ARC Fund, Bulgaria continued discussions on how public instruments could be improved in order to address the needs of innovative SMEs and to ensure effective use of public resources. The last stakeholder groups workshop gathered business with representatives of the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, Association of Business Clusters and Bulgarian Industrial Association, and focus their attention on the National Innovation Fund (NIF) – the only public instrument in Bulgaria with national funding, created with the mission to support research and innovation activities of Bulgarian SMEs.

Recently, the eighth session of the National Innovation Fund has been launched. Some 190 innovation projects have been submitted, which is the highest number attracted so far. According to the Fund’s representatives, many of them would pass the threshold, i.e. they demonstrate sound level of innovativeness and potential for future market success.
Three main aspects of the NIF’s practice were in the focus of debating – 1) monitoring and evaluation procedures at all stages of the project life cycle (administrative and technical approval of the projects submitted by the beneficiaries, mid-term assessment, and final evaluation of the results achieved); 2) consistence between the Fund’s priorities and budget allocation, on the one hand, and the needs of diverse groups of beneficiaries (in terms of their age and size group, economic sector and region), on the other hand; 3) management and administrative capacity of the Bulgarian SMEs Promotion Agency – the authority that administers the work of the Fund.

In the course of the discussions, appropriate suggestions were provided entailing from the Norway Grants managed by Innovation Norway as a good practice in terms of management and monitoring as well as flexibility to better capture and respond to the company needs. All participants appreciate the opportunity to put themselves in the other stakeholder groups’ shoes and, as a result, to come up with suggestions reflecting different points of view and providing better coherence between private and public interest.