What the 2023 Enlargement Package says on Science and Research

The European Commission released the "2023 Enlargement package" that assesses the progress of economies, including those in the Western Balkans and Turkey, towards EU membership. This assessment focuses on implementing fundamental reforms and provides clear guidance on future reform priorities. Chapters cover various aspects, including democratic institutions, rule of law, economic criteria, intellectual property, and more.

Science and Research are covered in Chapter 25. Below we provide the texts and recommend looking into the full reports.

Chapter 25 "Science and Research"

The EU provides significant support for research and innovation. All EU Member States can benefit from the EU’s research programmes, especially where there is scientific excellence and solid investment in research.



Albania has some level of preparation in the area of science and research. Some progress was made over the reporting period, by setting up a national team to develop the smart specialisation strategy and by strengthening innovation support measures such as ensuring sufficient funding to the start-up fund and further progressing the entrepreneurial discovery process of the smart specialisation strategy. Last year’s recommendations have not been fully addressed and therefore remain valid.

In the coming year, Albania should in particular:

→ increase investment in research, in line with its own commitments and the new European Research Area priorities;

→ complete the smart specialisation strategy, adopt the 2023-2030 national strategy on scientific research and innovation and adopt the new law on scientific research;

→ produce statistics and reliable data on science and technology.

On research and innovation policy, the interinstitutional working group monitoring the implementation of the 2017-2022 national strategy for scientific research, technology and innovation recommended open online access for all scientific publications financed by public funds. The working group also recommended revising the implementing legislation to create legal and fiscal incentives to encourage businesses to finance scientific research. The new 2023-2030 national strategy on scientific research and innovation, which aiming at addressing these recommendations (which are in line with the new European Research Area), needs to be adopted. Albania needs to adopt the new law on scientific research.

Albania increased funding for scientific research to 0.08% of GDP in 2023, up from 0.05% in 2022 and 0.04% in 2021, however this is still far below the target 1% of GDP by 2030. Research funding as a percentage of public expenditure amounted to 0.17 % of GDP in 2022. INSTAT needs to produce a complete data set on scientific research and innovation.

The methodology to increase funding for research and science needs to be further developed and aligned with the EU acquis. Information on the budget allocated for R&D has not yet been published due to the poor quality of data. In April 2023, for the first time, the National Agency for Science Research and Innovation launched a call for proposals to implement the university-business cooperation programme. Albania needs to further strengthen its research and innovation capacity at national level, by promoting links between academia, industry and government, and in the fields of open access and open data. A new Law on the creation, organisation and operation of technology and science parks was also adopted in July 2022. Since 2022, the start-up fund has been managed by the Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship. The fund granted EUR 2.5 million to 58 beneficiaries in 2022.

The qualitative and quantitative phase was completed for the development of a smart specialisation strategy. However, the second phase of the entrepreneurial discovery process remains to be finalised. The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office is now responsible for coordinating the development of the smart specialisation strategy.

On the EU framework programmes, Albania is fully associated to Horizon Europe. Its participation in the programme in 2022 has improved since Albania has been participating in the EU’s Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation (9 projects with a total funding of EUR 1.7 million). The authorities need to make efforts to further increase participation of the private sector in Horizon Europe. National innovation efforts should be aligned with the new European innovation agenda. Albania needs to strenghten its efforts in participating in the activities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Regarding transparency, the Ministry of Education and Science has created an electronic register for inquiries recording 45 exchanges in the first quarter of 2023. Authorities have established a contact point to denounce corruption and abuse of EU funds.

Albania needs to make further efforts to produce reliable data on research and innovation. Albania was included for a second consecutive year in the European Innovation Scoreboard as an emerging innovator facing however a decrease in its score from 41.7% in 2022 to 41.1% of the EU average in 2023.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation in the area of science and research. Limited progress was made, notably by developing a roadmap for research infrastructure. The country’s research capacity and innovation efforts remain very limited. Overall, the research and innovation gap with the European Union is widening. The recommendations from last year were only partially implemented, therefore remain valid.

In the coming year, Bosnia and Herzegovina should in particular:

→ develop a new 2023-2028 strategy and action plan for scientific development;

→ develop and adopt a smart specialisation strategy;

→ improve reporting on research and innovation statistics

On research and innovation policy, the legislative framework regulating research and innovation development remains fragmented and still needs to be improved throughout the country. No  action plan was in place from 2017 till 2023. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to develop and adopt a new strategy and action plan for scientific development (2023-2028).

The country’s estimated total allocations for research and innovation remain below 0.3% of GDP. A substantially increased budget, particularly in the area of innovation, is essential for the country’s economic recovery. Further progress should be made to ensure reliable and comprehensive statistics on research and innovation, e.g. for the European Innovation Scoreboard and the European Research Area. The country’s research capacity remains limited, while brain drain continues, most notably in the health, medical, and IT sectors, with no systematic measures having been introduced so far to address the issue.

The government’s efforts in upgrading research and innovation policies and related activities (e.g. the strategy for the development of science and the pending adoption and implementation of the related action plan) as well as grants provided to organisations for submitting proposals under Horizon Europe are delivering some results. However, systemic collaboration and interaction need to be strengthened between ‘triple helix’ actors – academia, industry and governments. The development of a smart specialisation strategy is still at a very early stage. Its absence hampers research and innovation efforts.

As regards international cooperation, Bosnia and Herzegovina takes part in Horizon Europe as an associated country, having competitively received EUR 1.65 million in 2021. Preliminary and partial figures for 2022 show an encouraging increase: so far already EUR 2.1 million have been gained by researchers and innovators from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2022. The selection of Sarajevo for the Horizon Europe Mission on climate-neutral and smart cities and its outreach to Mostar is encouraging.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is included in the European Innovation Scoreboard, enabling its participation in the European Institute of Innovation & Technology’s Regional Innovation Scheme as of 2025; participation in the activities of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology are encouraged. In the scoreboard, Bosnia and Herzegovina was found to be an emerging innovator. Over time, its performance relative to the EU has declined, in particular in the last two years.


Kosovo is at an early stage of preparation in the area of science and research. Some progress was made during the reporting period: Kosovo substantially improved its performance in the EU’s framework programme on research and innovation.

Since the recommendations of the previous report were not fully addressed, Kosovo should in particular:

→ fully implement the national science programme, including prioritise and promote scientific research and innovation, ensure higher spending on research and innovation, and seek to stimulate investment from the private sector by completing a smart specialisation strategy;

→ continue efforts to increase participation in the Horizon Europe programme;

→ use the newly established current research information system to provide reliable data on numbers of researchers, on percentage of GDP spent on research and innovation, and on performance related to the European Research Area priorities.

Despite some progress on research and innovation policy, Kosovo lacks a strategic approach to develop, prioritise and promote research activities. There has been some progress in this respect since the National Science Council developed the national science programme as the main strategic document on science and research. It identifies priority fields for the economic and social development for the next six-year period. In addition, it includes new funding models and the creation of a fund for innovations.

The smart specialisation strategy should be completed as a priority. The current research information system has been developed and should be put into use. It systematically collects research, science and innovation data, that should be used to support evidence-based decision making. The bundling of competencies for science, education, technology, and innovation in a single ministry is a welcome development. This should foster the coordination and administrative capacities to plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate research and innovation policies.

The research and innovation sector is severely underfunded, with public research spending amounting to only 0.1% of GDP despite a 0.7% of GDP target mandated by law. The financing of scientific research through the allocation of the budget for higher education institutions is unclear since the budget for scientific research and innovation is not separated from the budget for universities. The quality of programmes preparing postgraduates for research careers remains unsatisfactory. Funding of innovation support measures is urgently needed to support the economic recovery. Kosovo is encouraged to take up the opportunities made available by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Kosovo was for the first time fully associated to Horizon Europe in 2021. After a slow start, preliminary figures for 2022 show a substantial performance increase from the research and innovation community with five projects receiving a total EU funding of EUR 0.8 million.


the 2022 recommendations, by continuing the implementation of the smart specialisation 109109strategy and by increasing participation in the Horizon Europe programme. In 2023, the government budget for science and innovation further increased. Two of last year’s recommendations remain valid.

In the coming year, Montenegro should in particular:

→ continue to implement the smart specialisation strategy;

→ continue to strengthen academia-business cooperation, and further support knowledge transfer between them, also to deliver on green deal priorities;

→ put in place the new strategy for scientific research activities.

In the area of research and innovation policy, Montenegro adopted two implementing acts that aim to fully implement the Law on scientific research activities. These acts laid down: (i) the conditions and more detailed criteria for awards for scientific achievements as well as award amounts; and (ii) further conditions for licensing scientific research institutions. Montenegro has yet to adopt the new strategy for scientific research activities, which will list instruments to increase the number of researchers.

The latest available statistics, from 2019, indicated that research and development funding stood at 0.36% of GDP in 2019 (0.50% in 2018), with an investment share of 0.12% provided by the private sector. For 2023, the government budget for science and innovation amounted to EUR 4.08 million. This increased budget supports the country’s economic recovery, while helping to address the issue of brain drain of researchers and young people.

Montenegro continues to successfully implement the smart specialisation strategy. In June 2022, the government established a new composition of the Council for Innovation and Smart Specialisation, presided by the Minister of Science and Technological Development.

In December 2022, the Council adopted the Information on the innovation programmes of the Innovation Fund of Montenegro for 2023, based on which the Innovation Fund prepared the 2023 work plan, adopted by the government in April 2023. The Innovation Fund published a call for proposals under its collaborative grants programme with a budget of EUR 670 000. Seven project proposals were accepted for financing. The Innovation Fund also published a call for proposals under its Innovation Vouchers Programme and six additional programme lines have been launched in the period May-June 2023 (value EUR 1.65 million). The Call for co-financing national scientific research projects with total funds amounting to EUR 2.3 million was published in May 2023. Montenegro has yet to adopt the Programme for Encouraging Innovation in the Function of Energy Efficiency in Industry.

The cooperation with the European Innovation Council is good: the Collaborative Grants for Innovation scheme, managed by the Innovation Fund of Montenegro, was officially certified for the Plug-In scheme to the European Innovation Council Accelerator. The Law on incentive measures for research and innovation promoted the investment of EUR 1 934 000 in 19 start-ups. The cooperation with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is also good.

In the area of framework programmes, in Montenegro’s first two years as a member of the Horizon Europe programme, Montenegrin participants gained already EUR 3 million (compared with EUR 4.62 million received over the seven years of Horizon 2020). The Ministry of Science and Technological Development provided EUR 230 000 to support co-financing of innovation activities under several strands of the programme, among other for covering participation in EUREKA.

North Macedonia

The country has a good level of preparation in the area of science and research. Some progress was made on strengthening the research and innovation capacity of the public and private sector by increasing the budget for science, by developing the yet to be adopted smart specialisation strategy and through the country’s continuous improvement in the Horizon Europe participation. Some of last year's recommendations remain valid.

In the coming year, the country should:

→ increase investment in research in line with the new European Research Area priorities;

→ develop dedicated measures aiming to promote and increase participation in Horizon Europe and other relevant EU financing instruments in this area;

→ adopt the smart specialisation strategy and start developing measures for its implementation.

Some progress was made to align with European standards on research and innovation. The budget for science in 2022 and 2023 has been increased significantly compared to 2021 (to approximately EUR 3.5 million from EUR 1.3 million). However, investment in research and innovation continues to remain low, at 0.38% of GDP, while the participation of the private sector in the overall research is even lower, at 0.1% of GDP.

The country’s participation in Horizon Europe, the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation, has continued to increase, reaching for 2022 (according to data availability at publication date), 10 projects with EUR 4 million funding, surpassing the whole 2021 performance. Authorities need to strengthen their participation in the new European Research Area and in the new European Innovation Agenda. No progress is noted on the European Charter for researchers, the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers and the number of HR Excellence in Research logos issued over the reporting period. The national technology transfer roadmap has not yet been developed.

On innovation, the European Innovation Scoreboard classifies for a second consecutive year North Macedonia as an ‘emerging innovator’ marking however an increase in its score performance from 45.6% in 2022 to 46.3% of the EU average in 2023. In 2022, the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development committed nearly EUR 16.5 million to support innovation and research in 209 private companies.

Τhe Fund’s efforts to intensify synergies between businesses and academia need to continue to increase prioritising the facilitation the green and digital transitions. The Fund needs to comply with the findings of the State Audit Office’s compliance audit report, issued in December 2022. Authorities should further support the academia-business cooperation. The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) announced that in the 2023 EIT higher education initiative, two higher education institutions from North Macedonia were selected for funding as full partners of large consortia.

The smart specialisation strategy, the main policy document for innovation and research with clear sector-specific priorities, has not been adopted yet, providing a safeguarded framework for an efficient use of research and innovation funds.


Serbia is at a good level of preparation in the area of science and research. Limited progress was made with an increase in efforts to support cooperation between businesses and academia. The national level of investment in research remains low. Last year’s recommendations remain valid.

In the coming year, Serbia should in particular:

→ increase its national funding for research and innovation;

→ align with the European Research Infrastructure Consortium Regulation; and

→ follow up on the actions of the new European Research Area.

On research and innovation policy, the main priorities of the European Research Area are implemented through the 2021-2025 strategy for development of a start-up ecosystem and its action plan for 2021-2023. Measures introduced to increase the number of start-ups and opportunities for private investors, technology transfer and economic growth include improvement of tax laws for start-ups and creation of a start-up portal aimed at facilitating business and providing access to potential investors and funds. With the implementation of the Law on innovation activity, the register of subjects of the national innovation system is now managed under the Innovation Fund. This enables companies to register easily and obtain better access to funding sources. The Science Fund is fully operational as a funding mechanism.

The national level of investment in research remains low at 0.99% of GDP in 2021 (0.91% in 2020), with only one third of this amount coming from the private sector. Serbia should continue to integrate into the new European Research Area in accordance with its plan to increase investment into research and innovation by 50% over the next five years. Serbia has a smart specialisation strategy in place for the period of 2020-2027. However, it needs to adopt and implement the related action plan for 2023-2025.

Regarding EU framework programmes and international cooperation, Serbia has been successfully participating in Horizon Europe, EUREKA and the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). In February 2023, Serbia completed the national ratification process of the Horizon Europe Association Agreement. With support from Horizon 2020, a new building of the BioSense Institute was opened to serve as a regional centre of excellence in the field of nanotechnologies, biosensors and digital agriculture.

Regarding innovation measures, the Serbian Innovation Fund and the science and technology parks continue to be active with increasing financial contributions. The Innovation Fund’s Katapult Accelerator for start-ups currently supports 39 companies. Further integration into the new European Innovation Agenda and activities of the European Innovation Council is strongly encouraged.

Serbia is an emerging innovator in the European innovation scoreboard. However, private sector research and innovation expenditure remains too low. While public support for cooperation between businesses and academia has improved, further efforts are needed.

Geographical focus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Kosovo*
  • Montenegro
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Admin WBC-RTI.info on November 9, 2023
Modified on December 20, 2023