European Commission has approved the Research, Innovation Operational Programme for the period 2021-2027

The European Commission (EC) has approved the Research, Innovation and Digitalisation for Smart Transformation Operational Programme for the period 2021-2027 with a budget of BGN 2.14 billion, the press office of the Ministry of Innovation and Growth said. 

The programme was presented in Brussels on 26 October  and received approval on 5 December - a record short time, the Ministry said. The new Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises Operational Programme 2021-2027 with a budget of nearly BGN 3 billion was also approved. It was sent by the Ministry to the Commission on 16 August and approved on 3 October. 

The Innovation and Growth Ministry will manage over BGN 5 billion over the period 2021-2027.

The implementation of the two programmes is expected to start in early 2023. Another BGN 600 million are being utilized by the end of 2022 under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, under which the ministry has already opened two programmes - for technology modernisation and Information and Communication Technologies solutions and cyber security.

The programme will be open to universities, research organisations, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and large companies in cooperation with SMEs. Some of the measures will be open to joint participation of the above mentioned with NGOs, large enterprises and municipalities. The programme has two priorities - "Sustainable development of the Bulgarian research and innovation ecosystem" and "Digital transformation of the public sector". 

The first priority will develop the already established Centres of Excellence and Centres of Competence, support technology deployment, knowledge transfer and shorten the path from research to innovation. Projects that have been awarded the "Seal of Excellence" under the EC's Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programmes will also be funded. Investments will be made in industrial innovation programmes to develop technologies to make regions more competitive and climate neutral.

The second priority will fund the digitalisation of the public sector, the increase of cyber security in administration, the creation of data spaces, open access to science, etc.

The programme contains three strategic interventions. The first is for BGN 140 million to build a national network of 12 digital and innovation hubs - alliances between business, research organisations and universities, NGOs and technology and business intermediaries. The second one - for over BGN 280 million - is dedicated to the development of the Centres of Excellence and Centres of Competence built under the Operational Programme Science and Education for Smart Growth (2014-2020). The third strategic intervention for BGN 50 million is a voucher scheme for SMEs to promote collaboration and exploit the potential in Centres of Excellence, Centres of Competence, National Science Infrastructure Roadmap sites and other research organisations and universities. 

With the latest approved programme, the funds approved for Bulgaria by the EC, within the mandate of the caretaker cabinet, become 9 with a total amount of over BGN 16.2 billion.