Nenad Popović, Minister of Innovation and Technological Development: Economy based on innovations knows no boundaries

Serbia found itself in the report of the most relevant organization for evaluation of start-up ecosystems in the world from San Francisco – the Startup Genome, as the first country in the region. According to this survey, Serbian engineers are among top 5 in the world.

We established cooperation and carried out joint projects on different levels with partners from all over the world, from the USA, through institutions and EU member states such as France, Austria, Germany, Italy, all the way to Israel, Russia and China. The reputation that Serbia has thanks to its stability and progress in all areas is also greatly responsible for that.

Nenad Popović, Minister of Innovation and Technological Development

Where does Serbia stand among the countries successful with innovations, and how competitive are Serbian IT innovators on the global market?

Today, our country is recognized as the epicenter of innovation activities in the region of Southeast Europe. In the last four years, exports of Serbia’s IT sector have grown by 30 percent a year. Last year, we recorded a historically high export of IT services, digital products and innovative technologies worth over 1.5 billion euros. The Serbian market is becoming more and more attractive to foreign investors, as well as to innovative companies that want to locate their R&D departments in Serbia. I am especially glad for the growth of investments of domestic investors in innovative ideas and startup companies in Serbia. The first generation of our startup entrepreneurs now uses their capital and, more importantly, their know-how and global experience, to support new generations of entrepreneurs to be even more successful. This is a trend that we as a country will strongly support in the future.

How much has Serbia set aside so far for the construction of innovation infrastructure, startup ecosystems, as well as for the support of young innovators?

Over the past four years, the Republic of Serbia invested over 100 million euros in the construction of innovation infrastructure and support for the innovation ecosystem. Serbia has 4 science & technology parks, which is more than any country in the region. We’ve opened 20 regional innovation startup centers, where young people in smaller communities receive support to launch their own startup companies. We strongly support female entrepreneurship. We provide direct support to companies which develop innovative products and services, in their early and more mature development stages, through the Innovation Fund. Just recently we established the first venture capital fund owned by our national mobile operator Telekom Srbija, which will additionally enhance our efforts to develop strong innovation companies in Serbia. Companies that will have the potential to change the global market and people’s lives.

“Today, our country is recognized as the epicenter of innovation activities in the region of Southeast Europe”

In which areas our engineers and technological entrepreneurs achieved particular success, what is the biggest chance for Serbia?

We are especially competitive in the field of blockchain technology which is blooming at this point, and its application in many industries is expected in the coming years. Herein lies our big opportunity, as well as in other developing technologies, where we can take the leading position at the very beginning, as pioneers. Serbia’s great advantage lies in its strong engineering base coming from our universities. The opportunities to create above-average value lie in technologies with great applicative potential in the industry, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, IoT and others. These are the areas to which our young innovators, as well as technical schools, should focus their efforts.

What are the Ministry’s further plans towards the development of innovation and technological development?

Serbian Government will soon reach a Strategy for the development of startup ecosystems by 2025. This is a very significant, and the first strategic document to deal with this topic. The task force for the development of the Strategy consists of the most relevant representatives from the business, academic and public sectors, and great support for the entire process is provided by the Digital Serbia Initiative. Most importantly, many of our successful founders of startup companies are involved in the process, and their experience will ensure that this strategy responds in the right way to the needs of the innovation ecosystem’s stakeholders.

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