ENHANCING INNOVATION CAPACITY OF SMES IN BALKAN-MEDITERRANEAN AREA THROUGH REGIONAL BASED CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE AS TECHNOLOGY DRIVERS
Burgas Free University (BULGARIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 11-13 November, 2019
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:“Innovation Union” flagship defines innovation in broad concept covering new or improved products and processes, services, new business models, and new forms of organisation and collaborative arrangements. Innovation is referred to as a favourable eco-system for idea generation and implementation. The focus is placed on innovation in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), expected to be the new driving force of growth and jobs in the Union and the regional aspects of the support to them. According to SME’s Performance Review (EC DG E&I), the Balkan-Mediterranean (Balkan-Med) area regions lag behind the EU average when it comes to innovations activity rates of their SMEs. According to the Global Competitiveness Index also, the regions in Balkan-Med lag behind the averages in both groups.
This research paper describes key results from the project “Innovations Platform and Tools for Increasing the Innovation Capacity of SMEs in the Balkan Mediterranean Area (InnoPlatform)”, under Balkan-Mediterranean programme and some initial statements made under the IRISI project under the Bulgarian Scientific Research Fund. Among the activities performed were assessment of the current national and regional environment and its challenges to innovation, growth and internationalization of business. Extensive national studies on the business environment, national innoscorecard (research on basic economic indicators), regional studies on innovation potential and dominant emerging industries have been conducted. Advancing the existing knowledge and developing common understanding on business model innovation with a focus on internationalization were performed too.
Based on this research and the innovations and innovators survey among SMEs in the regions of the programme area (in Bulgaria the South-East Region, but also a bunch of SMEs in the South West), expertise, tools, and guidelines to strengthen SMEs capacity to introduce product and process innovations to the market have been developed. The set of InnoTools consists of 5 innovations tools based on web 2.0 to strengthen SMEs capacity to systematically and successfully develop and introduce innovations. In addition, a network of Centres of Excellence (CoE) to provide outside expertise and support to SMEs at regional basis in introducing innovations and facilitating their cooperation with the research institutions is launched. Bridging the universities to the SMEs, they support the innovation process during its transmission of knowledge from research to development to application.
The developed knowledge, expertise, tools and guidelines along with the physical network of CoEs, aim at intensifying the cooperation of SMEs with the research institutions, and aim at directly supporting SMEs in the introduction of new product and process innovations. It constitutes the main output of the project, i.e. the Balkan Mediterranean Innovations platform (InnoPlatform); which is being pilot tested with selected SMEs from the programme area.
Keywords: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Innovation levels, Centres of excellence, Business models, Regional indexing.