The JRC has a long history of cooperation in the Western Balkans. The Commission moved one step closer to a formal innovation agenda with the region this month, as it launched an Economic and Investment Plan.
The Plan aims to support sustained economic growth and the reforms required by Western Balkans countries to move forward on the EU path.
As part of this, it makes clear the need for a future innovation agenda that will boost research cooperation, and facilitate access to world-class research tools and infrastructure.
Under a future Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and together with other Commission services, the JRC’s active role in the region will help to:
- boost human capital development;
- nurture knowledge-based society;
- reform national education; research and innovation eco-systems;
- support the green transition and digital transformation in the region.
The JRC works in partnership with other Commission services. There are several actions developed jointly with the Commission’s department for neighbourhood and enlargement negotiations (DG NEAR) and funded under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance to support the Western Balkans.
Collaborating to boost economies: Smart Specialisation Strategies
A good example of cooperation is the Smart Specialisation Process. Smart Specialisation builds on the assets and resources available to regions and countries and on their specific socio-economic challenges in order to identify unique opportunities for development and growth.
The JRC’s Smart Specialisation Platform provides advice to EU and Western Balkans countries and regions in designing and implementing these strategies. This action is supported by DG NEAR.
Montenegro was the first non-EU country to adopt a Smart specialisation strategy and receive a positive assessment in 2019. Serbia adopted its Smart Specialisation Strategy in February 2020 and is preparing for assessment.
The Smart Specialisation process in both countries mobilised over 1600 stakeholders, including 450 representatives of the private sector involved in the entrepreneurial discovery process.
All other Western Balkan countries are in the process of developing their Smart Specialisation Strategies too. Five have already launched their national Smart Specialisation teams and six more have expressed interest to follow the process.
Eighty public administration representatives have been trained to build capacity and engagement.
The JRC runs regular high-level conferences and capacity building activities in the Western Balkans, working together with partners to build a community of practice and support innovative ideas.
Another example of partnership is the EU4TECH Proof of Concept action, a joint initiative between the JRC and DG NEAR. It provides support to over forty innovation projects in the Western Balkans through mentoring, advice on prototyping and strategies for Intellectual Property generation, protection and management.
The aim is to bring these projects closer to the market and create opportunities for business creation and job growth.
Promoting the implementation of the EU Green Deal
The JRC also provides scientific support for environmental policy in the Western Balkans. This support began in 2013, first through the support to the Danube and other regional policies and more recently with projects targeted to the accession process.
The JRC collaborated with local experts on the first modelling analysis of the causes of PM2.5 pollution in the Western Balkans. This was followed by a detailed analysis of the status of air pollution and greenhouse gases emissions in the region.
The JRC also delivers training courses for Western Balkan experts in the areas of air quality measurements, emissions and modelling. In 2016, the JRC launched a task force on air quality involving national and local authorities, experts and stakeholders.
The integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU is a major political and economic project designed to assure stability and development in the region. From the very beginning, cooperation on research and innovation has been stimulated as a tool to facilitate that integration.
The JRC is committed to supporting evidence-based policymaking and governance in the Western Balkan economies through sharing knowledge, providing tools and fostering collaboration.
The Commission’s Communication on an Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans sets out a substantial investment package mobilising up to €9 billion of funding for the region. It will support sustainable connectivity, human capital, competitiveness and inclusive growth, and the twin green and digital transition.
- Publication date
- 15 October 2020