Supporting innovation in the Western Balkans - COST at Global Innovation Summit


On 18 May 2021, COST Director Ronald de Bruin joined the session Towards a Western Balkans regional innovation area – supporting innovation in the Western Balkans as part of the Global Innovation Summit 2021.

The innovation performance within the Western Balkans has improved over the past 10 years, but efforts are still needed to help the region to fully connect with the rest of Europe and beyond. With this purpose, the European Commission DG R&I held a dedicated session : Towards a Western Balkans regional innovation area – supporting innovation in the Western Balkans to inform on existing opportunities for innovation support for the region, and to create synergies between partners across EU programs and beyond.

Towards a connected ecosystem

The first part of this session, housing the COST intervention, reflected on the potential of a connected ecosystem to enhance Western Balkans’ innovation scene. Knowing that COST Actions build networks of researchers covering multidisciplinary themes, but also that the Western Balkan countries are full members with Kosovo being a Near Neighbor Country, the COST programme plays a key role in linking researchers from different European territories and global hubs. As the moderator of the session, Dr. Sinisa Marcic, said: “COST is one of the most popular programme addressed to the Western Balkan, it is most useful tool for any researcher to participate for networking and other reasons.”

 Director Ronald De Bruin took the floor to further describe how these links contribute to fully connect with the different stages of the innovation chain.

As he explained: “There are very strong pockets of excellence in the Western Balkan region already, the challenge is to connect them and make the ecosystem a prosperous one.  COST Actions are excellent environments to identify partners for further collaboration. The spin off proposals success rate is above 37%.” “The challenge is to strengthen the connections within the Western Balkan as well as with the rest of Europe and beyond. COST serves as a steppingstone, where participation is possible even without being member of a consortium. It is as simple as that.”

The session promoted collaboration and synergies among eco-system actors, encouraging local and international cooperation, strengthening the startup & innovation eco-system. Speakers varied from representatives of European Commission, the European Institute of Technology, the Enterprise Europe Network and universities.

COST and the Western Balkans

Western Balkan’s researchers see great benefits in joining COST Actions as their participations’ figures keep growing since the beginning of Horizon 2020.  The number of individual participations has doubled and involves almost 3000 researchers; the number of leadership positions has increased fivefold throughout the last 6-7 years; one fifth of the networking activities carried out by individuals from the Western Balkan region were addressing the mobility schemes, such as short term-scientific missions (STSM) of a 3-month duration as well as training schools. It adds up to a total of 1205 training schools and 730 STSM participation completed.

Western Balkan Countries joined COST throughout the years: Serbia 1991, North Macedonia 2002, Bosnia Herzegovina 2009, Montenegro 2015, Albania 2018 and Kosovo* as a Near Neighbour.

Further reading:

  • More about this event here 
  • COST Newsletter – Western Balkans focus here
  • News “Western Balkans exploit COST for their benefit” here
  • Read a report on COST relations to the Western Balkan Countries here
  • COST Member Countries here