1. Situational analysis of competitiveness and innovation (C&I) of local enterprises
The situation analysis of the competitiveness and innovation (C&I) of local enterprises will be based on the methodology of the “European Community Innovation Survey” (CIS), which since 2004 has become mandatory for all EU countries. In Macedonia, the National Centre for Development of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Learning (NCDIEL, external partner of MANU) has used this methodology for the first time in 2010. The CIS survey will be supplemented with topics covering obstacles faced by enterprises in the process of cross-border cooperation of Bulgaria and Macedonia. This activity will be conducted with the methodology of qualitative-quantitative research, through significant representative sample of 150 companies per region (300 in total) that will be subjected to a special survey questionnaire. The objective of the survey will be to generate statistical data necessary to carry out the analysis of competitiveness and innovativeness of the enterprises in both regions, i.e. North-East region in Macedonia and Kyustendil District in Bulgaria. The sample will be generated through relevant State institutions, contacting 300 entities per region, as the expected response rate is ≈50%. After the initial statistical analysis, 10 representatives per region will be selected and subjected to in-depth analysis.
2. Define knowledge gaps related to competitiveness and innovativeness; identified good practices
The outputs from the Activity No. 1 will be used as the main input in this activity. The understanding of the Competitiveness and Innovation (C&I) challenges and the potential of the enterprises in the targeted region will be used to develop methodology for analysis of the knowledge gap in the enterprises, but also within the C&I support institutions, business support organizations and other relevant stakeholders. At the same time experts will look for the good practice examples. The methodology will be based on the World Bank Mapping Good Practice methodology implemented in Republic of Macedonia for the Development of the Country Partnership Strategy for Macedonia for the period 2014-2017. The data gathered within the first activity will be analysed and used for the development of a report which will address the knowledge gaps within the enterprises, as well as the opportunities for higher involvement of the public institutions, the business support organizations, local public administration and other relevant stakeholders in the development of the enterprises’ C&I. The analysis will allow the identification of public organisations in the targeted CB region with the potential to support business with higher potential for C&I.
3. Innovation and competitiveness capacity building
Based on the collected data and developed report in the previous two activities, models of training for capacity building on competitiveness and innovativeness will be developed. The main purpose of those trainings will be to fill the gaps related to C&I within enterprises, C&I support institutions and organizations through their capacity building. Training will be conducted in several phases based on the approach train-the-trainers. In the first phase, 20 t will be trained in order to be able to conduct and disseminate the trainings. In the second phase, the trainers will have a target group of 100 trainees in total (from MK and BG) from the public (administration, schools) and finance sector, from NGO sector, etc. In the third phase, the trainers will conduct the training for 100 local enterprises from MK and BG. The training materials for the local enterprises will be adopted by the trainers in accordance with the relevant target group, and will include guest lectures and local experts from Bulgaria and Macedonia. Those trainings in the third phase will be held in Bulgaria and Macedonia with the presence of the enterprises of both countries which will increase the cooperation and networking between the enterprises, as well as networking between C&I support institutions representatives, NGOs, etc. from both sides of the border.
4. Implementation of innovation management and competitiveness tools in pilot companies
Along with the trainings provided to the enterprises, the public sector and the financial sector, the project aims to support at least 10 companies with lack of their own resources (mainly know-how), in the implementation of already defined innovation projects. The support will include capacity building and direct support in both development of the innovation activities and preparation of project applications for further financing of the development of new product/services.
Several experts will work directly on-site, in the companies, in order to detect possibilities for performance improvements, increased productivity and efficiency, optimization of processes, increased export, etc.; however, main focus will be set on using existing resources to develop new products and services for the selected companies.
5. Development of recommendation and action plan for improving competitiveness and innovativeness in the cross border region
In order to realize the advantages of regional economic cooperation and CBC the authorities form the two countries should provide relevant policies and initiatives. Under this activity, based on the acquired knowledge and experience gained in the implementation of the previous activities, a well-structured recommendations and action plan for improving functioning of local businesses and C&I support institutions will be proposed in a way which would create a friendly environment for competitive border relations.
The recommendations and measures that could accelerate the pace of CBC include:
- Recommendations to the governance at the national and regional level;
- Recommendations for local authorities;
- Recommendations to business support organizations;
- Recommendations for supporting the development of SMEs in the border regions.
These measures, initiatives and activities for supporting and stimulating CBC will directly lead to an increase of the overall competitiveness and the ability of the region to attract investment.
The draft of the final publication and the recommendations will be presented at a final regional conference where wider public and group of stakeholders will be able to comment the findings. The comments and conclusions of the conference will be included in the final version of the publication.
6. Communication and dissemination (including final conference)
The aim of this activity is to:
- Enhance the visibility of the project.
- Engage stakeholders and the target groups.
- Ensure the dissemination and sustainability of the project results.
This activity will ensure transparency of the project and will make project partners, donor, stakeholders, and wider population familiar with the project activities. Main communication tools will be project web page and bi-monthly newsletter, as well as social media tools such as Facebook, twitter, youtube video uploads, Instagram pictures, etc. At the beginning of the project, information flyers and brochures will be printed in Macedonian, Bulgarian and English language.
Bi-monthly newsletter is planned to be sent to all stakeholders and partners (more than 2000 contacts).
As a specific dissemination tool – the final conference is planned to be organised in Kyustendil District as a final activity in the 15th month of the project realisation. The conference will be attended by more than 100 participants, mainly from the targeted regions, but also representatives of private and public sector whose activities are targeting the economic activities in the regions.
7. Project management
This is a standard activity in every project. The main aim is to ensure smooth realisation of the project, to predict and mitigate the risks, to overcome the barriers, to steer the project in the right direction and assure good cooperation among the partners. The project management function will include:
- Coordination of the project (implementation of 4 coordination meetings; ad-hoc Skype meetings with partners according to the specific needs, day-to-day communication about the project activities; day-to-day management, financial management, communication with contracting authority and main stakeholders)
- Reporting – internal regular and ad-hoc reports as well as reporting activities towards the contracting authorities
- Monitoring (controlling all quantitative and qualitative indicators, milestones, and outputs)
- Internal evaluation of the project.
- Quality Assurance and Risk Assessment (monitoring & evaluation and quality assurance guidance including will be developed at the beginning of the project and it will be updated at every project meeting in order to predict and mitigate potential problems within the project)