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 are the specific steps for introducing open innovation? You shared some of them, but how can they be systematised?

Interviewee: In my opinion, specific steps for introducing of open innovation need to be taken first of all by the State. I consider this is a state policy and the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Education and Science in Bulgaria should be open to this topic. This means that the forums that are organised between business and science should encourage this type of open innovation. In my opinion, at a EU level the role of the European Commission and its Directorates-General is crucial for European Structural Investment Funds. They have to be involved in this subject and of course the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. But the European Commission – this is the facilitator for implementing a European policy for open innovation.

Interviewer: Could you please describe other benefits that are provided by open innovation?

Interviewee: Other benefits are related to the fact that open innovation and information sharing, project ideas, research and innovation results can lead to a situation where a research institute, university, or business organisation instead of spending resources on certain scientific discoveries, can benefit from already implemented projects somewhere else in the world. There is no need to open a field for work in areas where the necessary research has already been done. And it does not matter whether in Korea, the United States of America, Canada, or France. That is why, with open innovation, sharing information about such research results can save many resources aimed at projects that have already been implemented. In my opinion, this is a huge benefit of open innovation.

Interviewer: Very well. How would you define the risks that open innovation creates for business? Are there any risks?

Assoc. Prof. Evgeni Evgeniev: In my view, on the one hand, open innovation is definitely significant and useful. I have already expressed my opinion in this perspective and the advantages are much more. But there are also disadvantages, related to the fact that when a company allocates enough financial resources to reach a prototype product for the market, it spends a lot of funds for years. When another competing company starts doing the same, and achieves the same results for two years instead for ten years, this becomes an issue. Information sharing or open innovation can sometimes make the champion, the company that has already devoted a resource to reach a certain level of research, may lose its positions due to the fact that some other company has come out with competitive advantages, because it has received additional information with less efforts. That is why there is always a risk for business, but open innovation, in my view, could be encouraged in the area where partnership and cooperation exist. And for that part, which is extremely confidential and affects intellectual property rights that have not been received yet, I think closed innovation is more appropriate. A mixed model of action is needed and the open innovation policy should not necessarily mean full discovery and encouragement of full opening for business. This will never happen and is not realistic.

Interviewer: All right. And what is the interaction between open innovation and intellectual property?

Interviewee: I think I opened the topic. Open innovation and intellectual property are definitely in close synergy, and of course, the possibility of violating intellectual property rights in the process of open innovation implementation should not be underestimated. But as I have already pointed out, the advantages of open innovation policy are much more than the disadvantages.

Interviewer: All right. And the last question: How can open innovation be promoted at a national, European, and international level? You have already commented the possibility at a national level. Perhaps, in this case, let's concentrate discussing the promotion of open innovation at European and international levels.

Interviewee: In my opinion, a European policy for open innovation might be encouraged via a Directive. It could be used as an encouragement for the EU Member States to move towards open innovation. This policy could also be promoted through forums and conferences, organised by the European Commission, which is usually determined as the backbone of European policies. On an international level, of course, the European Commission works in partnership with supranational institutions such as the World Bank. I would say that it is an institution that could help support the process of introducing open innovation on a global scale. So if we want to go from European to international level, perhaps international cooperation should be established between the European Commission as a representative of the Member States of the European Union and the World Bank.