Agricultural University – Plovdiv and the European Commission successfully launched the Regional Innovation Valleys for Bioeconomy and Food Systems in Europe
October 13, 2023 – The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, in partnership with our partner the Agricultural University – Plovdiv and the BIOEAST Initiative, launched the Regional Innovation Valleys for Bioeconomy and Food Systems. This initiative is a pivotal element of the New European Innovation Agenda, designed to establish 100 regional innovation hubs fostering technological innovation. These hubs hold the potential to drive the development of bioeconomy in both rural and urban areas, while also addressing innovation disparities within the EU, with a particular focus on Central and Eastern European nations.
The launch of the Regional Innovation Valleys for Bioeconomy and Food Systems marked a significant milestone in Europe’s efforts to bolster innovation in the bioeconomy sector. With over 150 in-person participants and an additional 300 joining online, the event attracted a diverse array of stakeholders, demonstrating the growing interest and commitment to the bioeconomy and food systems within Europe.
European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, and Youth, Mrs. Iliana Ivanova, addressed the initiative, and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Nikolay Denkov personally greeted the participants and met with the leading organizers. During his address, he highlighted the pivotal role of the bioeconomy in fostering stronger local agri-food chains and promoting collaborations between businesses and academic communities. The Prime Minister also expressed his government’s readiness to establish an interdepartmental commission dedicated to bioeconomy development, with the aim of initiating partnerships among BIOEAST countries in biotechnology, bioeconomy, and bio-based industries.
Furthermore, the Rector of the Agricultural University – Plovdiv, Prof. Dr. Hristina Yancheva, emphasized the critical role of academic institutions. She introduced the UNIgreen alliance, of which the Agricultural University is a member, and emphasized that cooperation forms the foundation of the Regional Innovation Valleys. These hubs unite key stakeholders from academia, industry, and local government to collectively address societal challenges.
Dr. John Bell, Director of the Directorate “Healthy Planet” at the European Commission, underscored the readiness of European legislation and directives and called for swift action. The Regional Innovation Valleys will provide a platform for experimentation and innovation deployment within vibrant and innovative communities. Moreover, the Minister of Innovation and Growth of Bulgaria, Mrs. Milena Stoycheva, outlined the state’s support for young entrepreneurs and innovators and their integration into the broader European ecosystem. High-level representatives from the European Commission and the European Investment Bank presented essential EU instruments for establishing a network of innovation hubs, shedding light on their specific characteristics and showcasing successful examples from EU member states.
Discussions also delved into opportunities for investment support for innovative projects, including companies, startups, universities, and research centers, through participation in the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU). Mr. Nicoló Giacomuzzi-Moore, Director, proposed the organization of a dedicated CBE-JU discussion forum in Bulgaria.
In closing, Prof. Dr. Vladislav Popov, Deputy Rector of the Agricultural University – Plovdiv, underscored the importance of strengthening education and skill development in the bioeconomy sector for Bulgaria and Central and Eastern Europe. The Regional Innovation Valley – Plovdiv will collaborate closely with the Agricultural University to drive progress in this direction.
This high-level event also featured an exhibition, showcasing the active participation of organizations such as the Rural Bioeconomy Alliance, Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking, and Bulgarian startups Naskomo and BeVine.