The concept of lifelong learning (adult learning) is a guarantee of development in the modern dynamic world. It ensures inclusion of all the age groups in the development processes. It is especially important for the countries under transition, where the retraining process needs to be going in many directions and with high intensity, so that to better involve the population in the building of a new, democratic and market economy-based society. Six such countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) participate in the Eastern Partnership Programme (EaP). Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine express willingness to sign Association Agreements, which requires familiarization of all the population groups with the issues of organization of the European Union.
In this respect, together with other mechanism of the EU assistance for the countries participating in the EaP Programme, effective is the Jean Monnet Programme – an international branch of the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme. It assists the countries of the world in studying the European Union and informing their population about the processes ongoing in the EU. The Programme addresses primarily the university faculty and researchers as multipliers of the knowledge about the EU. Through them students and wide public get familiarized with it. In our case, the Jean Monnet Programme supported first the Project “Improvement of the European Innovation Policy Study in Georgia” (2009), then the Project “EU Regional Innovation Policy as a Model for East Partnership Country Regions” (2013). In the first project the innovation policy and its instruments were discussed as a whole. Its addressees were the target groups concerned with the innovation policy at the national level. This project has initiated European studies directed at the innovation policy and stimulated interest towards the innovation policy in Georgia.
The present publication has been prepared within the framework of the second project. Particular attention is given to the circumstance that it was being implemented at the time when the government recognized the innovation policy as an important instrument of development. At the same time a necessity for comprehending the ideas of innovation in the regions of Georgia arouse. Thus, the addressees of this publication are the regional authorities (local governments and respective services), universities and research institutions, associations of farmers and entrepreneurs, agricultural advisory services, etc. It is noteworthy that the project will present the Jean Monnet Programme for the first time in Georgian regions.
The innovation policy in the EU is the primary driver of social and economic development. Given that, Georgia (and all the EaP countries) should study the innovation policy instruments available in the EU and then gradually master them. So far, the focus of attention was the All-European innovation policy and the national innovation policy of the EU Member States and, correspondingly, the target audience included representatives of the central government units, organizations and groups of scientists/experts operating at national level. This direction, surely, continues today as well.
Another primary component of the EU’s innovation policy together with the All-European and national policies is the regional innovation policy. It is aimed at eliminating differences in the development of individual regions of the EU (administrative territorial units in a Member State), convergence of the socio-economic conditions in towns with those if villages, overcoming poverty, etc. Among its objectives is also the creation of internationally competitive regions. The time has come to study this policy more deeply in Georgia and promote such knowledge in Georgian regions. It should also be considered here that all regional innovation policy instruments operating in the EU cannot be equally applied under conditions of the Eastern Partnership countries (including Georgia). They should be critically assessed and tested. This requires good knowledge of the EU, towards which Georgia aspires, on the one hand, and a clear understanding of the challenges faced by Georgia in the innovative development sphere, on the other hand. It is noteworthy that familiarization with the innovations, which are no longer innovative in Europe or globally, but important for the countries in transition, is rather interesting and useful for them.
The present publication emphasizes special importance of the experience of the regional innovative development of the former socialist countries – now the EU Member States and Candidate States – for the EaP countries. The publication contains the material describing the most important for the EaP countries social and technological innovations, which the EU has already mastered. These are: agricultural cooperatives, use of the appellations of origin and transition to digital broadcasting. On the whole, the publication’s task is to assist the reader in familiarization with and thorough study of the essence of the regional innovation policy and its implementation instruments.
The presentation of this publication and its contents took place during the seminars organized and held at Batumi, Telavi and Kutaisi universities with the aim that exactly the universities were to become the intellectual centres facilitating the elaboration and implementation of the regional innovation policy, by which the regional government will be guided. The universities should train specialists, who will ensure the innovative development of the region and carry out relevant studies of such a development. This approach is also in full compliance with the EU innovation policy bases.
The Association European Studies for Innovative Development of Georgia wishes to thank the European Commission, especially the Jean Monnet Programme Group for supporting the work performed. We also thank the Batumi University Rector Aliosha Bakuridze, the Telavi University Rector Avtandil Ghelaghutashvili, the Kutaisi University Rector Giorgi Ghavtadze, the Batumi University Deputy Rector Natia Tsiklashvili, the Kutaisi University Deputy Rector Shalva Kirtadze, the head of Public Relations Service of Telavi University Nelly Tskitishvili, also the staff of the Batumi, Telavi and Kutaisi universities for their support and cooperation.