International Conference: Implementing the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport - Support to Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans and Turkey

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

The conference “Implementing the Western Balkan Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport - Support to Smart Specialisation in the Western Balkans and Turkey” will bring 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 aims 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 will include reflections on the advancements and success stories from the Smart Specialisation processes of the Western Balkan economies that highlight the achievements that help meeting the goals of the Western Balkan Agenda. Particular emphasis will be 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 will be also used to showcase 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 is 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. 10:00-10:45
    Opening and welcome speeches
  3. 10:45-12:00
    Panel discussion: Smart Specialisation in the EU Enlargement Region – a building block for the European future
  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
  6. 13:30-14:30
    Panel discussion: The road to the Smart Specialisation strategy in North Macedonia – panel discussion on the identified priority areas
  7. 14:30-16:00
    Lunch break
  8. 16:00-17:30
    Panel discussion: Fostering innovative capabilities in the Western Balkans through Smart Specialisation
  9. 17:30-18:00
    Day 1 closing
  10. 19:00-21:00
    Networking dinner

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
  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
    TBD

     

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

     

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

     

  5. 13:15-13:30
    Event closing remarks
  6. 13:30-15:00
    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

Description

SMART SPECIALISATION IN THE WESTERN BALKANS AND TURKEY

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 Turkey.

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 Turkey. 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.