The Bulgarian Innovations - Who Will Let the Genie out of the Bottle

Are our innovators timid or they are lacking financial support to stir up a technological revolution with their ideas

The Bulgarian Innovations - Who Will Let the Genie out of the Bottle

Снимка: Pixabay

Автор: Toni Grigorova

Bulgarian innovators have traditions and achievements, but... There are still many “Buts” that prevent innovative ideas from being realised and commercialised. Innovation is inherent to Bulgarians, but we are unable to walk the path from the idea to the product that can find its place on the Bulgarian and the global market. On the innovation map of Europe, together with Romania, we continue to be at the periphery with a reputation of timid innovators, even though the term “timid” is not very suiting to Bulgarian inventors. But data is data, and according to it, Bulgaria remains at its level of 2010 with respect to a number of indicators on the condition and development of the innovation potential, states the Innovation.bg report for 2018. The IT sector is the good exception.

The Fuel

The facts show that Bulgarians are very creative and give birth to many ideas for innovations and new technologies, they have free imagination and can invent all kinds of miracles of technology. But the good news usually ends here, because good ideas get to market realisation provided the existence of many other factors, which are clearly missing in Bulgaria. Having a really good idea is no guarantee for success. In order to walk the long path to the market, a lot of money is needed, as well as a comprehensive infrastructure that favours the commercialisation of any useful innovation. Our inventors note that if Western Europe sees an interesting idea somewhere in the world, they are not indifferent. Thus, the West acquires the know-how and the lasting result of the revolutionary novelties. This is not the case with us. Some get awards for innovation, but the five-minute glory rarely helps them to raise the necessary financial resources for the high jump to the global market.

Produced in Bulgaria

Point L is a company specialised in the development and production of automated systems for the management of continuous technological processes in the industry. These systems are relatively inexpensive, of guaranteed quality and have the so-called distributed logic. They are almost 20 years old, but they continue to work and, of course, are already at another stage of their technological development. In 2005, the company won the prize for a small innovative enterprise of the year, which started to be given traditionally by the Applied Research and Communications Foundation. “We did not want to sell the technology and it remained entirely Bulgarian. We incorporate it on our own and continue to do full engineering. This is an open-type system. Big companies are trying to become monopolies that create customer dependency, and we do not want to do that. Despite being small, we still continue to exist and live by our work and our ideas, which we manage to take to a market realisation,” says Petar Petrov, founder and manager of Point L. The team continues to improve their first successful development, meanwhile, creating new products. However, this requires a lot of time and consumes significant financial resources. It’s usually in the power of rich companies, and this small team of innovators is trying to play this big players’ game.

The Tortoise and the Hare

For years, the Innovation.bg report of the Applied Research and Communications Foundation has been showing that Bulgaria continues to lag behind the EU in terms of innovation and that our companies do not invest enough in innovation. Whatever efforts have been made, they have not led us ahead in the rankings. But that’s not the point. It is more important to realise that it is innovation that gives the real chance for the tortoise (in this case Bulgarian companies) to outrun the hare (the big companies that dominate the markets). The question is how to find the financial resources that play the role of fuel and with which innovation is to be launched into the “market orbit”. We will hear Bulgarian entrepreneurs explain how a small Bulgarian company alone can hardly make a big breakthrough. If you don’t want to sell your company, this closes your doors to the market. Existing in an environment of global competition, dominated by business conglomerates and concerns, is a true heroism, often bordering with a willingness to live on the brink of survival.

Sharks and Sprats

There are many Bulgarian developments and inventions that get a patent. A lot of money is invested in order to obtain patent protection on a particular territory. But if someone copies your development, you have to fight alone against the theft of intellectual property. For large multinational companies, this is not such a problem as it is for the small players. In 2005, a Bulgarian company showed its patented development at the Plovdiv Fair. A representative for Eastern Europe of a large multinational company noticed it. Two years later, in one of the big technology magazines, an innovative product of the same multinational company was presented, which was actually based on the idea of​ the Bulgarian company. The patent is open, it is accessible, and it is not a problem to borrow, but huge financial resources are needed to start a patent lawsuit. The Bulgarian company did not have such resources and could not afford to defend its rights in the court. Thus, a patent is not a deterrent when the patent protection case must be dealt with by the victim, without the Patent Office and the State behind them. The big sharks eat the small fish and this is killing Bulgarian innovations.

That’s why it makes no sense to watch the movie “Timid Innovators” every year. If we want to be a leading power in innovations, someone has to let the genie out of the bottle, and also provide the financial mechanisms for that.

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