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The Eighteenth National Innovation Forum “Innovation in Support of Digital and Green Transition”

On 7 December 2022, the Applied Research and Communications Fund held the Eighteenth National Innovation Forum “Innovation in Support of Digital and Green Transition”. The Forum was organized by ARC Fund, ARC Consulting, and Enterprise Europe Network— Bulgaria, with the support of the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Executive Agency and the Joint Innovation Centre of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and in media partnership with the Bulgarian National Television, the Bulgarian National Radio, Darik Radio, Ikonomika Magazine, Digitalk, Kaldata.bg, Bulgarian Science Magazine, IndustryInfo.bg, 3e-news.net, ProfiLand.net, Economy.bg, ESGnews.bg, Internet Media Group, and Digital4Bulgaria.

At the forum opening, ARC Fund Chairman Dr. Ognian Shentov noted that Bulgaria’s innovation policy is still strongly dependent on the solutions and funding provided through EU programmes and mechanisms and fails to build up self-determination and self-reliance. He underlined the need of developing a country-specific policy such that EC instruments would become a means of attracting greater private investments.

In the keynote address by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, delivered by Ms. Valentina Taneva, Advisor for Education, Science and Innovation at the Presidency, it was pointed out that “the results concerning innovation activity in Bulgaria, presented every year by the Applied Research and Communications Fund, are a barometer of the state of the Bulgarian innovation system and the opportunities for action and impact, which will make our country more successful and our economy more competitive.” The Bulgarian start-up ecosystem, providing 20% of all jobs in Southeast Europe, was commended for its fast-paced development. The gaps and weaknesses in the field of innovation during the previous programming period and the need to act “smart, with vision, at all levels and at the top of our ability” to move up from emerging to modest innovators, were also underlined.

Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Coordinator of the Innovation.bg Group, summarized the highlights of the report Innovation.bg 2022. He stressed that by 2027 Bulgaria will receive the largest public investment package in its history through various EU funds. However, the country’s innovation capacity remains far below the EU average and is comparable to the EU candidate countries in the Western Balkans. The key to narrowing this gap is attracting greater private investment to accelerate Bulgaria’s digital and green transition.

The following speakers took part in the discussion:

  • Mr. Todor Mladenov, Executive Director of Sofia Tech Park,
  • Ms. Zlatina Marinova, Head of Research Projects of Ontotext, Innovative Enterprise of 2017 in the Market Leadership category,
  • Dr. Plamen Ivanov, Managing Partner of Gamifinno, Innovative Enterprise of 2020 in for Green Innovation,
  • Mr. Nikola Yankov, Managing Partner of Expat Capital and
  • Dr. Boyan Zhekov, National Coordinator of Horizon Europe.

The event was moderated by Ms. Teodora Lapshova, author and scriptwriter of the INOVATIVNO show on the Bulgarian National Television, a key media partner of the forum.

The grand prizes and honorary diplomas were awarded to Innovative Enterprise of the Year contest winners by Mr. Todor Mladenov.Since 2004, Innovative Enterprise of the Year awards are given to Bulgarian companies successfully integrating innovations or scientific achievements in their practice, thus streamlining their activities and improving their long-term performance. Companies are assessed by area of impact of the innovation, following a specific methodology by an expert group and an external jury of widest institutional and stakeholder representation.

Twenty-four out of 90+ candidate companies from diverse sectors of the economy made it to the final competition round. The awards were granted in seven areas of innovation impact that were elicited by a 20-member jury, constituted by representatives of public authorities, funding organizations, the business, academia and media. All finalists were also granted the Excellence in Innovation label of Applied Research and Communications Fund.