Mobile phones being charged on a smart bench in Belgrade

Southeast Europe

For countries in Southeast Europe (chapter 10), integrating the European Union (EU) remains an overarching policy goal. There are some positive signs: the region has surpassed its target for the number of highly qualified persons in the workforce and is close to achieving its target for the balance of trade and overall employment rate.

However, economic reform has been prioritized over policy-making in science, technology and innovation; this has eroded research capacity and impeded the shift towards the EU’s science-oriented innovation model. As a result, brain drain towards EU countries remains a chronic challenge. Within Southeast Europe itself, the Western Balkans Regional Research and Development Strategy for Innovation (2013) has created few opportunities for co-operation.

Notwithstanding this, efforts have been made since 2015 to align with the European Research Area. Each country is applying the EU’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Directives developing energy policies in line with the EU’s emissions monitoring regulation (#525/2013). All five non-EU countries in Southeast Europe have competed for research funding within the Horizon 2020 programme.

Countries are also developing their own smart specialization strategies, a de facto prerequisite for EU accession. The first to complete these were Montenegro in 2019 and Serbia in 2020. These strategies could provide the missing link for countries struggling to integrate their research and economic sectors; innovation systems within the region currently tend towards the outmoded linear model, with the region’s limited business sector activity being reflected in low patenting levels.

There are signs that active policy instruments are reversing this trend. Serbia and Albania have both established innovation funds and Serbia opened its first tech park in 2015, followed by another two in Novi Sad and Nis in 2020.

  • Figure 10.1: Socio-economic trends in Southeast Europe
  • Table 10.1: Progress towards key Southeast Europe 2020 Strategy targets, 2010, 2015 and 2018
  • Figure 10.2: Trends in research expenditure in Southeast Europe
  • Figure 10.3: Trends in human resources in Southeast Europe
  • Figure 10.4: Number of IP5 patents granted to inventors from Southeast Europe, 2015–2019
  • Figure 10.5: Trends in scientific publishing in Southeast Europe