News archive - European Research and Innovation Days: Towards an innovation agenda for the WESTERN BALKANS

The session Towards an innovation agenda for the WESTERN BALKANS has been organised within the European Research and Innovation Days on 24 September 2020.

Moderator: Sanja Damjanovic, Minister of Science of Montenegro


  • Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth
  • Florensa Haxhi, Director for Development Programmes and Programme Manager for regional economic area, Prime Ministers Office of Albania
  • Atanas Kochov, Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in North Macedonia
  • Jovan Despotovski, Director of the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development of North Macedonia
  • Viktor Nedovic, Assistant Minister within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for the development of Serbia
  • Martin Kern, EIT

The session opened Commissioner Gabriel who confirmed that the Western Balkans (WB) are a strategic priority for the EU. In preparation towards EU membership, R&I and Horizon Europe Association trigger changes contributing to wider reforms. The Western Balkans Agenda and its actions aim to set out a new positive and forward-looking vision for the region. Now it is time to define what the next initiatives and activities are

EU is the biggest trade partner for WB, we know WB is part of Europe; we have good experience in terms of cooperation and scientific output. EU is not only investor but also a partner; researchers from WB are very well integrated in H2020, Erasmus+ and Creative Europe.

From FP7 to H2020, there was a 50% increase of participation from WB, with more than 800 projects and 480 participations. EU offers opportunities for students, researchers, innovators. More than 37 000 people in exchange between EU and WB have benefited from Erasmus+. Now it is time to expand scope of our activities towards collaboration between researchers and businesses, entrepreneurs. It is evident that European funded programmes mean real benefit for Accession Countries and especially Western Balkans.

Ms Gabriel strengthened that it is inevitable to increase the spending in this area, as it is not investment in the future, but in our present that we live today.

Cooperation between government, businesses, academia and society is particularly relevant also in the context of implementing smart specialisation strategies (S3), it is important to continue in these activities while building synergies, focusing on regional cooperation for the competitiveness of the region and considering people-to-people cooperation. Regional cooperation is not substitute for the EU cooperation but it is seen as an addition to it.

In line with these thoughts, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Varhelyi has recently presented European Economic and Investment plan for the region, which recognises the significance of the regional long term recovery, and offers instruments (for pre-accession and some others) that aim to cushion the consequences of the pandemics.

Strong WB is strong EU

WB agenda, including the digital agenda for the WB and also Innovation Agenda for the WB, should strengthen the capacity of the region. It is the base to provide stimulus, to make the region visible, to offer a number of solutions. EC will continue to give full support for region to achieve its full potential, to advance together to the common goals –European Green Geal and Digital Agenda, as well as succesfull association to all agendas in the Commissioner´s portfolio.

Ms. Damjanovic added that WB is integral part of Europe but needs strong support to develop sustainable economy. We appreciate that WB is strategic priority for the EC. Association has shown to be a powerful instrument of systematic changes in WB, giving special strength to develop national strategies. It can be confirmed that all WB are working on SS strategies in line with EU priorities of green digital Europe.

1. Round: What has the association to H2020 brought to your country? What are the expectations from the next Framework Programme?


In the last years, the investment in science rose by 36 %. The country is currently developing education and science strategy 2021-2027, innovation system is believed to be fully regulated. In terms of H2020 – 503 participations across 350 projects with budget of 114 mio have been granted projects, average success rate of 13% was close to the EU average of 15%. Their thematic strength is Industrial leadership in ICT field, introducing measures to establishing links between science and society. Serbia would like to focus more on the development of technology parks in the near future.


Association was of exceptional value for the research community, resulted in 160% increase of scientific publications. Compared to the FP7, the number of funded projects has doubled, as well as overall funding. What still needs to be improved is collaboration with private sector and further increase in number of scientific publications. More focus should be put into technical scientific collaboration within the region and with the EU.

Republic of North Macedonia

Full potential for the region is not utilised yet. In the country, we are busy building capacities in different national programmes. Fund for Innovation and Technology Development of North Macedonia has increased its funding for different innovation programmes from EUR 1 million in 2015-2017 to EUR 40 million for the period 2018-2020. They piloted different programmes in human capacities supporting young researchers. Moreover, they implemented programme on stimulating cooperation between academia and businesses with focus on academia. Furthermore, Republic of North Macedonia would like to be more successful in the collaborative research projects, future agenda should provide dedicated calls for the WB researchers.


EIT is currently focusing on cooperation between EU and WBC to support sustainable crisis response. EIT, being the Europe´s largest ecosystem to bring research to the market, supported hundreds of start-ups which managed to attract EUR 3 billion of investment in return. They also recently allocated EUR 60 million for immediate crisis response.

Within this response, the project managed to develop processes in hospitals where mortality rate of COVID-19 decreased of up to 50%. It seems important to disseminate such results also to WB, but there are regulatory obstacles to do that. In the region, there are already KICs on Climate change, circular economy, energy, but there is full potential to be tapped.

2. Round: All WB countries are in the process of developing S3, what do you expect from Horizon Europe`in this regard?


We worked extensively on preparing S3 with support of JRC, we reviewed the priorities, next step is covid-19, moving forward to the drafting and implementation. Focus should be the regional perspective, WBC should be considered as one region, where each country should specialise in an area where it has more potential so that the whole region is going to benefit from the comparative advantages. Regional upscaling for successful innovation fund mechanisms and perspective, regional innovation fund should be established. More themes to be delved into is co-design of innovative policy tools, open innovation house for free circulation of knowledge and technology transfer offices.Regional economic area is also currently discussed and should be moved forward.

Republic of North Macedonia

Mr. Despotovski also stresses the importance to have regional approach, establish regional innovation fund, which started as a EU-funded project, as a bottom-up initiative.


Serbia started to implement S3, they agree on the need for regional agenda, meaning to develop regional value chain that is based on the common priorities. Regional research foundation and fund was also thematised, including development of regional data centre, regional platform for open science, regional EIT hubs bridging the gaps between businesses and university.


Mr. Kern stressed the importance that strategy is in the region and that they are aligned with European efforts. In the future, EIT will grow and become stronger in terms of funding and mandate, and it will aim to create more synergies with national strategies. EIT Agenda will be very ambitious, in terms of outreach and support to regional capacity building including WB. EIT will also create innovation community for creativity and culture. There will be concrete activities in WB do deliver, more participation of universities, research organisations etc, creation of hubs on the ground, helping strengthen the capacities.

Geographical focus
  • Albania
  • European Union (EU 27)
  • Montenegro
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary

Entry created by Admin on September 24, 2020
Modified on September 24, 2020