ARC Fund organised the first National Innovation Forum at the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan on October 22nd, 2004. The event was organised in cooperation with Ministry of Economy and the World Bank Sofia Mission, with the support of DG Enterprise of the European Commission, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bulgarian Industrial Association, GIS – Transfer Centre Foundation, and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The Forum was held under the auspices of the President of the Republic, Mr. Georgi Parvanov.
The main objective of the Forum was to boost the innovation potential of the Bulgarian economy by creating a national platform for exchange of ideas and cooperation between the government, business community and research organisations. It aimed to enhance the competitiveness of Bulgarian companies by promoting the introduction of new products and technologies, and facilitating business contacts with European partners. The National Innovation Forum served as an open mechanism for benchmarking the local innovation knowledge and expertise with the European and international best practice.
The forum’s agenda featured presentations by representatives of the European Commission, DG Enterprise, ARC Fund, the University of National and World Economy, the Centre for the Study of Democracy, the European Commission Delegation in Bulgaria, Cambridge University, UK, the Bulgarian Industrial Association, GIS Transfer Centre Foundation and MSI, USAID. In the opening session Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of ARC Fund, welcomed the participants at this first National Innovation Forum. The institutionalisation of the innovation environment in Bulgaria, along with the new instruments for innovation policy-making, introduced in Bulgaria by ARC Fund, and the demonstrated interest of the private sector towards continuous innovation were pointed out by Dr. Shentov as the major reasons why ARC Fund had undertaken to organise this series of events. Mr. Oscar de Bruyn Kops, Country Manager of the World Bank’s Bulgaria Office, stressed upon the key role of innovation in the country’s ability to accumulate growth and compete on the global markets. He shared his view that an economic and institutional environment providing incentives, a well-educated, creative and skilled work force, and an effective national innovation system were the prerequisites to a knowledge-based, innovation-oriented economy. Mr. Kops also presented the main initiatives and activities in the field of innovation to be supported by the World Bank in the coming year.
In his keynote President Parvanov expressed his support to initiatives and efforts enhancing the technology development and innovation in Bulgaria. Referring to the strategic goal of 3% of GDP for research in Europe in 2010, President Parvanov emphasised upon the need to ensure national funds for co-financing of Bulgarian projects awarded under the EC framework Programmes for Research. He appealed to the state authorities to further support the initiatives and efforts of NGOs and RTOs in creating business environment conducive to technology transfer and innovation. The President appealed for long-term future-oriented thinking through applying the foresight approach as sustainable framework for achieving the short-term aforementioned objectives.
The forum continued with the award ceremony announcing the winners in the national Contest for Innovative Enterprise of the Year – 2004. The contest was open to participants from all industrial sectors. It recognised innovative ideas and solutions in traditional industries and high-tech sectors alike. Awards were given in two main categories according to the companies’ size: for small innovative enterprise (of less than 50 employees), and medium-sized and large enterprise (over 50 employees). The winners in the contest were announced by the chairman of the jury, Prof. Marin Petrov, and awards were presented by President Parvanov.
The Point L Ltd was ranked first in the category for innovative small enterprise, followed by EES – Energy Efficient Systems Ltd and Spesima Ltd. In the other category, for medium-sized and large enterprise, Mauer Locking Systems Ltd. won the grand prix, followed by Telephone and Telegraph Technique PLC and ELDOM INVEST Ltd .
The first thematic session on Policy and Innovation – Networking for Development was opened by Ms. Renate Weissenhorn, Head of Unit B5, DG Enterprise, European Commission. In view of the EU’s new strategic goal by 2010 “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”, Ms. Weissenhorn emphasized the regional dimension of policy-making in the EU, and the regional innovation policies in particular. She concluded that the Commission’s support to the development of Regional Innovation Strategies was only to show that the core innovation policy-making process lied in the hands of the regions. Mr. Dimitar Ivanovski, Deputy Minister of Economy, presented to the audience the National Innovation Strategy designed to prepare the country for EU membership and to respond to the Lisbon challenges. The audience demonstrated great interest in ARC Fund’s new initiative for monitoring the innovation processes and the operation of the Bulgarian innovation system through the Innovation.BG Index presented by Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Economic Program Coordinator at the Center for the Study of Democracy, and senior adviser to ARC Fund.
Ms. Zoya Damianova, senior advisor at ARC Fund, shared with the audience ARC Fund’s experience in running the only Innovation Relay Centre in Bulgaria providing services to businesses and academia and enhancing transnational transfer of technologies, know-how and innovation. In support of Ms. Weissenhorn’s speech she presented the experience in regional innovation policy-making gained in the first Regional Innovation Strategy project in Bulgaria, supported by the European Commission, and implemented jointly with regional stakeholders in the South-Central planning region of Bulgaria. Prof. Milanka Slavova from the University of National and World Economy underlined that regional policy-making could be further facilitated by applying Regional Foresight for shaping the future of technology development and innovation, building upon the specifics of the regions. She presented a pilot foresight initiative, coordinated by ARC Fund and conducted by an international consortium, for introducing foresight in Bulgaria and building local foresight capacity. An overview of the best European practices in creating an environment conducive to innovation was made by Dr. Teodora Georgieva from the Tsenov Academy of Economics, Svishtov. This presentation provoked an interesting discussions among the audience on how these best practices could be adapted to the specific conditions in Bulgaria.
The afternoon session was devoted to the instruments for enhancing business cooperation in the field of innovation. A new initiative – Virtual Technology Market – was demonstrated to the participants. The initiative is designed as an electronic portal – a shared information system offering working forums to industrial companies and to regional, business and cluster organisations. It is a public-private initiative, established by the GIS Transfer Centre (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), the Innovation Relay Centre – Bulgaria (Applied Research and Communications Fund), USAID and the Bulgarian Industrial Association. It aims at supporting innovation through encouraging the links between Bulgarian universities and research organisations and the business. The representatives of the founding organisations put an emphasis on their willingness to work together, mobilizing each partner’s resources in order to provide high-quality and effective services to the Bulgarian research and business communities. In the session dedicated to Financing Innovation, Mr. Enzo Reali, Advisor in Economic and Social Cohesion at the Delegation of the European Commission to Bulgaria, outlined the EC’s instruments for financing innovation stressing upon the support to research through the Sixth Framework Programme. Mr. Ilian Iliev of Cambridge University, UK, presented the various forms of venture capital financing, along with the need for venture capital in support of innovation and introduction of new technologies.
Agenda of the Forum
Summary of the Innovation Strategy of Republic of Bulgaria and Measures for its Implementation
Presentations of the speakers:
Keynote - Mr. Georgi Parvanov President of the Republic of Bulgaria (available in Bulgarian and in English
Opening speech - Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman, Applied Research and Communications Fund (available in Bulgarian and in English )
New Trends in the Innovation Policy in the European Union - Ms. Renate Weissenhorn , Head of Unit B5, DG Enterprise, European Commission (available in English)
National Innovation Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria: Preparing the Country for EU Membership and Lisbon Challenges - Mr. Dimitar Ivanovski, Deputy Minister of Economy (available in Bulgarian and in English)
Innovation.bg Index - Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Project Coordinator, Economic Program, Center for the Study of Democracy (available in Bulgarian)
Innovation Relay Centres and Innovating Regions in Europe - Ms. Zoya Damianova, Senior Advisor, ARC Fund (available in Bulgarian)
Foresight – Shaping the Future of Technological Development - Prof. Milanka Slavova, Senior Consultant, ARC Fund (available in Bulgarian)
Best Practices for Developing and Sustaining Innovation-Conducive Environment in EU - Ms. Teodora Georgieva, Tsenov Avademy of Economics, Svishtov (available in Bulgarian)
EU Programmes for SMEs - Mr. Enzo Reali, Advisor, Economic and Social Cohesion, Delegation of the European Commission to Bulgaria (available in English)
Role of Banking and Venture Capital - Mr. Ilian Iliev, Cambridge University, United Kingdom (available in Bulgarian)
Media coverage (in Bulgarian)