ZAGREB, October 25, 2013 – The Western Balkans Regional Research and Development (R&D) Strategy for Innovation was adopted today in Zagreb by the ministers of science from the region during the ministerial meeting on regional R&D.
Research and innovation are at the heart of the European Union's (EU) strategy for growth and jobs – the Europe 2020 Strategy – as they are important drivers of economic growth, and contributors to raising productivity and creating employment opportunities. This focus on research and innovation has been recognized by the countries of the Western Balkans as they work to find ways towards economic recovery.
“Fostering regional cooperation is the greatest contribution that the Republic of Croatia can provide to the policies on which the European Union was founded. Croatia sees this cooperation, as well as that of European Union membership of all countries in the region once all criteria are met, in its national interest for the long-term and as a foundation for its own security and development. We believe that we can be constructive in this regard, and that we can be true friends to all who are oriented towards promoting the values of the great project of European unity,” said Željko Jovanović, Minister of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia.
For the first time, to jointly improve the quality of research and innovation, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia collaborated to develop a Western Balkans Regional Research and Development (R&D) Strategy for Innovation. This document will serve as a framework for a collective effort to recommend policy and institutional reforms, and promote the Western Balkans’ most urgent priority of increasing innovation, economic growth, and prosperity.
“I would like to commend all the countries involved for the impressive results achieved in the past decade in reforming their innovation systems, improving research, and enabling innovation more broadly. Moving forward, regional cooperation on the implementation of the regional R&D Strategy for Innovation will represent numerous opportunities for better use of human capital and financial resources, creation of a political platform for continued promotion of policy reforms and strengthened capacity to mobilize external resources of funding for R&D and innovation for the Western Balkan,” said Lalit Raina, Advisor, Policy and Strategy, in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia region.
Regional cooperation at the policy level will create positive peer pressure and serve as credible commitment for implementing reforms at the national level and promoting integration of the region into the European Research Area (ERA). Integration in international scientific and innovation networks and technologically advanced production chains is fundamental for the quality and impact of R&D throughout the region.
The ministerial event was hosted by H.E. Željko Jovanović, the Minister of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, and brought together ministers of science of the beneficiary countries, representatives of the European Commission, the Regional Cooperation Council, and the World Bank.
Goran Svilanović, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, reminded that innovation is the cornerstone of the South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy, currently being finalized under RCC auspices, with the regional R&D strategy as the stepping stone of the smart growth pillar of SEE 2020.
“The R&D strategy will improve the research base and conditions for research excellence in the Western Balkans, thus slowing the brain drain and supporting the brain gain; promote the research-industry collaboration and technology transfer; enable business investments in research and innovation; and strengthen the governance of national policies with appropriate regional technical assistance facility,” noted Svilanović.
The work on the Strategy was supported by the World Bank and the European Commission, and was financed through a Multi-beneficiary Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council oversaw the implementation of the project.