Countries in the Eastern Europe and South Caucasus (EESC) sub-region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine) must boost their efforts to diversify and upgrade their economies through innovation for long-term, sustainable growth and resilience, in light of recent crises. Despite inherent structural weaknesses, these nations can draw from their strong research legacy and well-educated workforce to drive innovation-led growth. These are some of the main conclusions of the Interim Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook (IIPO) launched today at the 16th session of the UNECE Committee on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Public-Private Partnerships (CICPPP).
An update to the 2020 Innovation Policy Outlook (IPO), the IIPO will serve as a tool to assess innovation policy efforts in the sub-region, with a special focus on science-business linkages, and innovation enhancing procurement.
The IIPO deep dives into two central topics for innovation in EESC:
- Strengthening relationships and knowledge linkages between science and businesses for innovation-led growth
- Improving the use of innovation-enhancing procurement to create demand for and incentivize innovation for sustainable development
Science-business linkages are crucial for driving technology-based growth, but need to focus on aligning public research to the needs of local innovators. The findings further emphasized the potential role of innovation-enhancing procurement (IEP) in catalyzing innovation in EESC, given its large share of GDP of EESC countries. Implementing IEP mechanisms could significantly drive innovation in the private sector, contributing to green and digital transformation, and a transition towards a circular economy and sustainable development.
The launch event was opened by Ms. Cecilia Chroona, Coordinator for Regional Cooperation at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the donor of the project, and attended by innovation stakeholders from EESC and other UNECE countries. In her address, Ms. Chroona emphasized Sweden's commitment to supporting innovation as a driver of sustainable development and resilience in the sub-region. She underscored the importance of international cooperation, capacity building, and policy learning, highlighting Sweden's experience in these areas. Recognizing the value of the IIPO, she expressed hope that its findings and recommendations would help inform and strengthen national and regional innovation policies in the EESC countries.
After the presentation of the report findings, the IIPO focal points from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine shared insights on their countries' engagement with the IIPO process, the alignment of the IIPO with other ongoing initiatives and the impact of the publication on concrete policy developments highlighting how the recommendations are already being implemented.
The discussion highlighted the importance of aligning public research and development with the needs of the private sector and the potential role of public procurement in driving innovation. The focal points acknowledged the challenges they face but expressed a commitment to the recommendations laid out in the IIPO. Throughout the discussion, there was a strong focus on the need for improved governance, coordination, and policymaking in innovation. This was coupled with a commitment to action based on the report’s findings, with each representative acknowledging the importance of these insights to inform their respective innovation policies moving forward. The focal points also highlighted the IIPO as a crucial benchmarking tool for EESC member States.
In moving forward, EESC countries are expected to leverage the findings of the IIPO to inform national policy-making efforts and to continue engaging with the IIPO process. UNECE anticipates releasing the second full-fledged IIPO, incorporating insights from the interim IIPO and further promoting sustainable development and economic resilience within the EESC region. The collective efforts from all stakeholders underscore the commitment to fostering a robust innovation landscape in the EESC, a to a sustainable future.
The UNECE secretariat and the focal points also emphasized the critical importance of extra-budgetary funding for the continuation of the IIPO process and called on donors and development partners to consider providing additional funding to support the project into the future.
Note to editors
UNECE assists its member States to better integrate into the world economy and to harness trade, innovation and infrastructure financing and investment for sustainable development in the region. UNECE normative tools cover many diverse areas, ranging from trade facilitation and agricultural quality standards to ESG traceability of supply chains, innovation, and public private partnerships. UNECE also specifically supports its 17 programme countries in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, in close cooperation with UN Country Teams.