National InnoAwards are given annually to Bulgarian enterprises and start-ups that have successfully developed and introduced innovations on the global market
National InnoAwards launched by ARC Fund is the oldest innovation contest held under the patronage of the President or Prime Minister of Bulgaria. The Contest aims to showcase hidden champions and promote to wider public successful innovation and business models of enterprises. Companies are awarded for their innovations and innovation management (IMP3rove methodology applied). The Contest targets companies which innovations are already on the market, except “Innovative start-ups” where innovations can be in the pipe-line (TRLs 8-9). It is a marketing and networking tool for start-ups and mature companies.
The Contest methodology includes assessment of: academia-business collaborations, in-house innovation capacity, novelty, excellence and impacts of innovations in terms of market share, socio-economic effects, disruptiveness and potential to grow. The assessment includes f-2-f interviews and final jury stages as well.
Launched in 2004 as tool to foster innovative culture, by its 13 editions the Contest became part of the President Office agenda. In 2008 the EC recognised the Contest as best national practice to promote innovations and by then it is co-branded as Enterprise Europe Network-Bulgaria activity.
More than 90 awardees received label of innovativeness to be used in SFs proposals (recognised by the managing authorities as evidence for innovativeness), Horizon 2020 calls (SME Instrument) and investor pitching.

Resources needed

- Annual budget in Euro: Approx. 30 000 EUR (staff costs, ceremony)
- Funding sources: own resources
- Staff costs: 12 person/months
- IT platforms: contest management platform to collect nominations, institutional website
- Partnerships: President Office, jury members, media partners

Evidence of success

- The Contest is part of the President Office agenda.
- More than 90 innovative companies are awarded. Some of them were further recognised by other international awards such as the Sci Tech Oscar 2017 and nominations for EU Innovation Radar Prize 2016.
- Good media coverage of awardees – more than 50 appearances in national media per Contest edition.
- We are aware of 10 international contracts stemming from the Contest

Difficulties encountered

There are quite many contests on innovations and it is difficult to keep the identity. The best-selling proposition of the Contest is that all awards are presented by the highest level politicians of Bulgaria as top acknowledgments of the awardees.

Potential for learning or transfer

The Contest could be useful to other regions for finding hidden champions, promoting successful innovation/business models, building community of stakeholders (jury members, specialised media), and engaging policy makers as patrons of the Contest. The practice is well transferable to other regions that can further modify it to specific goals/challenges (foster academia-business collaborative links/ boost start-ups/sectorial focus, etc.) and smart specialisation priorities.
It provides good overview of the most active companies in the region, the innovation trends, and challenges for companies that are discussed in the f-2-f interviews at the evaluation stage.
It is relatively low-cost activity - in our case awards are intangible (popularity). Award packages may also include financial stimulus, mentorships, partner search service, access to finance service, etc.
Main institution
Applied Research and Communications Fund
Югозападен, Bulgaria (България)
Start Date
January 2004
End Date


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