[Focus Article] – Towards a Western Balkans regional Innovation Area – Supporting Innovation in the Western Balkans

During the Austrian Eureka Chairmanship 2020-2021, the Styrian Business Promotion Agency (SFG) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) are joining forces to organise the “Global Innovation Summit 2021″ from May 18 and May 20. B2B meetings are brought to you by Enterprise Europe Network. Many national and international organisations, companies and clusters are supporting the themes of the conference – Green Transition, Digital Transformation and post-COVID recovery of economy and international RTI cooperation.


The Western Balkan region has considerably improved in terms of innovation performance in the last ten years and the Global Innovation Summit 2021 is another opportunity to meet like-minded innovative people. Moreover the European Commission is organising a session focusing on the Western Balkan region: “Towards a Western Balkans regional innovation area – supporting innovation in the Western Balkans” on May 18.

The Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’ will provide opportunities to students, researchers, innovators and cultural operators so that they access new markets, become more competitive and build sustainable prosperity. A deep innovation agenda will be essential for enhancing human capital development as well as the development of a sustainable innovation ecosystem.

Two topics are envisaged during the Western Balkans session: Towards a connected innovation ecosystem and Access to finance support for SMEs. In these two sessions participants will learn more on the opportunities for innovation support for the Western Balkans organisations and their partners across EU programmes and beyond, aiming to achieve synergies. Cooperation possibilities with International Financing Institutions, Knowledge and Innovation Centres (KICs), intergovernmental organisations and regional innovation investments will be explored.

Towards a connected innovation ecosystem – How to release the full potential of WB innovation by building a connected ecosystem supporting their development. The session aims to facilitate collaboration and synergies among eco-system actors, encourage local and international cooperation, strengthening the startup & innovation eco-system and influencing mindset change by raising awareness and creating opportunities.

Access to finance support for SMEs – Where to look for opportunities? How to apply? Do you have the needed requirements to apply? Going beyond grants – how can the Western Balkan companies be best prepared for the future in their efforts to raise funding to foster growths? This workshop will present collaboration schemes with EU and other organisations to increase Western Balkan SMEs’ capacity to access finance.


Other general topics under discussion at the Global Innovation Summit 2021

Green Transition  

Where are we going in terms of climate crisis? What is the deal with renewable energies? Will green technologies “save” the planet? What will life look like in the future? A Green Economy can be thought of as an alternative vision for growth and development; one that can generate growth and improvements in people’s lives in ways consistent with sustainable development. A Green Economy promotes a triple bottom line: sustaining and advancing economic, environmental and social well-being!

The Green Deal as an economic, ecological and social transformation process is one of the centre pieces of political discourse at both international and national levels. One fundamental goal of the summit is to support and connect the innovative developments towards green transition and the associated significance of the role of research and invention programmes.

Post COVID  

The facts are startling: The future has probably not been this uncertain in decades. In 2020, the global economy endured its deepest recession in over 70 year. The COVID-19 virus pandemic overturned lives and businesses. And while it is apparent that the virus will stay with us throughout 2021, we should start talking about development that will enable a transition to a new post-pandemic economy.

Perspectives on the restoration of the economy and international RTI cooperation after the COVID crisis is one dominant objective of the summit. We will take stock of the situation and reflect on the resulting consequences, and explore approaches to seeing the crisis as a chance towards an improved future.

Digital Transformation 

Digital transformation as the process of using digital technologies to create new business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements has been gaining in importance for decades: it regards technology, data, process, and organizational change. Simply going digital isn’t going to be enough anymore. The impact and prospects of digital transformation is an additional priority of the summit. Here we seek to promote networking among international SMEs and global companies from the Eureka network during a stimulating exchange of original ideas with regard to digital and sustainable development goals. For companies, a digital business strategy is viewed as means of transforming their business, streamline processes, and making use of technologies to enhance their interaction with customers and employees, and deliver excellent customer experience at the same time.



Pioneers and thought leaders, explorers and inventors, creative people and the brave – at the Global Innovation Summit clever minds meet and share what change and exploration is all about.

Bertrand Piccard is initiator, pilot, chairman, founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, Doctor of Human Medicine in psychotherapy and psychiatry. His believe is: “If you want to be really successful, and more than that, if you want to be really useful for others, you will need to go beyond knowledge, you will need to go into exploration, innovation, and pioneering spirit. Today we can invent the future.” And that’s exactly what he does, as his numerous publications, international lectures and projects show. In 2021 Piccard will give the top keynote at the Global Innovation Summit in Graz and thus give a very enthralling perspective for the green future after the pandemic. Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, will address questions of economic global governance, European economic integration and German economic policy. His keynote will focus on “The World Economy after Corona”.  

YOUR VERY OWN Opportunities … to connect and be transformed.

One of the most important demands of the summit is to bring people and companies together – and in the best case, far beyond geographical borders! Overcoming boundaries and exploring new connections: learning from one another, thinking further about an idea together and laying the foundation for cooperation. All of this will be possible as GIS 2021 offers contact platforms and web meetings in an unconventional manner: as soon as you have registered, you can see a list of names of all people who have also already registered. This offers a completely new matching experience that makes it possible to plan and look ahead to global networking and to get to know exciting personalities.

Cooperation partners and funding opportunities are the next step of your journey? This is THE chance to introduce yourself and your company by publishing a clear profile with detailed information! Connect and unite with supporters, partners and role models as well as those who want to work with you in your region. Open a stage for your business to find connections throughout Europe and the world – Be part of it!

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