Southeast Europe

The Western Balkans are a region very much in focus of ZSI's work - extending to the whole Central and South Eastern Europe (and EU-13)

Our activities in Central, South Eastern, and Eastern Europe (with a priority on the so-called Western Balkan countries) are focused on the areas of research and innovation policies, and our experts on labour market policies have also been working extensively in and with the region.

ZSI has been working intensively with the region of Southeast Europe since the early 2000s and for many years, ZSI even hosted offices in Ljubljana and Sofia (Austrian science and research liaison offices). We have an extended network in many of these countries to policymakers, and agencies but also to the researchers in universities and the private sector - in all scientific sectors.

In the area of research and innovation policy, ZSI has contributed to capacity building, policy and strategy development, and implementation and critical assessments of the national innovation systems. One of the success stories is the creation of multi-national joint calls for research projects - which were implemented as FP7 ERA-NETs coordinated by ZSI (SEE-ERA.NET and SEE-ERA.NET PLUS). Another one is the outreach to more than 10.000 researchers interested in cooperation in and with the Western Balkan countries within the dissemination efforts of the project WBC-INCO.NET - which was continued through the WBC-RTI.INFO initiative (supported financially for several years by the Austrian Ministry for Science, Research, and the Economy) as an information portal for research and innovation policies in the region and continued in the frame of the International Service Facility for the European Commission. It is now hosted as Western Balkans Info Hub by the ZSI-coordinated POLICY ANSWERS project until 2026. ZSI also supports the Steering Platform on Research for Western Balkan countries. We also contributed to the development of research policies through a foresight project for the SEE region, or one focusing on the improvement of the evaluation culture, as well as through some dedicated projects for specific countries - e.g. the Kosovo.

We are leading several work packages in the project "WBC-RRI.NET - Embedding RRI in Western Balkan Countries: Enhancement of Self-Sustaining R&I Ecosystems" (Horizon 2020, 2021-2024) which supports the development of territorial Responsible Research and Innovation in the Western Balkan region.

Related to the activities in South East Europe, we would also like to highlight the expertise of ZSI in the so-called "widening" or "inclusiveness countries" (more or less the also so-called EU-13). ZSI contributed an inclusiveness manager to the COST Targeted Network BESTPRAC to enlarge networks of research managers and administrators in Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe, and to improve their capacities and highlight their importance in the research systems. Furthermore, the project MIRRIS (Mobilising Institutional Reforms in Research and Innovation Systems) aimed at encouraging a better exploitation of European research and innovation programmes and participation in the European Research Area of the target countries (EU-12), by setting up a process of analysis, dialogue, mutual learning among key concerned stakeholders, namely research, innovation, and institutional actors.

Our project Danube-INCO.NET was a flagship initiative for the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) supporting research and innovation cooperation, and provided a portal for cooperation for stakeholders active in policy dialogue, programme management, and the R&I community. Our Western Balkans Info Hub is a EUSDR Flagship Project 2022.

Funded by the Interreg Programmes, we coordinated projects leading to the establishment of a course programme for the management of projects in research as well as social and technological innovation (Excellence-in-ReSTI) and a platform to support research infrastructures (ResInfra@DR) in the Danube Region as well as Central European Rural Social Innovation Lab Caravans to build skills and capacities in social innovation, social entrepreneurship and circular economy (CERUSI). In other Interreg projects for the Danube Region and Central Europe, ZSI participates as partner (e.g. Made-in-Danube, Social(i)makers, SENSES, Danube Chance 2.0, Finance4SocialChange, etc.).

Furthermore, we are involved in tender projects, such as support to Serbia for the participation in EU programmes and a set of projects enhancing the research and higher education (systems) in Kosovo* (QUAINT, HERAS, HERAS PLUS) with funding from the Austrian Development Agency.

Several of our employees are also tri-lingual, speaking German and English, as well as local languages from the Balkans.

Please feel free to get in touch with us for enquiries about our competencies and networks in South East Europe.

Our contact persons:

South-East Europe and Western Balkans: Gorazd Weiss, Elke Dall

Danube Region: Martin Felix Gajdusek

Explaination of terms:

Western Balkan Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, (Croatia till 2013), North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo*

EU-13: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia

"Danube" Countries covered by the EUSDR:

  • EU MS and regions upstream of the Danube: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany – in particular Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria
  • EU MS and regions downstream of the Danube: Bulgaria, Romania
  • Enlargement countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia
  • Neighbourhood countries: Moldova and Ukraine (in particular oblast Odessa, Uschhorod, Ivano-Frankiwsk and Czernowitz)

Kosovo *: This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

Ansprechperson: M.A. Gorazd A. Weiss


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