the Prime Minister in charge of economic affairs, coordination of economic sectors and investment
    • Oliver Varhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement (video message)
    • Stephen Quest, Director General, Joint Research Centre, European Commission (video message)
  3. 10:50-12:00
    Panel discussion: Smart Specialisation in the EU Enlargement Region – a building block for the European future

    Moderator: Alessandro Rainoldi, Head of Unit, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Speakers:

    • Kresnik Bekteshi, Minister of Economy, North Macedonia
    • Jeton Shaqiri, Minister of Education and Science, North Macedonia
    • Aleksandar Jovic, Assistant Minister for Education, Science and Technological Development, Serbia
    • Marijeta Barjaktarovic Lanzardi, Head of the Council for Innovation and Smart Specialisation, Ministry of Economic Development of Montenegro, Montenegro
    • Ruta Zarnauskaite, Head of Unit, DG RTD, European Commission
    • Javier Menendez Bonilla, Team Leader, Thematic Support – Economic Development, DG NEAR, European Commission

    The panellists will discuss the benefits of the implementation of EU-style innovation policies, with the particular focus on Smart Specialisation, in the EU Enlargement region. The discussion will take into account the specificities of the regional context, achievements in the economic transformation and enhancements of new innovation policies being applied in the region, future plans and orientations as well as relevant programmes and initiatives for advancing the innovation potential of the region.
     

  4. 12:00-12:30
    Coffee break
  5. 12:30-13:30
    Panel discussion: Achievements of Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans – Contribution to the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

    Moderator: Alessandro Rainoldi, Head of Territorial Development Unit, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Keynote speech: Monika Matusiak, Team Leader, Smart Specialisation Global Outreach, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Panellists:

    • Marijeta Barjaktarovic Lanzardi, Head of the Council for Innovation and Smart Specialisation, Ministry of Economic Development of Montenegro, Montenegro
    • Viktor Nedovic, Smart Specialisation coordinator for Serbia, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Serbia
    • Aneta Pesheva, President of the Management Board of MASIT, North Macedonia
    • Arben Shkodra, Secretary-General of the Albanian Manufacturer Union, Albania 
    • Vedat Sagonjeva, Smart Specialisation coordinator for Kosovo*, PM Office
    • Sinisa Marcic, Senior Expert, Regional Cooperation Council

     

    The panellists will elaborate on the main goals from the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport that were or can be achieved through the process of Smart Specialisation in the EU Enlargement region. The session will include keynote speech on the main achievements from the project “Support to Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans and Türkiye” implemented by the JRC with the support of the DG NEAR. Special focus will be on key contributions of the project implementation to the objectives of the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

  6. 13:30-14:30
    Panel discussion: The road to the Smart Specialisation strategy in North Macedonia – panel discussion on the identified priority areas

    Moderator: Nikola Radovanovic, Senior Policy Officer, Coordinator for the Smart Specialisation Framework, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Scene setter: Jasmina Majstoroska, Head of the S3 Team of North Macedonia, Ministry of Economy, North Macedonia

    Panellists:

    • Atanas Kochov, Professor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje
    • Aleksandra Martinovska Stojcheska, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, North Macedonia
    • Emilija Fidanchevski, Professor, Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, North Macedonia
    • Vladimir Atanasovski, Professor, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technologies, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, North Macedonia
    • Marina Nikolovska, FP7 Coordinator, Deputy Head of the S3 Team of North Macedonia, Ministry of Education and Science
    • Natasa Markovska, Scientific Advisor, Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, North Macedonia

     

    This panel will include presentation of the progress in Smart Specialisation of North Macedonia, including the main points from the draft of the Smart Specialisation strategy. The panellists will discuss all identified priority areas and proposed policy measures for the implementation of Smart Specialisation in North Macedonia. The focus will be given on the assessment of the potential of priority areas and opportunities and challenges for their best exploitation, including opportunities for international and regional collaboration.

  7. 14:30-16:00
    Lunch break
  8. 16:00-17:30
    Panel discussion: Fostering innovative capabilities in the Western Balkans through Smart Specialisation

    Moderator: Monika Matusiak, Team Leader, Smart Specialisation Global Outreach, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Panellists:

    • Ferida Mandic, Project Director, ICT Cortex, Montenegro
    • Bogdan Zigic, Director, Biofor Systems, Serbia
    • Iskra Jankovska Mihajlovska, CEO, VEDA, North Macedonia
    • Matilda Naco, Executive Director, Albanian Tourism Association
    • Hafize Vesely, Initiative for Agricultural Development, Kosovo
    • Vedran Simunovic, Executive Director, INTERA technology park, Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Development of Smart Specialisation strategy strongly relies on the involvement of stakeholders from the business sector. Their input is crucial for determining priority areas and sub-areas as well as outlining possible policy measures that would be used for the implementation of Smart Specialisation. This panel will include innovative enterprises from the Western Balkan region from common priority areas that have been identified in the economies. The panellists will discuss the opportunities to enhance innovation in these priority areas and boost collaboration opportunities within the region.
     

  9. 17:30-18:00
    Day 1 closing
    • Jeton Shakiri, Minister of Science, North Macedonia
    • Alessandro Rainoldi, Head of Unit, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

Day 2 - October 19, 2022

  1. 09:30-10:00
    Registration of participants
  2. 10:00-11:15
    Panel discussion: Implementation of Smart Specialisation in the EU Enlargement Region – Sharing experiences, achievements and challenges

    Moderator: Monika Matusiak, Team Leader, Smart Specialisation Global Outreach, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Panellists:

    • Festim Halili, Director, Fund for Innovation and Technological Development, North Macedonia
    • Domen Bole, Expert for Smart Specialisation, Slovenia
    • Marija Raznatovic, Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Council for Innovation and Smart Specialisation, Montenegro
    • Jelena Begovic, Director, Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering, Serbia
    • Gorazd Jenko, Smart Specialisation Coordination Unit, Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, Slovenia
    • Yannis Tolias, Managing Partner, Innovatia Systems, Greece

    The panellists will include policy makers and practitioners in the development and implementation of Smart Specialisation strategies. The discussion will aim at promoting key achievements and identifying main challenges in the implementation phase based on experiences from three Western Balkan economies as well as from the EU Member States. The panel will also elaborate on recently published Smart Specialisation implementation framework for the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region and the support it provides to the economies from the region. 

  3. 11:15-11:45
    Coffee break
  4. 11:45-13:15
    Parallel Sessions
    Parallel session 1: The challenges of Smart Specialisation implementation in South-East Europe - Governance

    Round table moderated by: Elisa Gerussi, Economic and Policy Analyst, Joint Research Centre, European Commission 

    Participants:

    • Ivana Crnic Duplancic, Head of Unit, HAMAG-BICRO, Croatia 
    • Vladimir Cvijanovic, Senior Consultant, Ecorys, Belgium
    • Ruslan Stefanov, Senior Adviser, ARC Fund, Bulgaria 
    • Nida Kamil Ozbolat, Policy Expert, Spain

     

    Parallel session 2: Mapping and monitoring Smart Specialisation priority domains  – the importance of selecting the right indicators

    Round table moderated by: Nikola Radovanovic, Senior Policy Officer, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

    Participants:

    • Atanas Kochov, Professor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje
    • Yannis Tolias, Managing Partner, Innovatia Systems, Greece 
    • Jan-Philipp Kramer, Head of Brussel’s Office, Prognos AG, Germany
    • Eva Jansova, Human Capital Development Expert, European Training Foundation, Italy

     

    Parallel session 3: Important voices – the role of start-ups and SMEs in defining priority areas

    Round table moderated by: Domagoj Racic, Managing Director, Mreza znanja, Croatia

    Participants:

    • Youssef Tadros, Policy Officer, DG NEAR
    • Domen Bole, Director, co-creation, Slovenia 
    • Gjorgji Madjarov, Owner, Elevate-Global doo, North Macedonia
    • Milan Solaja, Vojvodina ICT Cluster, Serbia
    • Stevica Kuharski, Principal of Fil Rouge Capital, Croatia

     

  5. 13:15-13:40
    Event closing remarks
    • Razmena Cekic - Durovic, State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, North Macedonia 
    • Steffen Hudolin, Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation in North Macedonia
    • Alessandro Rainoldi, Head of Unit, Joint Research Centre, European Commission
  6. 13:40-15:00
    Lunch break
  7. 15:00-17:00
    JRC – EU Enlargement bilateral meetings. *End of Day 2*

Practical Information

When
18 Oct 2022 to 19 Oct 2022
Where

Skopje, North Macedonia

Registration Information

Please register HERE

Live streaming
https://wba.mci-events.eu/

Description

SMART SPECIALISATION IN THE WESTERN BALKANS AND TÜRKIYE 

The first countries from the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood expressed interest in developing Smart Specialisation strategies in 2016 with the support of the Joint Research Centre. The support included analysis and reinforcing strategic management capabilities o in three target countries from the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood region - Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia. By 2018, all Western Balkan economies expressed their willingness to pursue the improvement of innovation policies by applying the Smart Specialisation approach with guidance and technical support of the Joint Research Centre. To address these growing needs in the Western Balkan region concerning the development of Smart Specialisation strategies, DG NEAR and JRC have signed an Administrative Arrangement in July 2019, which enabled JRC to intensify expert support to Western Balkan economies in the development of Smart Specialisation strategies over the next 3 years. The purpose of this Administrative Arrangement is to provide guidance, methodological support and capacity building for smart specialisation in the Western Balkans and Türkiye.

During the implementation of the project, the progress in Smart Specialisation was evident in the entire Western Balkan region. Montenegro adopted its Smart Specialisation strategy and received positive assessment by the European Commission. Subsequently, the country launched the implementation phase, receiving further support by the JRC in developing operational programmes for implementation of Smart Specialisation in priority areas. Montenegro established a sound structure for the implementation of Smart Specialisation and produced remarkable results for the first two years of strategy implementation. Serbia adopted its Smart Specialisation strategy in 2020 and related action plan to the strategy in 2021. The documents are yet to be assessed by the European Commission. All other Western Balkan economies have demonstrated advancements in their respective Smart Specialisation processes. Most notably, North Macedonia conducted the mapping of their economic, innovation and scientific potentials and held a wide stakeholder dialogue on identified priority areas, revealing the final priority domains and proposing policy measures for Smart Specialisation in these domains. Albania and Kosovo* also conducted the mapping exercise and are currently preparing for the stakeholder dialogue. Bosnia and Herzegovina is conducting final preparatory steps for initiating the mapping exercise.

In line with revealing promising domains in the region, the JRC initiated the chain of S3 thematic workshops in common priority areas with the objective of bringing S3 teams and relevant stakeholders from all WB economies together with the overarching goal of identifying individual and mutual strengths in these areas for exploring possibilities for collaboration. The first such event was held in October 2021 on the subject of collaboration opportunities in agri-food area. The next one is scheduled for summer 2022 and will entail the analysis of collaboration possibilities in the wider ICT area.

In 2021, the JRC started working on the Knowledge hub that is being launched at this conference, as one central place to include all relevant information concerning the Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans and Türkiye. Apart from that, the JRC is finalising the development of the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Smart Specialisation in the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region. The MOOC will include 7 comprehensive modules and will strongly draw from the lessons learnt in the Smart Specialisation process in the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood region, so that the outcomes of the process can support policy makers and administrations in other economies and regions. 

In 2022, the JRC produced several important publications in relation to the Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans. The most significant ones are Science for Policy report “Smart Specialisation Implementation Framework for the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region”, providing detailed guidelines on how to carry out complex tasks regarding the Smart Specialisation implementation stage, and Technical Report “Analysis of Value Chains in the Western Balkan Economies - Enriching the Potential for Regional Cooperation in Priority Areas”, revealing competitiveness strengths and challenges of the Western Balkan economies in identified sectors of regional importance.

SMART SPECIALISATION IN NORTH MACEDONIA

The Smart Specialisation process in North Macedonia is marked by efficiency and dedication, as well as by the commitment of the S3 team of the country to design their strategy following the  Smart Specialisation Framework for the EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region with the continuous guidance and support of the JRC team. The commitment of the Government of North Macedonia has been reiterated during the meetings of high country officials and the JRC officials in December 2019 and December 2021. 

Last year, North Macedonia concluded the mapping exercise for analysing country’s economic, innovation and scientific potential and revealing promising priority areas for policy intervention. In 2022, it finalised the stakeholder dialogue stage and completed the list of final S3 priority areas with proposed vision and policy mix for their Smart Specialisation strategy. The process was evidence-based and participatory, and the motivation of stakeholders to engage in defining the crucial input for the strategy was high. With the development of the strategy underway, this event represents a true opportunity to showcase the country’s progress and explore the possibilities for closer collaboration with other Western Balkan economies in common priority areas. 

(*)     This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.