Interview with Assoc. Prof. Evgeni Evgeniev, PhD

Professor at the University of Finance, Business and Entrepreneurship (VUZF)

on the topic: Open Innovation

Interviewer: Ms. Dilyana Petkova

Prof. Evgeni Evgeniev is a PhD Professor at the University of Finance, Business and Entrepreneurship in Bulgaria, working on numerous projects implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science. He has working for more that 8 years in the World bank, still being an external consultant to it. He has been part of the working groups that developed the national strategies for innovation.

Interviewer: What is open innovation and what makes it so popular recently?

Interviewee: Open innovation is a very interesting priority not only for Bulgaria, but also for Europe. Europe is lagging behind in the field of innovation and science in terms of funding intensity compared to the United States, China, and the Asian economies generally. Therefore, the only opportunity for the European economy to be more competitive is to focus more on sharing information, on the so called open innovation. That means sharing knowledge and facilitating the exchange between business, science, and states in order to utilise the best project results. For me personally, open innovation is a top priority for Europe and Bulgaria as a Member State of the European Union should follow this policy.

Interviewer: And when we talk about open innovation, perhaps it is better to clarify what closed innovation is and how it is compared to open innovation.

Interviewee: Closed innovation from the perspective of business and science means that we are talking about blocked information focused rather on interaction within the organisation, or on the institution for innovative solutions, scientific solutions, new technologies, and the respective exchange between them. That is why the innovation is defined as closed, not shared with other external stakeholders. While open innovation allows information to be shared. Of course, there are pros and cons – for that if the innovation should be opened or closed. For me the pros are much more. The reason is that better projects have the opportunity to be realised through open innovation when science and business meet each other. They get better qualifications, a better work capacity. This is achieved precisely through open innovation and interaction between business and science.

Interviewer: In fact, how can organisations use open innovation in their businesses? You mentioned some aspects, but maybe you could give us some specific examples.

Interviewee: In my opinion, there is a great relation and interaction between open innovation and intellectual property. In general, the difficulty in concluding public-private partnerships between research institutes and business organisations is the issue of intellectual property as a crucial milestone, as the business wishes to fully obtain intellectual property rights when financing a specific project. On the other hand, as in the case of Bulgaria, universities often do not have intellectual property policies. So, regarding this interaction between science and business in Bulgaria, intellectual property is more beneficial for business. However, returning to your question, how exactly can organisations use open innovation? In my opinion, they can fully benefit from open innovation by communicating more often with the business using the most convenient communication via Internet and relevant websites where they can share scientific projects and achieved results. For example, in Bulgaria this is not a common practice. Scientists have been working in laboratories on various projects for years, but information on the websites of universities and research institutes is missing. From this point of view, the business even has no idea that the innovations and research that are searched in Austria, Germany, the USA, sometimes could be actually found here, in Bulgaria. So, website communication for me is an initial phase and mandatory stage. On the other hand, organisations can use their open innovation activities by organising specialised forums and conferences where business and science meet, and the state is very often a facilitator of these relationships. These forums are extremely necessary, as businesses can expose their interests and science can expose its scientific capacity and accumulated knowledge, so that both sides can meet and start collaborate.

Interviewer: Do you think there are certain industries where the Open Innovation Model is more applicable?

Interviewee: Four industries are the priority for Bulgaria. I speak from the point of view of the country’s Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation, which is very relevant to the EU funding for the period up to 2023. I believe these four industries are suitable for implementing of an Open Innovation Model. I am talking about the following industries: Information and Communication Technologies (ICT); Mechatronics and Clean Technologies; Industrial Lifestyle is the third industry; and the fourth is Creative and Recreational Industry. In my opinion, in the prioritisation of these sectors, a lot of energy has been invested in the past five years when the Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation was planned. Several meetings between business and science are currently taking place to find their common point of action and possible opportunities for national or European funding of projects. From this point of view, I think that open innovation should be targeted as a policy. It is in these four sectors that they could have a great effect and realisation of projects in the future.