On a journey to transform their economies, generate growth and create high-quality and sustainable jobs, the six Western Balkans economies (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia) will need to nurture a thriving innovation ecosystem to close existing gaps with the rest of Europe and ensure successful economic integration. According to our Global Competitiveness Report 2019, innovation capability is the area where Western Balkans economies lie most behind the rest of Europe. In particular, our report highlighted weaknesses in the practices and institutional capital that relate to innovation, such as companies’ attitudes towards risk, business-industry collaboration, quality of demand conditions and venture capital availability. These challenges have the potential to hamper future growth and productivity.
In late 2018, the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the region have decided to launch a Regional Accelerator to improve competitiveness and innovation. This brings together leaders from business, government, academia and civil society to identify, scale and accelerate initiatives that can contribute to increase the diffusion of innovative technologies and business models and direct innovation ecosystems towards more inclusive and sustainable techno-economic paradigms.
The Western Balkans Accelerator will grow a community of 50 to 100 companies and civil society representatives ready to support and work towards an action plan agreed upon by public and private sector leaders in the region. The model aims to drive systems change, highlighting the need for collaborative action on different levels – not just institutional structures and policies but also norms, attitudes, and the nature of the interaction of the key actors within the region. The Western Balkans Accelerator is part of a growing network of country-led public-private partnerships working with the World Economic Forum on Closing the Innovation Gap.
The Regional Cooperation Council will be facilitating this initiative on the ground in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence