This week we are going to present our third project partner: the Business Agency Association, one of the leading non-profit organisations in the North-Eastern region in Bulgaria. With 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, competitiveness and innovation, the agency aims to provide a gateway to expertise, specialist platforms and infrastructures to support companies and the public sector in their digital transformation for a better Varna region’s competitiveness.

BAA is involved in many initiatives and committees for policy making. They are a regular member of the Ministry of economy working group for deploying Bulgarian economy Industry 4.0 strategy.

The policy instrument that Bulgarian partners are addressing is the ‘Operational programme “Innovation and competitiveness” 2014-2020’. This programme’s main aim is the achievement of dynamic and competitive economy through the development of innovation, entrepreneurship, growth capacity of SMEs’ and energy and resource efficiency of enterprises. Nevertheless, the programme has not been amended so far to answer the challenges of the Factory 4.0 era, neither to meet the surge of the digital transformation. “The already planned measures are not specifically oriented towards harnessing SMEs to achieve the digital transformation benefits”, explains Silvia Stumpf, Chairwoman at BAA. In that way, the innovation policies need to be adapted to the new context and oriented to absorb the benefits that Industry 4.0 offers. “The funding schemes should be aligned with the recent requirements of the digital era and Industry 4.0 to support accelerating the deployment of the national overarching flagship initiative for Industry 4.0”, continues Chairwoman.

Regarding their role in the project, BAA will bring its expertise in supporting digital transformation processes, tools and projects under quadruple helix cooperation. BAA will apply its expertise in mobilizing stakeholders for policy deployment and improvement. Silvia Stumpf mentions that they lead “a hub of organisations with complementary expertise with a not-for-profit objective to leaven up and increase the digital maturity of business and public sector in Varna area”.

By participating in DIGITAL REGIONS, BAA will benefit from the new knowledge and benchmarking related to digital transformation. Furthermore, the partnership will enhance its capacity to co-design innovation policy in its role of strategic member of relevant commissions and entities responsible for regional and national development. According to Silvia Stumpf, Bulgarian partners aim to achieve a 15% increase of the number of SMEs from manufacturing sector cooperating with other innovation actors in Varna region to implement I4.0 solutions as a result of improved innovation policies. “We plan to shape up measures to facilitate increased I4.0 policy cooperation between Varna and more advanced regions, increased participation by Varna region SMEs and better availability of digital skills for Varna”.

Asking about why they decided to join the DIGITAL REGIONS project, BAA Chairwomen stated that, “we are catalysts working to enhance the conditions needed to facilitate the digital change across regional and national economy. To achieve our goals of improving the rapid identification, adoption and spread of best digital transformation practices, innovations and new technologies, we needed to partner with more developed regions that meet the same challenges. The project will help us further enable companies to grow and create jobs by accessing the consortium partners’ expertise in the digitalization cross-sector. Thanks to the consortium partners’ experience and the involved regions’ leading good practices we will support the policy makers at regional and national levels to ensure better conditions for the industry preparation for transition to Industry 4.0”.