In September 2019 six innovative companies working in the smart specializations: Mechatronics and clean technologies and IC; Technical University Gabrovo, Gabrovo Municipality and Gabrovo chamber of commerce and industry established a new Regional Innovation Centre “Ambitious Gabrovo” (RIC) . Later on the association membership is expanded by the Gabrovo Regional Administration and another company.
The Center’s main goal is to increase the capacity and competitiveness of SMEs trough provision of expert support for projects in the traditional manufacturing sectors, based on the smart specialization of the region. The competencies on specific products and technologies of the Technical University of Gabrovo, business NGOs and the local branches of the suppliers’ chains has been mobilised for the collaboration.
RIC is a flagship example of the municipality commitment to the local entrepreneurship and innovation policy, that convinced the jury the Committee of the Regions award the city European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) label in March 2021.
The story of RIC goes back to 2016, when Gabrovo Municipality enters ESSPO with the idea to develop a SMEs support system which will increase the capacity of the companies through provision of consultancy and expertise without any financial support of from ERDF or other sources. The Municipality established a stakeholders’ group for innovation which started regular meetings since the beginning of 2017. The peer review made by another ESSPO partner: Tecnalia (ES) exposes an incipient innovation ecosystem, that needs to be better connected and structured. There is a lack of intermediary organisations to support R&I actors. There are some companies cultivating innovation culture, but this practice needs to be spread to other companies. The cooperation among the existing R&I actors needs to be reinforced not only for technology transfer but also to adapt training programmes to the needs of companies and increase the innovation capabilities of graduates. Some fragmented clustering activities should be developed and structured for increasing the competitiveness of companies (traditional industries and more innovative sectors) cooperating in the value chain.
On the other hand the first rounds of ESSPO regional stakeholder group debates revealed the Municipality is expected not to be a technology transfer partner, but to develop and integrate the demand and supply for expertise support based on public-private principle. Then many innovative companies as MECHATRONICA, AMK, CERATIZIT, IMPULS and others, brought up a challenge of how to bring smart people and recruit talents, and how to integrate their intelligent ideas into the existing companies.
An inspiring solution for such a challenge was given by the good practice of Bind 4.0. programme presented in ESSPO workshop by Tecnalia. Therefore the partners and the stockholders used the opportunity of the study visit linked to international conference on Industry 4.0 and partner workshop in Bilbao, to lern more about the programme.
Gabrovo representatives have fund also many inspirations on the study visit hosted by Dev’Up in to Centre Val de Loire (FR). The needed help for a given SMEs can be provided from a rich palette of support services for SMEs offered by a number or intermediaries due to long lasting networking culture and effective, coordinated and professional ecosystem management. The Gabrovo idea of creating a place for young innovators has been enriched by the experience of an innovative approach of Lab’O. It is an incubator, an accelerator , but also as a place to live and work with dedicated resources for creating interactions between the “labonautes” - persons who work on the Lab’O. The “labonautes” have access to a rich menu of services: Concierge, Specialised conferences, Skills-trading platform, An investment individual support, advices from expert partners, coaching in how to pitch, network with potential clients, partners, financers, interconnections with other incubators and ecosystem. Inside the Lab’O there are 26 partners which propose different type of services. The governance of the place is also is quite unusual: with a strong participation of the companies and no juridical structure. Some traces of these practices are visible in the new Gabrovo institution.
Thanks to RIC new type of services have been available in the territory:, consultancy and expertise for development of innovations, “test before invest”, training and skills development. support to acquire investment, networking and innovation ecosystem development.
Even though the Covid crisis stopped an important investment project of RIC, it keeps its activity with moderated resources provided by the members.