WBC-INCO.NET (Western Balkan Countries INCO-NET )

WBC-INCO.NET was a network project for bi-regional dialogue between the EU, some of the Associated Countries to the 7th EU Research Framework Programme (FP7), and the Western Balkan Countries. The aim was to increase the participation of researchers from the target region in European R&D projects. A total of 26 partners from 16 countries were involved in WBC-INCO.NET. It supported the “Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan Countries”, a political dialogue forum of the EU 27, the EU Commission and the Balkan countries.

Logo WBC-Inco.net

Overview

Project title: Coordination of research policies with the Western Balkan countries

Website: www.wbc-inco.net

Project start: January 2008

Duration: 6 years (until end of April 2014)

Project coordination/Contact:
c/o Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI)
Linke Wienzeile 246
1150 Vienna
Austria

Ms. Ines Marinkovic/Ms. Carmen Siller
Tel.: +43-1-4950442-67
Fax: +43-1-4950442-40
E-mail: office@wbc-inco.net
E-mail: marinkovic@zsi.at

Background and objectives

The WBC-INCO.NET served to coordinate research policy in and with the Western Balkan countries. These include Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. Ongoing projects and initiatives were bundled to make use of synergies and fill existing gaps with new structural measures.

Among other things, the project pursued the following objectives:

  • to support the bi-regional dialogue about R&D policies between participating countries; thus, the project supported the “Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan Countries”, which was set up in 2006. It serves as a political forum for the exchange of information regarding R&D policy in and with the Balkan countries (see below).
  • to identify the R&D priorities and potential in the target countries in a transparent and methodologically founded way; these are to serve the target countries in the formulation of their research policies and strategies and find an entrance into the 7th Framework Research Programme (FRP) of the EU;
  • to prepare the researchers of the Western Balkan countries for a participation in EU projects of shared interests and to improve their participation in these projects.

The WBC-INCO.NET built on the results gathered in the context of the Project SEE-ERA.NET and pursued a narrow collaboration with the follow-up project SEE-ERA.NET PLUS.

A special feature of this INCO-NET was the fact that the target region (with the exception of Kosovo) does not consist of “third countries” in the sense of the 7th FRP but rather of states associated to the 7th FRP (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). This means that these countries are not subject to any special status (i.e. there are no specially tailored calls in the 7th FRP), and they take part in the 7th FRP under normal conditions just like the EU member states and they have the same rights and obligations.

Partners

The consortium of the WBC.INCO.NET consisted of 29 partners from 16 countries:

  • Austria: Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) – Coordination
  • Albania: Albanian Agency for Research, Technology and Innovation (ARTI)
  • Albania: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy (METE)
  • Albania: Ministry of Education and Science (MOES)
  • Albania: Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (MZOS)
  • Belgium/Spain: Joint Research Centre - IPTS (JRC-IPTS)
  • Belgium/Turkey: Turkish Research and Business Organizations A.I.S.B.L. (TURBO)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Foundation for Higher Education World University Service (SUS BiH)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ministry for Civil Affairs (MCA)
  • Bulgaria: Ministry of Education and Science (MES-CRA)
  • Germany: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR Project Management Agency)
  • Germany: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) (BMBF)
  • Greece: General Secretariat for Research and Technology (of the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, Greece) (GRST)
  • Greece: South East European Research Centre (SEERC)
  • Italy: Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea (APRE)
  • Kosovo: Kosovo Education Centre (KEC)
  • Croatia: Institute of social sciences Ivo Pilar (IvoPilar)
  • Macedonia: Ministry of Economy (MOE-MK)
  • Macedonia: Ministry of Education and Science (MON-MK)
  • Montenegro: Directorate for development of small and medium-sized enterprises (DDSME)
  • Montenegro: Ministry of Science (MoS-ME)
  • Netherlands: Universiteit Maastricht (United Nations University Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology) (UNU-MERIT)
  • Austria: Federal Ministry of Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) (BMWF)
  • Austria: Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft mbH (Austrian Research Promotion Agency) (FFG)
  • Serbia: Mihajlo Pupin Institute (MPI)
  • Serbia: Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (MESTD)
  • Slovenia: Slovenian Business & Research Association aisbl (SBRA)
  • Slovenia: Slovenian Ministry for Higher Education, Science and Technology (MESCS)
  • Turkey: Türkiye Bilimselve Teknolojik Araştırma Kurumu (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) (TÜBITAK)

Project structure

In the context of the WBC-INCO.NET, 8 work packages were handled that dealt with the following responsibilities:

  1. European and regional dialogue
  2. Setting priorities for the structuring of the participation in the 7th FRP
  3. Monitoring and analysis of the R&D cooperation
  4. “Capacity building” (setting up capacities)
  5. Building the network and improving participation in the 7th FRP
  6. Project management
  7. Public relations work
  8. Innovation promotion

Activities

In the context of the different work packages, numerous analyses were carried out, and their results were used for the political dialogue.

The focus was on the exchange of views among the project partners, but in particular also on discussions with representatives of different executive boards of the European Commission (DG Research, DG Expansion, DG Education and Culture, DG Information Society and Media, DG Regional Policy as well as DG Enterprise and Industry). One of the aims was also to achieve coordination with other INCO.NET projects.

The BMBF and the International Bureau of the BMBF at the DLR Project Management Agency, part of the German Aerospace Center, were the leaders of work package 2 (Priority setting). In this context, a workshop took place in Bonn on April 10 and 11, 2008, during which the methodological approach and initial results concerning which subjects should be prioritised were discussed. During this, the results of two EU-sponsored projects, for which priorities for the Western Balkan Countries had already been defined, were discussed: in the area of agriculture/food technology (BAFN – Balkan Agro Food Network) and in the area of ICT (SCORE – Strengthening the Strategic Cooperation Between the EU und Western Balkan Region in the field of Information and Communication Technologies Research).

Building on the workshop results, seven consultation workshops were carried out after intense preparation. In these workshops, representatives of the Western Balkan Countries discussed the most important joint research subjects in seven priority subject areas for the Balkan countries with representatives of EU Member States. Experts from the areas of science and politics as well as some national contact points and representatives of SMEs were present. The following consultation workshops took place:

  • Information and communication technologies on December 10, 2008 in Belgrade/Serbia;
  • Agriculture, biotechnology, food on January 15-16, 2009 in Podgorica/Montenegro;
  • Health on May 12-13, 2009 in Tirana/Albania;
  • Transport on May 18-19, 2009 in Sarajevo/Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Environment on June 16-17, 2009 in Skopje/Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;
  • Social sciences and humanities on September 19-20, 2011 in Vienna/Austria;
  • Energy on April 18-19, 2012 in Maastricht/Netherlands.

In preparation for this, discussions took place with representatives of the European Commission that are responsible for the respective subject areas.

The results – regional research priorities for the Western Balkans – were communicated to the EU Commission directorates responsible for the FP 7 subjects and the INCO directorate as input for future work programs of the 7th FRP. In addition, they were presented to the “Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan Countries” (see below and http://wbc-inco.net/object/event/11271) and acknowledged by their representatives. The priorities in the area of ICT and agriculture/nutrition were adopted in the joint call of the SEE-ERA.NET PLUS project, in which 23 European research projects between the Balkan countries and EU member states were funded.

In addition, the BMBF and the International Bureau of the BMBF (IB) were also responsible for the organisation of three round tables that served the exchange with multilateral organisations and projects (e.g. UNESCO, COST, EUREKA, OECD, Worldbank, Regional Cooperation Council, Central European Initiative). BMBF and IB supported by Tur&Bo lead discussions with representatives of different EU Directorates General. In work package 8 (“Innovation support”), BMBF and IB were responsible for the task of “innovation support and adjustment of examples of good practice“.

The core responsibility of the WBC-INCO.NET was the organisation of the semi-annual meetings of the “Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan Countries”. This is a high-level forum for the political dialogue between the EU member states (EU-27), the EU Commission, the states associated with the FRP as well as the Western Balkan Countries. The members meet twice annually, chaired by the respective EU Council Presidency, the EU Commission as well as one of the Western Balkan Countries (on a rotating basis), to discuss important research policy subject areas and exchange information about ongoing activities. The following meetings have already taken place:

  • June 2008 in Ljubljana/Slovenia;
  • December 2008 in Paris/France;
  • May 2009 in Liblice near Prague/Czech Republic;
  • October 2009 in Zagreb/Croatia;
  • June 2010 in Belgrade/Serbia;
  • November 2010 in Becici/Montenegro;
  • May 2011 in Ohrid/Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;
  • November 2011 in Sarajewo/Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • June 2012 in Tirana/Albania;
  • December 2012 in Belgrade/Serbia;
  • June 2013 in Budva/Montenegro;
  • December 2013 in Zagreb/Croatia.

These meetings were preceded by the respective semi-annual meetings of the WBC-INCO.NET Executive Steering Board. This is where the most important project advances were presented and open questions concerning follow-up action were discussed.