In the beginning of 2008 the Applied Research and Communications Fund, Sofia, the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy and the World Bank mission in Sofia organised the National Innovation Forum for a fourth consecutive year. The Forum has received support through the EU’s IRC/EEN Network and the Regions of Knowledge.
This year’s forum was opened by the Prime-Minister of Bulgaria who awarded the Bulgarian Innovative Enterprise of the Year Award to Bulgarian innovative companies selected in a highly competitive bid organised by IRC-Bulgaria. In his keynote speech to the Forum the Bulgarian Prime-Minister Sergey Stanishev vowed that his personal commitment is for innovation and research to be at the heart of the Bulgarian government’s priorities. He noted that the government will continue to increase the financing it provides for innovation and R&D as each euro invested in innovation returns in higher living standards for the Bulgarian citizens. In view of delivering the promise of the revised Lisbon Strategy in Bulgaria Mr. Stanishev announced two important policy initiatives of the Bulgarian government:
• Updating the Bulgarian National Innovation Strategy of 2004;
• Revising the Law on Stimulating Research, which failed to achieve its stated goals. As a first step in this direction Mr. Stanishev pointed out the three times increase in the budget of the National Science Fund in 2008 compared to 2007 to BGN 63 million (EUR 32.2 million).
The Bulgarian Prime-Minister tasked the Forum participants to come up with fresh ideas and recommendations, which the government can take on board to improve Bulgaria’s innovation potential.
The discussions at the Fourth National Innovation Forum of Bulgaria centered on the Innovation.bg 2008 report, the annual innovation performance assessment report of the Bulgarian national innovation system prepared by the Applied Research and Communications Fund, Sofia. For a fourth year the report analyzes the state of the national innovation system and makes recommendations for enhancing the innovation performance of the Bulgarian economy. This year the authors of the report, a group of fourteen researchers aided by an Expert Council on Innovation, introduced in the report writing the concept of open innovation. They published and distributed among the Forum’s participants a resume of the main research findings and recommendations of the report, accompanied by a beta version of the full-text. After they have received the input of the Forum’s participants they will publish the final version of the report later during the year. To ease the process of knowledge diffusion the Applied Research and Communications Fund published the report under a Creative Commons License.
Following the methodology of the previous edition, Innovation.bg 2008 analyzes the development dynamics of the national innovation system during the past year and the growth opportunities in 2009 in five groups of indicators:
• gross innovation product;
• entrepreneurship and innovation networks;
• investment and financing of innovation;
• human capital for innovation;
• information and communication technologies (ICT).
Innovation.bg 2008 concludes that Bulgaria lags far behind old and new member-states in its innovation development as the Bulgarian national innovation policy relies on stand alone measures without linkages between initiatives in the public and the private domain. The report notes that Bulgaria is the only member-state that does not have an explicitly stated R&D goal. The report notes that a number of successful initiatives aimed at the technological and innovation development of the Bulgarian economy launched by the Bulgarian private sector with support from the European Commission have not yet received due attention and backing from the Bulgarian government. Examples include – regional innovation strategies, the IRC and EICs, the EUREKA program, etc. The report underlines a worrisome trend concerning Bulgaria’s long-term innovation performance as in the past few years some 20,000 to 30,000 students leave the country annually, which is three to four times more than it attracts. Thus, in relative population terms, the country lines among the biggest human capital donors in the EU together with Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus.
The report provides a summary of recommendations for policy actions, which draw upon indigenous research as well as the European Innovation Scoreboard and the broad-based innovation strategy of the European Union:
• the Bulgarian government should develop an integrated innovation policy, which incorporates research and technological development, as well as coordination mechanisms to other economic policies such as SMEs, investment, etc. An effective practical step in this direction would be the creation of a national coordination unit for the Lisbon Strategy at the highest political level – the Prime-Minister’s Office;
• review and update the legal and regulatory framework underpinning the national innovation, technology and research policy with a particular focus on introducing performance measures on institutional budget subsidies to public research organizations. Public financing should shift form direct institutional subsidies to project-based grants under the National Science Fund and the National Innovation Fund;
• open and focus national innovation and research prgrams towards attracting European and international and reintegrating Bulgarian talent in the Bulgarian innovation system. Bulgaria should pay particular attention to stimulating the free movement of researchers from the Western Balkans and the Black Sea Region, including through actions under FP7;
• develop public-private partnerships for increasing investment in R&D and innovation, including providing direct public support and guarantees for Bulgarian organizations, which have successfully bid for projects under the EU framework programs.
Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme; Enterprise europe Network