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Balkan and Black Sea ICT Cluster Network Newsletter, July 2018

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Welcome to the first edition of the electronic newsletter on Balkan and Black Sea ICT Cluster Network (BBS ICT Network) Established in 2015, the BBS ICT Cluster Network connects 25 members from 12 countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Kosovo, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. Members include different BSOs such as associations, clusters, chambers of commerce or similar. Today, after 3 years the Network counts 15 full BSO members, and 10 BSO organizations that belog to the “friends” category. It is a phenomenal initiative started by representatives of the BSOs that have known each other for many years, collaborated on many joint projects, and who have developed strong mutual trust and reliance on each other. As a result, the initiative has grown quickly and joint representations on target markets related to exports have become numerous. The BBS Network today includes 1,117- member companies with a total of 44,965 employees, as well as over 90 academic institutions and/or research organisations, and it is open towards enlarging and accepting new members that are in line with its vision, objective and outlook, from both new and existing countries. The main goal of the BBS Network is to create a framework that promotes collaboration of ICT Clusters and organisations in the Balkan and Black Sea region as well as to ensure the exchange of best practices and success stories that could help SMEs facing common challenges affecting their growth, innovation and business environment. The Network has concentrated its efforts at improving the innovation and business environment of the economies involved and changing the outlook and perception of the regions in order to promote it as a vibrant Digital and Innovation Hub in Europe. Our mission is to strengthen the collaboration between cluster initiatives in the ICT sector from the Balkan and Black Sea region and to increase the competitiveness of this sector on the global market by means of specific actions and projects. Our vision is to see strong trans-national strategic alliances between ICT companies in the Balkan and Black Sea region that result in partnerships for large scale innovation projects. We strive to develop novel product-service systems together and thus increase the regional competitiveness and further development of ICT services and their position on the global markets. Our work is centered towards actively engaging in a paradigm shift in the business models of the ICT sector in the Balkan and Black Sea region, which will result in polycentric innovations and tight partnerships for valorisation and capitalization of the local strengths into agile cross-border business models. Currently, the BBS Network is supported by the Regional Economic Growth (REG) USAID Project and an international consultant that helps support the BBS Net members to develop a “Sustainability and Lobbying Strategy”. Considering the fact that members are BSOs themselves and funding is always a scarce resource, it is important that the network is inventive and creates diverse mechanisms in order to obtain financial self-sustainability. With the support from the REG USAID Project, the Network has submitted approximately 5 project proposals under the European Commission calls for proposals so far and has already received two grants. The first success story is the Green ICT development (GIVE) Project, which started on 01.12.2017 with a duration of 24 months, and whose general objective is to build up strategic cluster partnership in the field of smart green technologies among three vital industries - automotive, renewable energy and ICT. These projects enable the Network of BSOs to meet more frequently and to discuss other very important topics such as: visibility, positioning and promotion of the network; joint representation on foreign events; development of the BBS Net brand, logo, website, joint presentation, database of companies, register of IT workforce, etc. With the recent acceptance of the Green-Tech Cluster from Latvia, the Network was enriched with yet another regional representative, from the Baltic area, which naturally provoked re-branding of the “BBS Network” to “Balkan, Baltic and Black Sea (3B) ICT Network”. Furthermore, the Latvian Green-Tech cluster is the first cross-industry cluster which shapes the Network in multisector dimension and empowers it on another level. At the moment the 3B ICT Network works on re-branding so our aim within this Newsletter is to communicate this transition transparently and smoothly.

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The regular BBS ICT Cluster Network meeting was held at the beginning of this year on January 25th, in Sofia, Bulgaria, and included a review of the activities and decisions taken by the Network during 2017 and a discussion of the action plan for 2018. Mrs. Marina Blagojevic presented the results of a survey conducted among the members of the Network, which touched upon very crucial questions regarding the future development of the BBS ICT Clusters Network including: membership and membership fees, legal representation of the Network, the website and its business model, statistical data and general presentation of Network, the creation of working groups for a variety of topics, and others. The Foundation of Cluster Information and Communication Technologies was elected as a chairing organisation for the year 2018. Four organisations applying for membership in the Balkan and Black Sea ICT Clusters Network were presented and unanimously accepted as members: ICT Cluster – Varna, ICT Cluster – Burgas, the Georgian Cluster National Platform and the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the meeting, future activities, opportunities for cooperation and project collaboration were discussed. Among these was the development of the “Sustainability and Lobbying Strategy for the ICT Clusters of the Balkan and Black Sea Regions”. The strategy, whose development is currently supported by a consultant through the USAID (REG) project, will be used in the future as a join guidance and will cover the issues of the permanent secretariat, working groups, etc.

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After the first BBS Network meeting in Sofia, numerous presentations of the BBS ICT Network have been held. These included regional events such as:

• February, 20nd, 2018, Sofia, Bulgaria, EASME meeting
• February, 27th, 2018, Barcelona, Spain, Mobile World Congress
• March 22nd, 2018, Skopje, Macedonia, European Commission high level meeting on Innovation and Technologies
• March 22nd, 2018, Sofia, Bulgaria, TCI EU Conference
• March 27th, 2018, Kiev, Ukraine, Transylvania Automotive and Mechanical cluster conference
• March 27th, 2018, Sofia, Bulgaria, EU Parliament meeting
• March 28th, 2018, London, England, Conference related to Western Balkans
• March 29th, 2018, Skopje, Macedonia, Ceremonial MASIT Annual Assembly

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 • April 17th and 18th, within the SEE Automotive Conference - Connect & Supply 2018 in Novi Sad – Serbia

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• April 18th, 2018, Skopje, Macedonia, Western Balkan Summit

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 • Technology Forum, May 16th, 2018, Thessaloniki, Greece, where BBS Net was represented by 10 companies and 2 BSOs

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• May, 20th, 2018, Sofia, Bulgaria, Balkan Wine Festival

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On June 29th, 2018 the Balkan and Black Sea ICT Clusters' Network met in Cluj Napoca, Romania, and was hosted by Cluj IT in continuation of the Green ICT development (GIVE) project meeting. During the meeting, a draft of the Sustainability Strategy for Balkan and Black Sea ICT Clusters’ Network was presented by Anita Tregner Mlinaric and discussed among the members. The strategy is currently being supported by the Regional Economic Growth (REG) USAID project and is of great significance for the future development of the Network and the activities related to ICT Clusters from the Balkan region. Smart Green Technologies Cluster from Latvia joined as a new member of the Network.

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 Green and Smart Technology Cluster from Lativa is the new member of BBS ICT Network. Green-Tech Cluster is the first organisation member of the BBS Network, which develops cross-sectoral cooperation that brings together companies, educational and research institutions, as well as other organisations that partly or fully operate in the industries of green and smart technologies.

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In the context of accelerated development of the smart solutions market dedicated to computerization at an administrative level, the Cluj County Council has started a process of modernization of its services, communication, and management of specific information related to the institution's activity. During the next 6 months a team of expert members of the Cluj IT Cluster will work with representatives of the Cluj County Council for the implementation of the institution's IT strategy. "The digitization of internal processes, which are positioned at the interface with the citizen, subordinated structures and partner organisations, represents an essential step in the innovation at public institution level targeted towards increasing the quality of services, transparency and efficiency of work in the administration and reducing the public servant effort and eliminating errors. Through this project the Cluj County Council gives a positive signal regarding the institution's orientation towards a more efficient and intelligent management of its resources and the projects it coordinates. " Stelian Brad, Project Manager and President of Cluj IT Cluster.
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 Since its launch in 2016, Sоfia Tech Park has been very active in attracting and setting collaboration with the existing clusters in Bulgaria. The main goals of STP include: • Sharing and disseminating knowledge and good practices; • Project elaboration, including joint projects; • Support for campaigns and initiatives. Sofia Tech Park currently has cooperation agreements with - Bulgarian ICT Cluster, Bulgarian Cluster Telecommunications, Electric vehicles industrial cluster, Automotive cluster Bulgaria, ICEM (electromobiles) and others. Representatives of the clusters have been involved since the beginning of the project with the Research and Development and Innovation Consortium (RDIC) of Sofia Tech Park; the creation of the Laboratory Complex; and the strategy for the creation and development of the Science and Technology Park project in Sofia. ICEM has helped design and plan part of the park's infrastructure – the charging stations for electromobiles. They support various STP projects and have participated in numerous joint initiatives. Companies from the sector have participated as exhibitors in the European Night of Scientists initiative in Sofia Tech Park and other campaigns. Some of our joint projects include: Bulgarian Innovation and Technology Hub (Bulgarian DigiTecH 4.0), which is approved by the European Commission, joined by RDIC teams (with 4 of laboratories) and the STP, ICT Cluster Bulgaria Foundation MOVE.BG, and Center of Excellence - (CETUS) from Technical University - Sofia. More- https://ithubconnect.com/ Consulting Cluster Veritas Ltd organizes TCI European Conference 2018 in Sofia Tech Park- www.tci-europe2018.com The Automotive cluster is another member of the community in the Incubator of Sofia Tech Park, which supports various events and initiatives. The organisation has intentions for investment in the areas for future development of the STP, as well as for joint activities with the Park Complex Laboratory.

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The laboratory complex is one of the key elements of Sofia Tech Park, consisting of 11 laboratories and managed by an independent R&D&I consortium, established specifically to help boost the collaboration between research and industry. The main objective of the rapid prototyping laboratory is to develop research capacity for the application of innovative technologies for materialization of virtual 3D models with complex forms in a very short time. Moreover, the laboratory’s mission is to create innovative practices and build unique and accessible opportunities for research and development in the field of 3D creativity through systems for quick physical manifestation of new ideas and products in order to shorten the time to market. The 3D printer with integral metal can be used within various projects in different companies, universities and research, and is one of the twelve 3D printers of such type in the world. It uses technology of adding and removing material that makes it unique compared with other currently operating machines. More can be found here - ftp://public.sofiatech.bg/lasertec-65-3d-pdf-data.pdf Companies use the 3D printer to develop prototypes of their products or of tools and blanks for their production. Head of the Lab is prof. George Todorov from the Technical University – Sofia.

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As a result of its continuous efforts to gain sustainability, the network has been granted with a COSME funded project. The Green ICT development (GIVE) project has started on 01.12.2017 and its focus for the next 24 months as mentioned above is the fostering of strategic cluster partnership in the field of smart green technologies among three vital industries - automotive, renewable energy and ICT. Smart green technologies encompass all industrial and human activities which generate positive impact to the environment while applying Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Today, traditional manufacturing industries, such as the automotive and renewable energy ones, should focus on finding smart solutions to answer the global environmental challenges they face by applying ICT. The GIVE partnership is very unique in that it has eight partners from six different countries, two different European regions, and across three vital industries. One of the main objectives of the GIVE project is the creation of a favorable framework for establishing a sustainable cross-industry strategic cluster partnership across Europe among the aforementioned industries by implementation of partnership building and collaboration activities, based on the development of GIVE internationalization strategy and implementation roadmap. Another focus is the promotion of GIVE partnership and the increased online presence of GIVE partners via identity shaping communication, promotion and online media activities. The GIVE strategic cluster partnership also aims to create a sustainable cross-industry, cross-cluster and cross-regional collaboration, focusing on the development of new value chain in the field of green smart technologies within the automotive and transport sectors, and to provide support for the internationalization of SMEs in third markets.

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GIVE partners met last week in Cluj Napoca, Romania, and participated in a focus group on cross-industrial collaboration among ICT, Automotive and Green Industry. The activity was part of the WP2 of the project aiming to contribute to the elaboration of Intelligence Market Report and GIVE Internationalization strategy. The focus group discussions were based on the results of the GIVE project survey, where companies from 6 countries and 3 different sectors participated. The common interests were grouped in two areas of further intervention of the ESCP - smart transport and electromobility, and smart cities. The next focus group will be in Sofia in September, and its main topic of discussion will be barriers for internationalization of SMEs.

Partners are the following organisations:

✓ ICT CLUSTER, Bulgaria (Lead partner)
✓ Albanian ICT Association (AITA), Albania
✓ Automotive Cluster Bulgaria
✓ Automotive Cluster Serbia
✓ MASIT ICT Chamber of commerce, Macedonia
✓ ICT Cluster of Central Serbia
✓ Cluj IT Cluster, Romania
✓ KBI Green and Smart Technology Cluster, Latvia

If you are interested in more information related to the GIVE project, please follow us on the following social networks:

Facebook page
LinkedIn group

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MASIT CONFERENCE 2018

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As a leader in connecting the ICT sector in Macedonia, MASIT has already successfully organized 14 regional conferences on ICT, each one including more than 200 participants coming mainly from ICT companies as well as high ranking officials from the Government and Ministries, Academia, Donor organisations and other relevant stakeholders from the South East Europe region. Leveraging its domestic, regional and international experience and wide network of contacts, MASIT is announcing its 15th annual conference this year with the ambition to bring together all interested parties and address relevant hot issues that have been raised in the last years.

This year the main topic of the conference is Digital transformation in Macedonia: Challenge or Reality? Within the conference framework, the main subtopics that will be discussed are the following:
• Internet of things
• Cyber Security
• Cloud Computing

For more info and registrations please visit the MASIT web site at the following link.

GIVE partners met last week in Cluj Napoca, Romania, and participated in a focus group on cross-industrial collaboration among ICT, Automotive and Green Industry. The activity was part of the WP2 of the project aiming to contribute to the elaboration of Intelligence Market Report and GIVE Internationalization strategy. The focus group discussions were based on the results of the GIVE project survey, where companies from 6 countries and 3 different sectors participated. The common interests were grouped in two areas of further intervention of the ESCP - smart transport and electromobility, and smart cities. The next focus group will be in Sofia in September, and its main topic of discussion will be barriers for internationalization of SMEs.



Partners are the following organisations:

ICT CLUSTER, Bulgaria (Lead partner)

Albanian ICT Association (AITA), Albania

Automotive Cluster Bulgaria

Automotive Cluster Serbia

MASIT ICT Chamber of commerce, Macedonia

ICT Cluster of Central Serbia

Cluj IT Cluster, Romania

KBI Green and Smart Technology Cluster, Latvia

 

If you are interested in more information related to the GIVE project, please follow us on the following social networks:

·       Facebook page

LinkedIn group

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