ANKO focuses on the interconnection between BRIDGES and Agri-food sector by funding entrepreneurship via an Action Plan, mainly related to the Research to Business innovation partnerships & Multi level synergies that are two out of three thematic areas of BRIDGES Good Practices.

BRIDGES in W. Macedonia also aims to influence the Regional Operational Programme (ROP) 2014 – 2020 generally on RIS3 implementation and specifically concerning the Open Calls of the Investment Priority 1.b “Investments in Research and Innovation”. For that purpose, ANKO is in close co-operation with the Managing Authority along with BRIDGES Regional Stakeholders Group.
In addition to technological and commercial needs of SMEs, the Action Plan must also deal with administrative issues of the RIS3 Policy Implementation, as the Administrative Scheme is to be established for first time in the Region.
In respect to the above issues, main Targets of the regional Action Plan are the “Improvement of technological and commercial position of Agri-food sector businesses” and the “Effectiveness of Capacity Building of RIS3 Policy implementation”.
Towards the formulation of the framework of the Action Plan, ANKO methodologically proceed to:
•    Mapping report in the Region in order to examine the regional innovation level based on justified measurement indicators. 
•    Company visits targeted to SMEs with high level innovation potential.
•    Assessment of BRIDGES Good Practices seeking their potential adoption and transfer.
•    Search of fields of interest for Interregional Synergies and collaboration among regional stakeholders in BRIDGES regions.
Mapping report
The report revealed the level and type of innovation that can be best absorbed by the region in order to clarify types of innovations to prioritize and therefore types of projects that could be generated and be selected to be part of the Action Plan. The main findings focus on:
•    Enhancement of competitiveness of existing SMEs,
•    Promotion of innovative start-up SMEs or/and new products,
•    Promotion of RTDI among SMEs and enhancement of their extroversion,
•    Development of incubators, clusters or/and networks of congener SMEs,
Company visits
Based on the above ANKO organized Company visits (23-26 October 2017) in W. Macedonia with collaboration and participation of Centre for Research and Technology-Hellas (CERTH), one of BRIDGES Advisory Partners. Eleven selected Agri-food companies (wine, dairy, aromatic/medicinal plants) were interviewed in order to detect their innovation capacity & ICT technologies and the interconnection of R&D activities following the RIS3 policy and priorities. According to the companies:

  •  The lack of research capabilities is more evident in small enterprises, whereas medium sized and bigger companies host in-house R&D structures, manned with scientific personnel.
  •  The exploitation of by-products was mentioned by most of the companies as an activity they wish to undertake or are already implementing.
  •  Business deals and technology transfer & training are more effectively achieved with B2B approach, so such activities should be amongst the priorities of the funding tools.
  •  The adoption of strategic planning models aiming at developing strong brands, closing existing gaps throughout the supply chain and establishing product certification (PDO, PGI and certified seeds) is considered as prerequisite to gain a competitive advantage in the market.
  •  Clustering will provide the businesses with the opportunity to access new / bigger markets that require higher quantities of products in order to form business agreements.

Good Practices (GPs) adoption & transfer
Along with the study visit ANKO examined the potential for transferring Good Practices from other BRIDGES partners. Two GPs were selected in order to be exploitated as projects of the final Action Plan. Specifically the “Autodiagnostic Tool” presented by CERTH and the “Coordination platform for RIS3 implementation” developed by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council (HURC) are now under examination by ANKO for adoption & transfer in W. Macedonia.

Interregional Synergies
There is work in progress regarding Interregional Synergies and the search for topics with potential interest in the fields of Research to Business and Industrial Modernization in the Regions of W. Macedonia and Uusimaa - Helsinki. VOION Land Products SA (VLP) and Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (VTT) are in direct contact working on the elaboration of a common project with focus on faba bean treatment for protein enrichment and reduction of antinutrients, as the Greek Company is interested in applying an analogous approach on lentils or a mixed by-product consisted of lentils, chickpeas and beans to increase protein bioavailability in order to use it as a feed, exploitating the Finnish expertise. This topic is to be proposed for funding under the ROP 2014 – 2020 of W. Macedonia.