The second SUPEERA/PANTERA workshop on EU-widening was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 25th May 2022. This second event was also organized in a hybrid mode, allowing for online and onsite participation, and gathered 38 participants. The overall objective was to enhance collaboration in R&I activities in Bulgaria and as for the previous workshop in the Baltic States, to facilitate knowledge exchange and showcase best practices of how international networking and cooperation between national stakeholders and key international associations and organizations can be beneficial for establishing long-lasting interactions and fostering joint R&I activities.
The event speakers included mainly representatives from the Bulgarian research community as well as from the two projects’ organizations, i.e., SUPEERA and PANTERA. Unfortunately, Bulgarian governmental authorities did not join despite significant efforts to get them onboard.
The session started with an overview of the gap between EU13 and EU15 countries on H2020 contributions and Bulgaria’s performances on this research program. This introductory note was followed by a presentation addressing the importance of the SET Plan and the CET in the current European and World Context. Bulgaria has up to date only participated to the SET Plan marginally. For instance, all EU13 countries are active on batteries (crucial in the future energy system), except Bulgaria. This poor engagement in the SET Plan could explain to a certain degree the low funding received from H2020. Contributing to the effort for turning around the current situation, a number of advantages arising from participating in the SET Plan were presented.
Thereafter three presentations representing the national research/education community and a presentation by the Sofia Energy Agency (SOFENA) were given. Three assistant/associated professors from University of Varna and University of Sofia provided an overview of key research activities supporting the energy transition and shared best-practices, both in terms of EU-projects as well as relevant lab infrastructure. On the other hand, SOFENA explained the important role they play in developing a sustainable energy policy in the capital of the country, showcased projects in the public sector and presented European green energy financial opportunities for Bulgaria such as Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds as well as LIFE.
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The four presenters participated in a panel discussion that started addressing barriers hindering the participation in EU funding schemes. All participants agreed on the lack of national energy priorities leading to a lack of national coordination, the existence of administrative burdens, and a rather poor knowledge capacity on EU in general. The difficulty to reach National Contact Points (NCPs), lack of network on EU level and the significantly less available infrastructure, where additional barriers mentioned and discussed during the panel discussion.
The second half of the workshop was devoted to present R&I opportunities for collaboration and funding within Horizon Europe (HEU) on the one hand, particularly looking at the Cleaning Energy Transition Partnership and Widening Calls, and Norway /EEA Grants on the other hand, the latter two as dedicated funding mechanisms for EU13 countries. An open discussion on how to further assist Bulgarian stakeholders on improving their EU participation took place and a number of recommendations were suggested. Among those, taking an active role during Info Days organized by the EC, particularly on the organisation of brokerage events; becoming an EERA member, opening doors for participation in agenda setting and network building and; registration of your interest and expertise for a dedicated call within the HEU participant portal.
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|Watch the workshop's recording|