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Investment in science, research should be Europe's strategic priority

SOFIA, Bulgaria, December 25 ------ European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Iliana Ivanova said investment in science, research and innovation should be a strategic priority for Europe. She addressed the Nineteenth National Innovation Forum "Innovations and Sustainable Growth" in Sofia on Tuesday. 


Bulgaria's participation in the EU's Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme has attracted over EUR 94 million so far, which is more than the funds invested in Horizon 2000. The total number of participants has almost doubled compared to Horizon 2020. Ivanova said: "I am very happy to see that two Bulgarian regions have staked an interest in regional innovation valleys." She stressed this is one of the leading initiatives of the Horizon Europe programme approved in July 2022. More than EUR 170 million will finance activities in support of regional innovation valleys in Europe working together in high-tech excellence. Bulgaria has registered a regional innovation valley in Plovdiv (South Central Bulgaria) for Bioeconomy and Food. 


A Clean Hydrogen Valley will develop in Stara Zagora (Southern Bulgaria). Bulgaria could benefit even more fully from other EU initiatives, Ivanova stressed. For instance, the European Innovation Council has a total budget of over EUR 10 billion. She called it a "powerful tool" for bringing to life the market ideas of Europe's high-tech innovators. So far, however, only five Bulgarian deep-tech start-ups have received such funding, and four projects have been awarded Seals of Excellence. Ivanova hopes that a new Scientific Innovation Bill, which will be approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, will stimulate larger investment. If Bulgaria continues with these efforts, there may be Bulgarian companies in the rankings for industrial investment in R&D in the future, she said. 


According to the latest figures, European industry has significantly increased its investment in R&D over the past year. Ivanova said private investment growth in 2022 doubled from the previous year, surpassing that of US firms for the first time since 2015. Competition from other parts of the world is intensifying, but the EU remains a leader in the automotive industry and in high-value green technologies globally, the Commissioner added. The European Commission supports partnerships with industry, Ivanova stressed. Last April it presented a roadmap for low-carbon technologies in energy-intensive industries. In addition, the Commission is preparing a portfolio of industrial and demonstration projects supported by the EU's financial instruments. An Innovation Centre for Industrial Transformation and Emissions (INCITE) will be launched in mid-2024 to help industry with the challenges of decarbonization. Ivanova said: "We need to protect our economic security while developing our technological advantages." That is why a European Economic Security Strategy was presented earlier this year. It has three key components: promoting the EU's competitiveness, protecting the EU's economic security, and partnering with the broadest possible range of partners that share the same values and interests. In early October, the Commission unveiled a list of 10 technology areas qualified as "critical", which are subject to further risk assessment. The Commission is working with the national governments on research security with full respect for the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, Iliana Ivanova said.  




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