Bulgaria’s national innovation strategy places emphasis on the key role played by technology transfer in transforming new knowledge from science and research into business innovations, especially through SMEs. Successful companies have to think outside the box. Innovation is not just about tweaking existing products or exploring new sales channels. The most contentious area of competition worldwide is for access to cutting-edge technology, new products and competent workers. Flying the flag for technology transfer in Bulgaria for the past 10 years has been the GIS Transfer Center, a franchise company in the Steinbeis Network. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Kostadin Kostadinov, director of the transfer center, provides an insight into his work in Bulgaria.
One of the key challenges of politics is to make scientific insight useful for society as a whole. Fast-moving economies have to find a way to bring business, science and academia around one table with the aim of exploiting the full commercial potential of scientific research. Within the overlap areas between education, research and innovation, aspects which are the backbone of a modern knowledge-based society, intermediaries play an essential role. They bring the three parties together and actively support efficient knowledge sharing and collaboration. Alongside innovation centers and technology transfer agencies, this intermediary role is fulfilled by the GIS Transfer Center in Bulgaria. The center works as a network for delivering actual innovation and transferring technology from science into business.
The GIS Transfer Center was founded in 2000 to support the transfer of scientific insight and technology. The transfer center is a not-for-profit organization and was set up with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Bulgarian Agency of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The center has been a franchise company in the Steinbeis Network since 2003.
The activities of the center revolve around four key functions and goals:
The GIS Transfer Center currently employs 12 people (professors, engineers, business experts and Ph.D. students). The not-for-profit organization is managed by a board of nine directors. Over 40 external partners and consultants work on a freelance basis at the center. Their expertise spans a broad spectrum of technology fields.
The franchise agreement with Steinbeis resulted in a national network of 14 GIS Transfer Centers in Bulgaria in the most important areas of science and business. Their job is to support the transfer of competitive research findings, know-how, consulting and expert reports, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises. Eight new technology transfer units were integrated into the GIS Transfer Network in April 2013, all of which had originally been set up as part of a program called “Competitiveness of Bulgarian Economy,” forming the Bulgarian Technology Transfer Network (BgTTN).
GIS Transfer Center projects focus primarily on five key areas. The first revolves around fields where advice and new technology may be needed by SMEs, and how this demand can be addressed by scientific research. Projects in this area stretch beyond the borders of Bulgaria and can include countries like Serbia and Macedonia. The GIS Transfer Center also supports technology-based startups and innovative business clusters which should also contribute to the competitiveness of young companies. Another key priority is to provide technical infrastructure in the form of technology transfer offices to pave the way for transfer. As part of the EU Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, the transfer center also offers SMEs carefully matched service packages. Finally, the most innovative and competitive SMEs were supported by the center to participate in the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for scientific research.