The Trio Presidency Estonia-Bulgaria-Austria identified investments in research, innovation and human capital as key priority areas for boosting jobs and growth, particularly in the context of digital economies. At the same time, EU enlargement towards the Western Balkans remains on the agenda with a special focus on fostering progress towards EU membership, inclusive regional cooperation and promoting socio-economic development.
The proposed conference will consider the opportunities and challenges for Europe, notably South-East Europe, in research, development, education, employment and innovation and in particular, the process of skills creation, knowledge and technology. This conference underlines the importance of evidence informed policy-making – notably for an efficient allocation of resources – embodied in the strategic concept, methodology and application of "smart specialisation", an approach extensively applied in the EU's regional and cohesion policies. In addition, knowledge and technology transfer have been recognised as proven enabling operational tools for boosting local and regional economic and social impact.
Designing comprehensive innovation strategies together with local stakeholders provides a coherent framework for prioritising public investments in economic domains that are relevant for transforming and modernising regional economies. Choosing the right instruments to achieve this transformation is a second key step. Finally, governments must monitor and adjust activities based on performance to ensure an effective use of public investments.
The Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (DG JRC) from the European Commission, with the Bulgarian Presidency, will provide a platform to discuss and commit to place-based innovation as a priority for Europe, with a focus on South-East Europe, including the Western Balkans, and an arena for constructive dialogue between institutions and businesses. After setting the scene and presenting the facets of the innovation landscape in Europe, policy-makers, scientists, businesses, regional authorities and universities will engage in a debate on good practices and key success factors to inspire countries, regions and stakeholders willing to reap the potential of smart specialisation. On this basis and building on a variety of examples from the EU, participants will have the opportunity to dig into the policy mix needed to connect actors from the quadruple helix (businesses, academia, government and civil society). This will take place through two parallel streams focusing on: (i) the four challenges to regional innovation outlined by the European Commission in its July 2017 Communication on smart specialisation; and (ii) technology transfer and the digital economy. These exchanges will highlight the ingredients to make the most of innovation ecosystems and make smart specialisation a success story.