Advancing Inclusive Regional Mobility and Catalyzing Mobility-Driven Innovation and Knowledge Transfer in Western Balkans – Insights from First Consultation Meeting

Tirana, 18 July 2023 - The first consultation session of the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on "Advancing Inclusive Regional Mobility and Catalyzing Mobility-Driven Innovation and Knowledge Transfer in Western Balkans" was held online on 18th July 2023, kick-starting substantial dialogue among civil society representatives, think-tankers, regional experts and stakeholders in the Western Balkans (WB6) and the European Union (EU). The session, organized by the Center Science and Innovation for Development (SCiDEV) and part of the 2023 Tirana Civil Society and Think Tank Forum (CSF2023), sets the stage for developing specific policy recommendations for the Leaders’ Summit of the Berlin Process to be held in Tirana in October 2023. 

This TWG led by SCiDEV aims to explore inclusive regional mobility's potential in fostering cooperation, creating shared values among the WB6 countries and the EU, and catalyzing innovation through knowledge exchange, research and development and innovation (R&D/R&I) collaborations, entrepreneurial networks, and technology transfers.  

The need for sustainable funding schemes was a predominant concern, as inadequate funding is a significant barrier for the WB6 region in innovation, technology, and knowledge transfer. Another key theme was the necessity for better-coordinated efforts and knowledge exchange to advance regional technology and knowledge transfer. This includes diversifying grants and programs to build the skills of regional researchers and promoting new initiatives and project ideas. Addressing information flow and sharing was also critical. Transparent communication and opportunity promotion are vital to advancing regional mobility, innovation, and knowledge transfer. Initiatives like academic exchanges and the mobility of young professionals and students could foster better information and knowledge exchange by establishing innovation hubs, expert pools, regional research units, and foundations.  

The session also recognized the untapped potential of the region's human capital and the need to counteract brain drain. Empowering the diaspora community could be a strategic move to harness this untapped potential, attract new talent, and explore avenues for innovation, mobility, and knowledge transfer. Participants highlighted the importance of respecting local contexts and cultural backgrounds and advocating for regional mechanisms to advance innovation, mobility, and technology transfer. Collaboration between WB6 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Think Tanks was emphasized, particularly given the region's ongoing democracy backsliding. 

In conclusion, the ever-growing field of innovation and technology also allows good prospects for advancing towards more digital and gender inclusion initiatives that take into consideration the current digital and green agendas as well. Promoting gender equality and empowering young women to consider tech and innovation for their professional careers and advancements, while also ensuring access to funding for young entrepreneurs. A final fundamental approach that can play a pivotal role in boosting regional mobility is the exploring and testing of new digital and innovative ways.

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