WASHINGTON, March 18, 2015 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan of US$ 40 million to Georgia for the Georgia National Innovation Ecosystem (GENIE) Project. This Project will support the implementation of the Government’s strategy to build a competitive and innovative economy that is ready for the future.
The development objective of the project is to increase innovative activities of firms and individuals and their participation in the digital economy. This will be achieved through investments in regional and community innovation centers, enabling wider adoption of Internet by households and small businesses, developing digital economy skills and capacity of businesses to be innovative, and improving access to finance for innovators.
GENIE deepens the World Bank Group’s ongoing partnership with Georgia by complementing and leveraging ongoing infrastructure investments and policy reforms. The Project will benefit from improvements in regional infrastructure as it seeks to connect innovators and small businesses outside the main cities to global trade and knowledge networks. It complements strategic and institutional reforms to boost competitiveness, supported through the Development Policy Operation (DPO) program.
This project is a core element of the latest Country Partnership Strategy (CPS, FY2014-17), and supports the CPS goal of enabling private sector-led job creation through improved competitiveness. The project also boosts shared prosperity through activities that mobilize and include more rural residents and businesses to participate in the innovation and knowledge-based economy by improving services provided to them, developing skills, and expanding access to infrastructure.
“GENIE represents a new phase of the World Bank’s support to the Government, by promoting inclusive growth through an innovation driven and knowledge-based economy. It will invest in a range of activities to boost innovation potential, human capital, and access to finance,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “This project will invest in the future by building on the critical reforms and investments in infrastructure, business climate, and rule of law undertaken by the Government in recent years.”
“This Project aims to jump-start innovation-driven and knowledge-based economic development across Georgia. It aims to connect more of the country—especially latent innovators and small businesses in the regions—with global knowledge and opportunities,” said Thomas Haven, Senior Private Sector Development Specialist and the Task Team Leader for the Project. “We hope that expanding the innovation ecosystem, which has so far existed only in the larger cities, to the rest of country will mean the creation and growth of small businesses, new products and services that can be traded, and new good jobs.”
“The World Bank has been an important partner in Georgia’s development, having supported investments and reforms in many sectors,” said Dimitry Kumsishvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia. “We see the activities that GENIE supports as critical to ensure continued economic growth by both accelerating innovative activities by our most capable businesses and people, while expanding inclusion into the global innovation and knowledge economy for those people and businesses - especially in the rural parts of country - that have so far been disconnected. GENIE presents us with the opportunity to create and share prosperity by relying on new sources of growth.”
Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) will be the agency responsible for implementing GENIE. Part of the Ministry of Economy & Sustainable Development, the Agency is keen to leverage the Project to create a new generation of innovators and digital economy businesses, all while accelerating the diffusion of innovations and technology especially across the rural economy, which has long witnessed low-productivity and limited innovative activity.