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Western Balkans gearing up for Horizon 2020 - Feb 21, 2014

Western Balkans gearing up for Horizon 2020 - Feb 21, 2014

While the scientific performance of the Western Balkan countries (WBCs) has improved in recent years, it still lags behind that of EU countries, both in terms of quantity and quality. Insufficient human resources, research funding, and facilities, as well as an inadequate regulatory regime are the main obstacles to improving the situation. The region is still recovering from the mass migration of large numbers of scientists, engineers, and technicians which took place during the 1990s, while a lack of expenditure in research and development is also hampering performance. The Western Balkans applied for 38 patents in the United States in 2012, compared to an average of 25 patents for the leading U.S. research universities and institutions. Each patent also requires much more R&D investment for these countries. 

Integrating the research and innovation systems of the Western Balkans into the European Research Area is an important step in overcoming poor scientific performance. Since 2008, the EU-funded project, WBC-INCO.NET, has played its part in nurturing the relationship between the EU and the WBCs in this area by providing high quality targeted information on research in the Western Balkans. 

The WBC-INCO.NET portal provides a database of calls for proposals by country and programme, as well as a store of past and ongoing projects and research infrastructure in the region. It keeps researchers and other stakeholders updated on activities within the scientific community, and provides more in-depth information through its regular eJournal, analytical studies and reports and directories. 

As WBC-INCO.NET nears its final phase, its efforts appear to be bearing fruit. From innovation partnerships to enhancing enhance marine and maritime research, collaboration is growing stronger and WBCs are increasingly eager to get involved in EU projects. In 2011 alone, researchers in Slovenia were involved in 98 projects worth a total of ¿32,401,000 while their counterparts in Croatia worked on 57 projects worth ¿18 542 000 and those in Serbia and Montenegro worked on 36 projects worth ¿9 773 000. 

WBC-INCO.NET enters its final phase just as Horizon 2020, the EU's new seven-year Research and Innovation programme, kicks off. The Western Balkan research community is looking to the new programme to carry on the strong momentum on EU projects built up in recent years, and the organisers of WBC-INCO.NET's final upcoming conference are clearly mindful of this. 

The 'Towards 2020: New Horizons for RTD and Innovation in the Western Balkan Region' conference, which will take place on 27 and 28 March 2014 in Vienna, aims to provide an environment to build new partnerships for cooperation in Horizon 2020. The conference will host a brokerage event to support the networking and cooperation in Horizon 2020 by focusing on calls in selected areas of secure, clean and efficient energy, information and communication technologies and inclusive, innovative and reflective societies. 

The conference will bring together about 200 science policymakers, scientists and industry representatives from the Western Balkan Region, South East Europe (SEE), Danube Region and other EU countries. It aims to provide scientists with a platform for networking and promoting dedicated projects or own innovative products in selected fields.

Feb 21, 2014