More than half of digital Bulgarian SMEs and startups offer global innovation, the newly-published research InnovationShip shows.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is one of the main institutions that support the bold new ideas in the EU and creates bridges between academic experts and innovative business, Sasha Bezuhanova has said. Ms. Bezuhanova is an EIT Board Member and has been the special speaker during the international academic conference “The Membership of Bulgaria in the European Union: 12 Years Later”. The event, which took place on October 25, was organized by the main Bulgarian economic university, the University of National and World Economy (UNWE).
The EIT has a significant role in backing innovative projects in the current societal transformation, explained Ms. Bezuhanova. It works on the so-called innovative and entrepreneurship triangle - connecting business, education, and research.
“We are living in a time of fundamental change in the world. Noting from the old systems that are ruling the world today seems to work anymore. Global digital connectivity, the democratization of access to the information, and the lost balance between humans and nature are stimulating people to find new ways and solutions to face the current global challenges.
In the economic process shared economic models are replacing the old big corporations and are changing our everyday way of life - how we book hotels, rent a car, arrange our holidays. We should find new models for economic development, organization of the society, and creation of a new ecosystem,” Ms. Bezuhanova, who is also the founder of MOVE.BG, told attendees at the UNWE conference room.
“The transformation creates big challenges for academic society. The universities should prepare students for this new economic reality and be on track with innovations. They should change the role of the academics from people with knowledge to mediators that create an environment for the people of the new time to be empowered with knowledge for the new world.”
The EIT works on that topic and it would be one of the key pillars in the new program Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the successor of Horizon 2020. In the new program, the EIT would be an integral part of the process of developing the EU innovative ecosystem along with the European Research Council, the Joint Research Center (JRC), the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, and the newly-established European Innovation Council (EIC).
“The EU should not simply follow the successful Silicon Valley example but should create its own innovative environment that protects European traditions and develop its potential,” Ms. Bezuhanova said.
European University Institute
Established in 2008, the EIT is a unique innovation instrument because the institution addresses societal challenges by enhancing Europe’s innovation capacity, competitiveness, and quality of life. It also increases cooperation and integration between the stakeholders via cross-border and multi-disciplinary initiatives. The EIT aims to help students in becoming entrepreneurs, to support the development of one innovative idea into a real product, and to bring products from laboratories to customers.
The EIT works via eight programs, called innovation communities, Ms. Bezuhanova told students and professors, and urged them to be part of those initiatives:
- EIT Health - it supports projects that give the EU citizens greater opportunities to enjoy a healthy life;
- EIT Food - it backs ideas that lead to a global revolution in food innovation and production;
- EIT Digital - the program that works on driving the EU’s digital transformation;
- EIT Climate-KIC - it supports projects that want to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy;
- EIT InnoEnergy - it backs projects that aim to build a sustainable future for the EU;
- EIT Manufacturing - a program. that helps innovative manufacturing projects;
- EIT Raw Materials - it aims to turn raw materials into the main EU strength;
- EIT Urban Mobility - it supports projects, working on mobility ideas for livable urban spaces.
One of the main EIT tasks is to widen participation in the EIT Innovation Communities, Ms. Bezuhanova said. The institute also shares and transfers good practices and experiences, emerging from the EIT Community’s activities. Moreover, it supports collaboration in regions and countries in line with priorities, set out in the so-called Smart Specialization Strategies.
The EIT results are impressive, Ms. Bezuhanova told attendees and explained that for around a decade its network has grown significantly with50 innovation hubs across Europe, 2000+supported ventures, 900+ new products and services, developed with the EIT help, and EUR 1.5 billion, raised by EIT ventures. Moreover, the institute’s work created more than 6000 new jobs and more than 2300 persons completed the EIT programs until the end of last year.
The EIT, founded one after Bulgaria joined the EU, supports the local innovative ecosystem successfully, Ms. Bezuhanova noted, but added that local entrepreneurs should be more proactive. In 2016-2018, the EIT gave EUR 1.4 million in grants for Bulgarian projects.
“I am happy that we have been part of the European Union for more than 10 years. The EU is a club of people who think avant-garde and who share the knowledge that supports bold innovative ideas,” Ms. Bezuhanova told attendees.
“MOVE.BG has worked to support innovations for more than six years. We are looking for workable ideas for social transformation, forging pathways into sustainable development, and enabling a culture of constructive dialogue.”
MOVE.BG and the innovative ecosystem
Our program EDIT (Economic development via Innovation and Technology) supports the digital business environment in Bulgaria. We analyze global and local trends, discuss the issues faced by start-up companies, and together we seek solutions in support of innovations and investments. We encourage the collaboration between entrepreneurs, the exchange of experience and ideas, the establishment of a contemporary digital ecosystem.
EDIT conducts Innovation Ship - a unique annual national survey, which is the most comprehensive and detailed mapping of the Bulgarian digital and innovative startup ecosystem. It also organizes various educational initiatives, including workshops and webinars.