6.7 Skills for innovation
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Government of Republic of North Macedonia adopted Strategy for Innovation of Republic of Macedonia 2012-2020 Стратегија за иновација на Република Македонија за 2012-2020.
The Strategy emphasizes that young people are often abundant with intellectual capabilities from which potential ideas can emerge with commercial potential. What is needed for the realization of ideas is to create a mechanism that will encourage creativity among the young population, while at the same time animate the business community about the availability of ideas that can enhance their products, services or processes. One way to establish a link between young people and companies is to organize innovation competitions, not only nationally but also internationally. A successful example is the Dream Line competition in Turkey.
Ministry of Education and Science with the support of World Bank in 2016 started implementing Skills Development and Innovation Support Project (SDISP). The project closed on 30 of April 2021. SDISP objective was to support innovation capacity in North Macedonia, improve transparency of resource allocation and promote accountability in higher education and enhance the relevance of secondary technical vocational education. The Project supported interventions which foster education and skills relevant to the job market, and enhance the innovation capacity and activity of firms in North Macedonia. It also addressed key missing elements of the Macedonian innovation system and ailing aspects of the research sector that are likely to be vital for improving the competitiveness of the enterprise sector and Macedonia’s longer-term economic growth prospects. It also helped in improving the absorption of EU funds earmarked for innovation activities. The Project’s direct beneficiaries were students, teaching and management staff from technical vocational education and training institutions who received a new curriculum and practical training facilities, as well as training on management, planning, and process improvement capacity; students and staff of universities, research institutions and enterprises benefited from:
- Implementation of quality assurance mechanisms and financing reform in higher education;
- Grants promoting R&D and innovation; and
- Technology commercialization, global know-how absorption, and industry - university collaboration
The Ministry for Education and Science marked the implementation of SDISP by implementing a simulative activity for connecting high schools with the business community. It is a grant program for non-refundable funds awarded for financing projects of vocational high schools in North Macedonia, in partnership with business companies.
The aim of the grant program is to improve practical skills and knowledge of students and create quality personnel, ready for the labor market right after finishing high school or further education with a solid vocational base.
The project's objectives are strengthening the cooperation between high schools and companies while improving the vocational education and skills for employability of the students. The project activities should include practical education in schools, organizing camps for technical training during summer breaks, courses for practical training in schools, practical trainings in the companies – right on the post, establishing school companies etc.
As part of this effort, the TVET High School has built a new laboratory for oenology and soil science, made possible by a grant from the World Bank-supported Skills Development and Innovations Support Project. The project provides financial incentives to encourage enterprises to work with TVET schools - providing on-the-job training for students. Students also have access to a soil laboratory, allowing them to analyze samples they have taken. This process benefits the school as well as the region as a whole – improving the organic production of wine, in accordance with European Union (EU) standards.
In January 2020 the representatives of the Government visited the Municipal Electro-Mechanical Center "St. Naum Ohridski" in Ohrid, one of the technical schools in which the project for dual education of the Delegation of the German Economy is being implemented. The project started in Ohrid and Kavadarci with 4 companies involved, and today the project has expanded.
The Bureau for Education Development in the curriculum the curriculum for Gymnasium secondary education, as part of the project activities includes three different subjects for first (Наставна програма Иновации и претприемништво I година) second (Наставна програма Иновации и претприемништво II година) and third (Наставна програма Иновации и претприемништво III година) year called – Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship subject (activity) is the only one from the list of proposed project activities for Gymnasium that is compulsory for students of the first three years. All of the other subjects (activities) are optional.
Also, in order to develop the creativity and the innovative spirit of young people, starting in 2015, and students in the ninth grade in elementary education study the subject Innovation (Иновации) as a compulsory one.
 Strategy for Innovation of Republic of Macedonia 2012-2020, Government of Republic of Macedonia, p. 27 https://fitr.mk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Strategija-za-inovacii_final_oktomvri20121.pdf
According to the Global Innovation Index 2021, The Republic of North Macedonia is in 59th place out of 132 countries featured in the GII 2021.
The Fund for Innovation and Technology Development was established in December, 2013, with the aim of encouraging innovation by providing additional resources to finance innovation, in view of the need to build a competitive economy based on knowledge. Often, they are awarding grants in order to support innovation activities in micro, small and medium-size enterprises. Currently (March 2022), the Fund, through its financial instruments, co-finances 686 projects with a joint investment of 86 million euros. As much as 51% of the FITR portfolio, i.e. 326 supported companies are startup companies, mostly founded by young people. With almost 1.5 million euros, the Fund also supports the development of three accelerators in the country: X Factor, Seavus Accelerator and Business-Technological Accelerator UKIM.
The Fund for Innovation and Technology Development has creation a program to foster creative thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship among young people, called the “Fund for Young Minds”. The basic objective of the program is to create a platform through which the government, the private sector, international organizations, and civil society jointly contribute to improving opportunities for young people to realize their potential, sharing a common vision of progress. Building on national strategic priorities, grass-root initiatives, positive results and international evidence-based international practices, the Fund for Young Minds will:
- enable young people to participate in intellectually stimulating programs outside of formal education (Challenge for Young Researchers, Upshift, Junior Achievement, etc.)
- equip young people with problem-solving skills in the context of a world of constant change
- support international mobility and international youth initiatives
- encourage synergies between different areas of education and training
- provide a platform that will connect the education sector, the business sector and civil society organizations
- strengthen the voice of young people.
In Republic of North Macedonia the last Strategy on Innovation is for the period of 2012-2020 (Стратегија за иновации на Република Македонија 2012-2020). Up to date (March 2022) there is still no new strategy created or adopted. In this line we have also the Law on Innovation Activity (Закон за иновациската дејсност), but none of the documents mentions informal or informal education. In the past, there was almost no promotion of the benefits of non-formal education by state institutions, but in recent years, recognition of informal education slowly enters a small door. In November 2017, the Minister of Education and Science stated that ‘The support and development of the creative and innovative potential of the individual is an essential foundation for building a knowledge-based society, entrepreneurship and innovation, and for creating a stable and competitive economic system’. North Macedonia is currently in a process of validation of non-formal and informal learning.
The Strategy and Action Plan for vocational education and training in the context of lifelong learning (2013-2020) which recognized the importance of non-formal and informal education and includes the need of improving skills for innovation as a basis for further reforms. The Strategy foresees a number of measures for reaching strategic goals that refer to developing and strengthening skills for innovation. Up to date (March 2022) there is still no new strategy created or adopted.
Organizations offering non-formal education have a key role as they dictate the quality of the trainings they organize. Usually CSO’s are leaders in promotion and organization of non-formal and informal education, but as mentioned above, the Government also recognizes the importance and benefits of it. Thus, with support of Ministry of Finance of Republic of North Macedonia and European Union, in 2018 the Foundation for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises started with the implementation of the project "Innovation Center: Comparative Advantage for Greater Competitiveness", which envisages cooperation of the private sector with representatives from universities, which will help in the implementation of measures for increasing the innovation and competitiveness in the target regions and beyond.