In 2006, several years before innovation became the buzz word across the world, the EuroMed Innovation and Technology Programme (Medlbtikar) was making waves across the MEDA region. This three year, €7.24 million programme successfully offered the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) new and improved instruments to stimulate innovation. It also encouraged networking between the MPCs and the European Union.
The name Medlbtikar is a combination of the words 'Mediterranean' and 'Ibtikar' - Arabic for innovation. The programme's beneficiary countries were Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, and Turkey. And its beneficiary organisations were public and private entities concerned with increasing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Medlbtikar's operational base was in Cairo, Egypt.
From the outset, Medlbtikar's ultimate goal was to provide the MPCs with new ways to stimulate innovation and networking. At the same time, the EU's expertise encouraged good practice in technology and knowledge transfer in administrations, enterprises, industry federations and chambers of commerce. The result of this recently gained expertise is new innovation opportunities for SMEs across the region.
Medlbtikar offered a plethora of services along what it calls "five axes of activities". The five include services to incubators and technoparks; the development of technology transfer mechanisms, finance for innovation; and finally, innovation management and sectoral support.
The programme also developed various tools which were critical to its success. Training sessions and workshops crucial for future innovators were organised across the MEDA region and beyond. Meanwhile, reports, studies and guidebooks were produced and distributed to a database of relevant stakeholders. Crucially, high level meetings between key European and Mediterranean innovation figures were organised – these were vital for exchanging examples of best practice.
"Medlbtikar has definitely helped administrations, SMEs, industrial federations, chambers of commerce and others to develop an innovation culture in business," says Medlbtikar's Project Coordinator, Dr. Raimund Bröchler at INTRASOFT International. "It also supported the creation of intermediary organisations in charge of implementing support policies for SMEs, such as Innovation and Technology Centres, TechnoParks and Incubators as well as connecting beneficiary countries to well established European networks."
Medlbtikar has achieved many notable successes. They include a feasibility study on the Regional Innovation Financing Facility (RIFF) in each beneficiary country. This study resulted in recommendations that addressed various deficiencies in financing schemes across the MEDA region.
In addition, local business support organisations joined the EU's "Enterprise Europe Network" providing SMEs in Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Tunisia access to" a network of over 2,500 economics and technology experts in over 40 countries.
Cooperation has been a key feature in the programme. Besides being multi-country in scope, the Medlbtikar also participated with international organisations such as the World Bank and UNESCO.
When Medlbtikar finished in 2010, it was clear to all that the initiative had met its objectives. The programme had designed a myriad of innovation strategies and projects and developed an innovation culture for many businesses in the MEDA region. It also helped set up innovation organisations that have supported and will continue to support innovation in the years to come.