Prof Djuro Kutlača, Institute Mihajlo Pupin: Innovate or Perish, reborn in Serbia!

When it comes to innovation, there are so many misconceptions, misinterpretations and misunderstandings, that it is best to start from the beginning, from the definition – what is innovation? No, dear reader, it is not an invention, an invention, a patent, no it is not something new that the world has not seen yet.

We live in a world in which for good communication it is necessary that all participants in communication have at least a somewhat harmonized understanding and knowledge of the basic concepts we are talking about. Well, still, most people start talking about innovation with the words “In my opinion, innovation is…”. It is in this case that everyone wants to be innovative, and that is why misunderstandings arise.

Prof Djuro Kutlača, PhD, Scientific Counsellor, Head of Science and Technology Policy Research Centre, Institute Mihajlo Pupin

“An innovation is a new or improved product or process (or a combination thereof) that differs significantly from the unit’s previous products or processes and that has been made available to potential users (product) or brought into use by the unit (process). A key tenet of the Oslo Manual is that innovation can and should be measured. Key components of the concept of innovation include the role of knowledge as a basis for innovation, novelty and utility, and value creation or preservation as the presumed goal of innovation. The requirement for implementation differentiates innovation from other concepts such as invention, as an innovation must be implemented, i.e. put into use or made available for others to use. The term ‘innovation’ can signify both an activity and the outcome of the activity. Innovation activities include all developmental, financial and commercial activities undertaken by a firm that are intended to result in an innovation for the firm. A business innovation is a new or improved product or business process (or combination thereof) that differs significantly from the firm’s previous products or business processes and that has been introduced on the market or brought into use by the firm.” [1]

“The team of experts from the Mihajlo Pupin Institute needed only a month from the idea to the realization of the first Serbian respirator”

So, it is crucial that our product must be different from what we have done so far and that it is available to potential users, the market. That is why the respirator was developed at the Mihajlo Pupin Institute (MPI) in the spring of 2020, a great innovation for the Institute and for Serbia as a whole, although the whole world rushed to buy respirators that are standard medical devices in the world, but never before developed by domestic researchers and innovators and produced in Serbia.

“The team of experts from the Mihajlo Pupin Institute needed only a month from the idea to the realization of the first Serbian respirator. A group of about ten engineers from the Mihajlo Pupin Institute, as well as people from the Smart Research, worked on the first five models, between 10 and 15 hours a day, without a day off. They are made very seriously and with quality, so they are on a par with the world’s leading devices. After the standard certification procedure, Serbian respirators could be found in hospitals. This is one of 12 innovative projects funded by the Innovation Fund that aimed to combat the effects of the coronary virus pandemic. When the partners for serial production in Serbia are known, up to 100 respirators could be made daily.”[2]

It is innovations such as the respirator that set MPI apart from other institutions of the scientific research system of Serbia. For decades, MPI researchers and engineers have been directed to the market where products developed by creativity are placed, the price of which is knowledge and uniqueness – innovation in the original sense of the word. Unfortunately, the research system of Serbia is focused on writing papers, because it is a prerequisite for career advancement, and the development of technologies and innovations based on knowledge are not the key direction of institutions or individuals of that system, about which the author writes for decades. without an adequate understanding of domestic governance structures.[1]

“The Achilles tendon of Serbia’s innovation system is the gap between industry and research … Serbia has since introduced collaborative grants and innovation vouchers to encourage businesses and academia to work together on innovation. We shall see from the profile of Serbia on page 304 that the country is using science and technology parks to link scientific research with economic goals.”[2]

“Together with colleagues from Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac and other cities in Serbia, the software developers have shown and proved that knowledge is strength and power”

But lest readers think that the author of this text is too critical of his compatriots, you can see that since the Middle Ages, foreigners have considered us conservative and very reluctant to innovate.: “When they were by nature conservative, many Byzantines felt, as usual pessimists feel that any change – change for the worse, especially when it comes to entrenched and committed Christian traditions of their society. The usual euphemism for religious heresy was “innovation” or novelty.”[3]

That is why the Zvezdara Science and Technology Park is a great endeavour aimed at supporting innovation and creating a new economy of Serbia, a knowledge-based economy. This infrastructure is intended for the development of software, which a few years ago surpassed the export of raspberries and became an export asset of Serbia.

“Serbia’s first science and technology park (Zvezdara) was established in 2015. The park specializes in software development. Over the past four years, it has supported the development of more than 100 companies employing more than 800 engineers. The park provides entrepreneurs, start-ups and technology companies with infrastructure tailored to their needs, as well as business support services to foster innovation and commercialization. In 2018 alone, 20 new start-up companies were established within the park and 200 young potential entrepreneurs attended 30 courses on entrepreneurship.”[4]

Together with colleagues from Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac and other cities in Serbia, the software developers have shown and proved that knowledge is strength and power, to grow in Serbia and to create innovations that will be for the welfare and well-being of the whole country.

[1] Dušica Semenčenko, Đuro Kutlača: Shaping National Innovation System in Small, Transitional Economy – Case of Serbia, Publisher: Institute Mihajlo Pupin , Science and Technology Policy Research Centre, Belgrade, 2018. ISBN: 978-86-82183-16-7, pages 186,

[2] Kutlaca, Djuro: “10. Southeast Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia”, Chapter 10 in: UNESCO (2021) UNESCO Science Report: The Race Against Time for Smarter Development, S. Schneegans, T.Straza and J.Lewis (eds). UNESCO Publishing: Paris, ISBN: 978-92-3-100450-6, pp.290-307,

[3] Donald M. Nicol: The Byzantine Lady, Ten Portraits 1250-1500, Cambridge University Press 1994; translated by Miroslav Krstić, Utopia, Belgrade, 2002

[4] See footnote 4

[1] OECD/Eurostat (2018), Oslo Manual 2018: Guidelines for Collecting, Reporting and Using Data on Innovation, 4th Edition, The Measurement of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Activities, OECD Publishing, Paris/Eurostat, Luxembourg.


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