Agriculture has been identified as one of the priority areas with innovative potential during the mapping phase of the development of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3). The development of S3 is part of Albania's obligations concerning the EU accession negotiation process, specifically Chapter 20 "Enterprises and Industrial Policy" and Chapter 25 "Science and Research," as well as part of the Western Balkans Action Plan 2021-2024, within the framework of the Berlin Process. It is also part of the EU agenda for innovation in the Western Balkans 2021-2027.
In this context, the National S3 Team, with the support of the Union of Albanian Producers, organized a roundtable discussion on agro-processing on October 26, 2022, at the premises of the Agricultural University of Tirana, following the methodology of the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC).
Approximately 35 representatives from the quadruple helix (government, academia, business, civil society) participated in this event. Participants made valuable contributions by presenting the sector's needs and possible solutions for intelligent development in agro-processing.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from three panel members: Ms. Albana Tole, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports; Prof. Dr. Kapllan Sulaj, Dean of the Faculty of Food Biotechnology at the Agricultural University of Tirana; and Assoc. Prof. Anila Kopali, lecturer at the Department of Food Technology at the Agricultural University of Tirana. Mr. Arben Shkodra, the Secretary-General of the Union of Albanian Producers and a member of the panel, guided the discussion in two parts. The first part of the meeting focused on the challenges, opportunities, and prospects for the development of the agro-processing sector, with a particular emphasis on promoting innovation and scientific research. The second part analyzed the path toward smart specialization in the agro-processing sector.
Among other topics, the participants discussed:
- Strategic measures necessary to fully exploit the potential of the agro-processing sector, with a focus on promoting innovation and scientific research;
- Human capital, in terms of numbers and expertise, labor migration and brain drain, as well as the importance of a well-developed academy;
- The benefits offered by digitalization;
- Local-level policies and their improvement for the smart specialization of the sector.
The discussions held in this meeting will serve as the basis for a national workshop in the field of agriculture.