Growth Through Research & Innovation
The Moment for Action
With job creation stagnant and economic growth stalled, the Western Balkans region faces an intensifying need to create knowledge-based economies that can generate higher-value-added jobs and stronger growth.
Hoping to foster synergies among their similar interventions and build on a growing collaboration, governments from the seven economies in the Western Balkans are developing — with the assistance of the European Commission, the Regional Cooperation Council and the World Bank — a regional strategy for research and innovation.
In line with the countries' European integration processes and the goals of the European Union's growth strategy “Europe 2020,” the overarching objective is to increase the impact of research and innovation on economic growth and employment opportunities.
The Strategy will identify priorities, recommend policy and institutional reforms and be accompanied by an action plan detailing initiatives to be implemented at the supra-national level. This Strategy is being presented during a regional event in Zagreb, Croatia on October 24-25 2013 and will serve as a framework for a collective effort to promote the Western Balkans' most urgent priority: increasing innovation, growth and prosperity.
The Western Balkan region faces complex structural and macroeconomic challenges. On the structural front, a legacy of unfinished reforms still prevents most economies from reaping the benefits of investments in research and innovation — despite the progress they have achieved in recent years.
At the macroeconomic level, adverse circumstances required governments to adopt tighter fiscal policies and cautious financial markets reduced public and private resources available for research and innovation. The countries share a common set of problems, such as brain drain, low business expenditures on R&D and outdated research infrastructure.
Yet, to restore the competitiveness of their economies and accelerate growth, more and better investments in research and innovation are critically important for the Western Balkans.
During the development of the Strategy, policy notes and studies have been commissioned, country profiles for each beneficiary country were developed, study tours to two regional “networks of excellence” were organized, and four onsensus-building exercises — in the format of interactive round tables — have taken place. Throughout the process, close collaboration with similar regional initiatives has been promoted.
On the basis of this work a Strategy outline has been developed. The second half of the project involved further discussions with stakeholders regarding the Strategy and Action Plan. The results of the consultation process were incorporated into the draft of the Strategy. The Strategy currently has the support of the leading universities, research institutes, private sector executives, and ministries of the science and education in the region.