Smart Specialisation and Technology Transfer as Innovation Drivers for Regional Growth

Competitiveness Council (COMPET)







National Palace of Culture, Azaryan Hall


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.



03 May 2018 | Thursday


Opening and Welcomes

Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria; Vladimir Šucha, Director-General, Joint Research Centre (DG JRC), European Commission;


Opening statements: Innovation, a response to Europe's challenges

Moderator: Vladimir Šucha, Director-General, Joint Research Centre (DG JRC), European Commission; Tomislav Donchev, Deputy Prime Minister, Bulgaria; Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society; Markku Markkula, Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions; Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer, World Bank; Julian Revalski, President of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences;


Panel discussion: The innovation landscape in the EU - Main actors, initiatives, tools and outcomes

Moderator: Charlina Vitcheva, Deputy Director-General, DG JRC, European Commission; Scene setter: Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), European Commission


Sharing experiences I: Innovation in places - Making smart specialisation a success story

Moderator: Alessandro Rainoldi, Head of Unit, DG JRC, European Commission


Sharing experiences II: Success factors in R&D and innovation – How businesses cooperate with academia

Moderator: Sasha Bezuhanova, founder and board chairperson of MOVE.BG


PARALLEL STREAM 1: Smart specialisation

1.1 Reforms of Research and Innovation Systems: the Role and Benefits of Smart Specialisation; Moderated by Manuel Palazuelos Martínez, Leader of the smart specialisation platform, DG JRC, European Commission;


PARALLEL STREAM 2: Technology transfer

2.1 Innovation Ecosystems: Science Parks, Incubators and Areas of Innovation as main drivers for growth, an interactive panel; Moderated by Luis Sanz, Director General of the International Association of Science Parks;


Closing Plenary session, Day One

Moderator: Charlina Vitcheva, Deputy Director-General, DG JRC, European Commission


Cocktail and exhibitions of DG JRC, incl. Art & Science – Official Opening

04 May 2018 | Friday


Statements on Opportunities and Challenges in the Region: The Innovation Roadmap

Moderator: Christian Danielsson, Director-General, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), European Commission;


PARALLEL STREAM 1: Smart specialisation (cont.)

1.2 Increasing Cooperation in Innovation Investment across Regions; Moderated by Mark Nicklas, DG GROW, European Commission;


PARALLEL STREAM 2: Technology transfer (cont.)

2.2. From Lab to Market: How to commercialise innovations, an interactive panel; Moderated by Elena Andonova, DG JRC, European Commission;


PARALLEL STREAM 3: Digital Economy

3.1 Digital Transformation: Setting the Scene; Moderated by Alessandro Annoni, DG JRC, European Commission;


PARALLEL STREAM 1: Smart specialisation (cont.)

1.3 Leveraging Research and Innovation in Less Developed and Industrial Transition Regions; Moderated by Marek Przeor, DG REGIO, European Commission


PARALLEL STREAM 2: Technology transfer (cont.)

2.3 Harnessing Synergies and Complementarities between EU Policies and Instruments: the case of Funding for Innovation; Moderated by Fabio Mondini de Focatiis, Idinvest Partners


PARALLEL STREAM 3: Digital Economy (cont.)

3.2 Going deeper into Digital Transformation; Moderated by Alexander Kotsev, DG JRC, European Commission


Final Plenary Panel discussion: Coordinating processes and synergies – Bringing multiple initiatives together

Moderated by Normunds Popens, Deputy Director-General, DG REGIO, European


Closing remarks

Charlina Vitcheva, Deputy Director-General, DG JRC, European Commission and Tbd, Bulgarian Presidency representative

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