Albania’s recent political milestone – the start of accession negotiation with the EU in 2022 – opens a new chapter for innovation and competitiveness in the country. With a traditional economy, the country has had steady growth since its switch to democracy three decades ago but showing tangible results in start-up development is important for Albania to move towards a sustainable economy.
Since Albania was considered to have untapped potential for start-ups, the European Union offered financing for projects to improve the innovative environment and breed new entrepreneurs. The “EU for Innovation” initiative brings best practices that enable ecosystem actors to come to life, facilitate them in working together, and support innovative start-ups.
When the initiative started back in 2018, it was obvious that there were entrepreneurial activities but that they were scattered and not helping the sector as a whole. EU for Innovation offered an address where resources could be pooled and activities coordinated.
“The ‘EU for Innovation’ has acted as a cornerstone of the ecosystem. We improved cooperation in the ecosystem; we created engagement platforms and repeatedly put emphasis on the importance of competition between stakeholders in order for the ecosystem to become more competitive overall,” says Sebastian Berwanger from the EU for Innovation initiative.
The government has added their support by initiating a law on start-ups as well as a grant scheme that will inspire new innovators over the next five years.
The EU for Innovation initiative filled in gaps in the Albanian ecosystem through an open co-creation process with key stakeholders. Taking this approach, the initiative piloted more than 35 projects from October 2018 to September 2022 and closely aligned its activities with stakeholders, policy makers and other donors.
Technology is an integral part of start-up solutions in Albania, whether in ICT, tourism, agriculture or agri-tourism, e-commerce, education, or health. Another positive pattern in the first cohort of founders resulting from the multi-university incubation programme, is its domination by women founders.
AlbaniaTech, the country’s yellow pages for start-ups
Taking the first steps can be a burden for every start-up, and that is why a team of innovators introduced AlbaniaTech, a platform offering information exchange, promotion and the chance to connect stakeholders. Built with support from EU for Innovation, the platform aims to unite and activate the key ecosystem players in Albania.
“Sometimes it is just one missing piece of information that young people need to be part of a programme, an opportunity to grow into a business,” says Prishila Gjoka from AlbaniaTech.
AlbaniaTech is free to use and with its database of 170 start-ups, it is the place to identify, promote and grow start-ups in Albania. The platform has grown by collaborating with an international provider that hosts 50 ecosystems globally, thus making the startup ecosystem of Albania visible to foreign investors, while also developing a digital welcome for whoever wants to start fresh in Tirana.
The foundations have been laid for the next generations to build upon: AlbaniaTech is there to give wings to innovators and start-ups. “Our platform enables start-ups to flourish. Anyone looking back will see how the community has grown from where we started from scratch,” says Gjoka.
With serious interventions like EU for Innovation, Albania is slowly but surely earning a place on the map of start-up nations. The new dynamics in the Albanian innovation environment were highlighted on the European Innovation Scoreboard 2022 where Albania was noted as an Emerging Innovator alongside the other Western Balkans economies.
About the project
The EU for Innovation project seeks to improve the innovative environment and boost the creation of start-ups in Albania through capacity development for innovation; intensified linkages within the Albanian innovation ecosystem; and funding for innovative start-ups and innovation support providers. The project is considered as the flagship project for innovation and the start-up ecosystem in Albania.
Photo credits: EU for Innovation, Albania Tech
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