Bulgaria should clearly set its own priorities in order to break away from the last places in the field of innovation

Our country is in first place in terms of women scientists in the European Union, said the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev during the 17th National Innovation Forum

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Photo: Press office of the President of Bulgaria

In order to be an equal partner in the European plan for the development of innovations, high-tech and digital spheres, Bulgaria must first clearly set itself, its goals, requirements and plan its steps and actions. This was announced by the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev during the 17th National Innovation Forum "Recovery and Sustainability through Innovation", which took place online earlier today. Rumen Radev added that he is firmly convinced that we can succeed if we work together. The President wished the state and municipal authorities to have proactive policies for the development of innovation activity, so that even the smallest innovation entities can be involved in creating new products.

He reminded that the expenditures for research and development in our country are still far from the EU average, as in 2020 they are only 0.8 percent of gross domestic product, with the national target of 1.5 percent.

We should not be deceived about the innovation level of Bulgaria, which is among the lowest in the European Union, said Ruslan Stefanov, coordinator of the Innovation Group BG, Foundation "Applied Research and Communications", organizers of the forum. We have a breakthrough and reach over 1 billion levs, but we can only note that a giant like Volkswagen gives 5-7 billion euros and these national funds are fading is one of the main conclusions of the report.

We need the activity of our politicians, as countries like Costa Rica and Israel do

Bulgaria has many regional differences and if the average level is low, it can be said that Sofia is much more innovative than all the other five planning regions. Communication and information technologies, new industries are growing at double digits, but at the same time they are not selling as much through electronic systems, and citizens are not using the opportunities of the digital economy, are the other conclusions of the report. The recommendations that Stefanov highlighted are the need to increase the average level of representation of the country, serious investment in education, the role of the Bulgarian government is to attract investment capital from the United States and the EU. A very important recommendation is to improve the qualifications of the state administration. EU subsidies alone will not help, it is important to have a well-oiled national self-organization and an administration that understands what a patent is.

The current 100m euros for innovation should be more, Slovenia, for example, votes on a budget of 250m euros a year for innovation, Stefanov said. We need to put our own resources where we need to invest and set an example. Investments must follow investments in the private sector, as do telecoms, electricity distribution companies and banks. "I would challenge politicians to remember the president of Costa Rica, who called on the president of Intel several times to attract them as a partner who subsequently transformed the country's economy," Stefanov said. The President of Israel has called Pfizer 30 times to target life-saving vaccines and related investments in Israel.

"Leading countries are actively planning where to direct their investments in order to renew their production and completely restructure their economy to a new level. In this regard, the Bulgarian state is still indebted to the people who with their enthusiasm and perseverance work diligently to develop innovation in our country, "the president added.

We are at the beginning of the third programming period of our accession to the European Union and now is the time to precisely define the tasks and determine the approach through which to overcome the negatives inherited from the second programming period, said Radev. He noted that the time has come to highlight and mobilize all the strengths we have, to pool our resources of scientific potential of leading universities, research units, centers of excellence and excellence. Radev pointed out that in 2021 Bulgaria has climbed two places ahead in the ranking of the global innovation index and is 35th out of 132 countries, and after 2013 this is the best performance of our country according to the methodology of the World intellectual property organization.

According to him, in the last two years, despite the difficult conditions in our country, the number of innovations in the workplace is growing, the growth of scientific publications with the participation of scientists from Bulgaria continues. Our country ranks first in Europe in the number of women employed in science and technology, he added.

The multiannual financial framework for the 2021-2027 programming period has a record innovation budget of around € 130 billion. This may be the basis on which Bulgaria to show its full potential of opportunities, to gather and use all its advantages, to combine the capabilities of the state, business, science and education in a well-functioning whole and to stand at the forefront as a leader in the region," Radev said.

The winners in the competition "Innovative Enterprise of the Year"

The annual awards in the National Competition "Innovative Enterprise of the Year" 2021 were handed out during the event. During this year's edition, the applications in all categories were over 100, and 21 of the companies were ranked among the finalists categories.

In the category "Green Innovation" the award was won by "Atlas Agro Science". The company is engaged in the production of soil enrichment, the raw material for which is obtained by processing sludge from treatment plants. The finished product is used in organic farming, floriculture, etc., helping to nourish the soil and increase the yield and quality of production.

In the Innovation for Quality of Life category, the award went to SMYK Ingredients. The company produces liquid fermented herbs and spices for use in food and beverages with a "clean" label for direct consumption. The production technology preserves valuable vitamins and minerals when using spices in all temperature conditions. The company has over 30,000 customers.

The winner in the Creative Industries category was ZenHold. The company creates an interactive virtual reality on real photographed objects ordered by the client. Its product can be used for extremely diverse purposes, including the development of protection against robberies and fires.

In the "Social Innovation" category, the winner of the competition was Spark Vision for the smart glasses she created for the blind and visually impaired. They read objects and texts, which are then converted into sound. The glasses also recognize gestures, brightness of light, faces, can be used on the Internet, etc.

The Digital Transformation Award went to IRIS Solutions, a fintech company that has developed a software application for merchants that allows them to accept electronic payments. It can be integrated via Viber, WhatsApp and other similar applications to facilitate work. The company is currently a provider of open banking to 36 banks and payment institutions.

A Data Pro received the Innovation Management Award for its platform for analyzing and visualizing data by measuring consumer interest in specific topics and clustering information.

"Innovative start-up" became OMNIO. The company has created a software solution with artificial intelligence for automatic verification of money laundering in financial transactions. In addition to the prize, OMNIO received a special award from Sofia Tech Park.

The category "Market Leadership" was the most contested, which is why the jury decided to award two companies. One is Cupffee, which produces edible biodegradable waffle cups for hot and cold drinks and exports to more than 40 countries. The second award went to Orenda Group through its Woodenspoon brand for creating Europe's first natural sunscreen lotion, which is also sold in biodegradable and non-polluting sugar cane packaging.

After the award ceremony, President Rumen Radev rejoined the event, congratulating both the nominees and the winners. He noted that he saw how Bulgaria is not lagging behind in innovation and it can be a leader in many areas thanks to its creative people. Radev promised that the state will do everything possible for innovative companies in our country to develop in order to be the engine of progress.

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