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Identifying technological changes and skills needs in the Western Balkan agri-food sector

In 2011, the European Commission started calling on national and regional authorities of the Member States to develop Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) to help them with economic modernisation. Since 2013, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has also been providing guidance and assistance to candidate and Neighbourhood countries on the development of smart specialisation strategies under the EU Neighbourhood and Enlargement Policy. Skills and their development, including through vocational education and training, play a major role in the implementation of smart specialisation. To address the skills dimension of smart specialisation in the Neighbourhood countries, the ETF developed a methodology “Skills for smart specialisation: a handbook based on experience”, and tested it in Montenegro, Moldova, and Ukraine. This study will extend these efforts to the broader Western Balkan region and agri-food sector specifically, which was identified as one of the common priority areas by the JRC.

This combination of region and sector bears a specific policy relevance. While undergoing the smart specialisation process, Western Balkan countries are preparing for the entry into the EU and the single market. In this process, the European Commission has identified the need to increase the level of SME innovation and competitiveness through higher level of connectedness between skills and innovation actors, and relevant partnerships. The agri-food sector, meanwhile, is one of the priority areas in the region, recognised both by the JRC and nationally.

The overall objective of the study is to identify current and emerging technological changes and skills needs in specific niches of the agri-food sector in six Western Balkan economies. The study will cover Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. It will include national, regional and EU level analysis. Data for it will be collected through desk research, statistical databases, interviews, stakeholder meetings and a survey.