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Business opportunities from the ‘green economy’ shift

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The concept of green economy

As the  (EEA) pointed out, the term “green economy” is not consistently defined as it is still an emerging concept. The most widely used green economy definition comes from the  (UNEP): “[A] green economy [is] one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”.

The Interreg Europe project GRESS focuses more specifically on improving policies for SMEs competitiveness in the context of a ‘green economy’, an economy that offers a pathway to generate economic growth that is inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

GRESS partners assume that the green economy does not represent an economic sector per se but rather a driver acting horizontally across the sectors characteristic of a territory. The green economy can refer to sectors (e.g. energy), topics (e.g. pollution), principles (e.g. polluter pays) or policies (e.g. economic instruments).

Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises – a key driver towards a green economy in Bulgaria

The Foundation Cleantech Bulgaria, representing Bulgaria in the GRESS project, managed to trigger within the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Innovation and Growth a strong increase in the awareness about circular economy and resource efficiency as drivers of economic opportunities in general, and their potential contribution to the shift towards a green economy.

The increased awareness did lead to the inclusion of new measures in the Bulgarian Programme “Competitiveness and Innovation in the Enterprises 2021-2027” managed by the Ministry of Innovation and Growth. The new measures represent a shifted approach to the circular economy compared to the previous programming period when it was associated mainly with measures in energy efficiency.

The new Programme "Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises" 2021-2027 integrates two measures inspired by the transnational exchanges with the GRESS partners under Priority 2 of the programme: ‘Circular Economy’, Specific objective (vi) "Promoting the transition to circular and resource-efficient economy”:

The emphasis is on promoting collaborations among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within value chains to address investment needs in clean technologies, circular economy, and sustainable utilization of raw materials. This initiative aims to fund partnerships between co-located SMEs, fostering industrial symbiotic relationships. These relationships involve utilizing waste or by-products between companies to enhance resource efficiency. The focus includes:

  • Sharing Resources: SMEs can share resources, services, and by-products.
  • Connecting Industries: Establishing links between industries where one industry's waste becomes another's raw material.
  • Strengthening Value Chains: Creating connections among enterprises within value chains.

Companies are encouraged to collaborate and apply together for funding through the program.

This action was directly inspired by the Agder Industrial Symbiose in Norway.

This initiative revolves around a novel clustering approach based on sectors and value chains, rather than geography. Projects will be chosen based on sectoral focus, aligning with regional specialization and developmental potential. The primary goal is to establish branch platforms, or clusters, where companies within specific sectors can collaborate, exchange knowledge, share best practices, and optimize material flow.

This action was inspired by the Clust-ER GREENTECH approach in Emilia-Romagna.

A third new measure, under Priority 1 ‘Innovation and Growth’, Specific objective (iii) “Boosting sustainable growth and competitiveness of SMEs and job creation, including through productive investment”, was inspired by the experiences from the Metropolitan City of Bologna, the Italian partner of the GRESS project:

This initiative aims to establish a comprehensive support system for SMEs by creating a one-stop shop for services. This service hub will address key areas such as competitiveness, finance, internationalization, skills, innovation, environmental concerns, regulatory compliance, and entrepreneurial support.

The support services will be provided by the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, international incubators, or business associations, benefiting both these organizations and the SMEs/start-ups.

This action was inspired by the services provided to SMEs and startups in Bologna.

The Programme "Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises" 2021-2027 was officially launched by the European Commission on 3 October 2022 and the first calls relevant to the actions above launched in February 2023.

In addition, the Programme Research, Innovation and Digitalisation for Smart Transformation (also managed by the Ministry of Innovation and Growth), which is the other main instrument for achieving the Smart Specialization Strategy goals of Bulgaria also envisages measures for green digital partnerships in its indicative programme for 2024.

Green economy