One project semester in the life of an INNOGROW project partner

A short story of an expert in international projects from SZREDA, Bulgaria.

Hello (and thank you!), to whoever took the time to read the things that I am about to tell you. In this text I am going to share with you what we have accomplished in the last six months of the INNOGROW project as one of the partners in the consortium.

First of all, let me introduce myself. I am Venelin Dobrev, part of the team of Stara Zagora Regional Economic Development Agency (SZREDA), Bulgaria. A few months ago I joined the Agency with the idea that with my work and efforts I can contribute to the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our region and in Bulgaria in general. And I was not wrong. One of the ways to do this is the INNOGROW project.

For the past six months our team has worked very hard and like all tales at the end of the second semester of the project there was a happy end – we made our first policy recommendation, but I will get to this later.

My story in the second semester of the project started by participating in a Steering Commeettee meeting in the city of Jelgava in November 2016. Besides that the city looked like it came out of a Christmas post card, we had a wonderful meeting with the other project partners – we discussed what we have done so far for the project, what we can improve and what is coming up ahead until the end of the semester.

We have successfully finished activity A1.4 “Investigating the factors that influence rural economy SMEs to adopt innovation” as a project partner. We are looking forward to taking down the last of these type of activities – A1.3 “Analyzing existing measures in INNOGROW regions for promoting innovation in rural economy SMEs” which is about to start.

Every good story has at least one major event in it. Cinderella had a dance ball, we had a public consultation meeting. You might say that it is less exciting but we can argue. Our public consultation meeting was part of another event that was about the promotion of the Investment plan for Europe. In our panel, our executive director Rumyana Grozeva presented the INNOGROW project, some of the good practices that we have found and she discussed the potential benefits of the business of adopting innovation. During the networking session of the meeting we met with some entrepreneurs from rural areas that we didn’t know.

We have also participated in third party event – Agro Forum 2017 in the city of Plovdiv. During the event there were presented good practices of adopting innovation by rural SMEs and the ways to fund them by applying for Horizon 2020. I had the possibility to present the INNOGROW project and in the following discussion one businessman gave a good idea for policy recommendation that we will try to apply.

On the 2-3 of March we travelled to Italy for our first interregional workshop (and for the pizza as well), that was hosted in the wonderful town of Lecco. We brought along with us as a stakeholder the dean of the Agricultural faculty of Trakia university. Besides his academic background he has a lot of experience in developing many projects for innovative farming.

On the 22nd of March we have organized our second stakeholder meeting with representatives from R&D facilities in our region, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Agricultural Faculty of Trakia university, the Ministry of Economy, the National Agency for supporting SMEs. We had also experts from one of the biggest banks in the country. It is very hard to get together on a single solution for the problems of rural SMEs for adopting innovation, but all of us backed the idea for nurturing a new type of a collaboration between businesses that we formed in a policy recommendation for the Annual programme for implementing the National strategy for stimulating rural SMEs in Bulgaria for 2017, which was the perfect way to end this semester.

Myself and the others from our team are looking forward to even better achievements in the next semester!