Prof. dr Bojan Lalić, The Faculty of Technical Sciences, University of Novi Sad: Digital Innovation and How To Cook It – Serbian Cuisine

A good cook in a good environment with top-notch equipment knows no limits in his creativity. It is similar to innovations, especially digital innovations. They are no longer a matter of technological progress but of human imagination, creativity and pursuit of challenges.

Ingredients we cook with…Some tend to say: we all cook using water, the only difference is some do it better than others. Water remains water – the rest comes down to the cook’s skill and the quality of available ingredients. Even a regular soup needs to present enough chances and challenges, with a single pinch of obstacles to spice things up. These days, we’ve had the opportunity to read about one of our best cooks, Branko (the founder of Nordeus in Serbia) merging his kitchen with T2. For the rest of us, this means the kitchen’s interesting menu will include new digital delicacies, right next to their classics such as Top Eleven and GTA.

Prof. dr Bojan Lalić, The Faculty of Technical Sciences, University of Novi Sad

Serbia is a great environment for digital innovations. For that we owe our gratitude to a Serb, Nikola Tesla – for all the technology we now use to create digital miracles, competing with the human capacity to understand and respond to challenges nature presents before us. Recently, the Chinese company NetDragon that is building the first Digital Education Town in Fuzhou, addressed the Ministry of Culture expressing the interest to open the Nikola Tesla Museum at a central place in their Town. „We owe our current status to him and all our digital innovations are based on his patents“- these were the words of the NetDragon’s founder, Liu Dejian, to me. Tesla designed the kitchen for today’s masters of innovation. And much more than that: he gave us the necessary cooking tools and utensils.

But let’s get back to our kitchen. For a good meal a good environment is of greatest importance. It consists, among other things, of good cooking schools – good universities. The University of Novi Sad is one of them. In recent conversations with the founder of Startup Genome, JF Gauthier, I had the opportunity to cross views on an innovative digital startup ecosystem created around the university environment. He compared the University of Novi Sad, which, in creative chaos, scattered over 150 startup ventures with one of the reputable worlds known entrepreneurial universities – the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Of course, we don’t try to compare ourselves to Stanford University, which is unattainable when it comes to building successful startups. I exchanged views with the prominent Stanford professor Henry Etzkowitz, who became famous for his Triple Helix model of innovation referring to setup interaction between academia, industry and government. During our conversation, I realized our Academician Dragutin Zelenović spoke about this, as one of the most important factors for economic and social development, in the early 1990s, almost at the same time, if not even before Henry. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is still the mainstream of education in Serbia, with a special emphasis on A because arts, combined with engineering, bring us gaming; and they say we are pretty good at that.

Something that makes you wannabe an entrepreneur after you try it; it makes you dream about your business

A good cuisine distinct itself with a specific flavour. Gaming and Blockchain seem to be our specialities. When I visited Israel with Minister Nenad Popović, the Minister with the business sense, I thought about a strange, almost magical way their startup world is developing. They have an unknown ingredient that annually maintains an ecosystem of over 1000 startups in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem alone. Something that makes you wannabe an entrepreneur after you try it; it makes you dream about your business. Recently, in a conversation with one of my doctoral candidates, I recognized this ingredient in our students and young people. In Israel, they say that 50% of the population has their own business, and 50% dream of starting one. This became clear to me during a conversation with Chemi Peres, a businessman and son of the famous Shimon Peres, a Nobel laureate, in the moment, at his Institute I was holding a medal of a Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armament’s in my hands – it was later awarded to many dubious persons, which indeed gave it a stale taste.

I think that veterans like Branko Milosavljević, Vladimir Mastilović, Nikola Božinović, Saša Popović and together with young AI star Jovan Stojanović also initiated the creation of that secret ingredient in Serbia. Many young people today see the digital era as a kitchen for their own innovations. All the ingredients are there, we just need to stir up these digital innovations, for the benefit of all. There is very little left to put everything in place and for the kitchen to start conquering with sophisticated solutions from the imagination of the new Tesla, Pupin, Milanković, Mileva. Another important thing to keep in mind is keeping our recipes here like recipes for bermet from Fruška gora, for ajvar and barbecue from Leskovac, for “šljivovica” from Čačak and Valjevo, for ’’peglana’’ sausage from Pirot.

A few more words about the Serbian cuisine landscape for digital innovations. We have already become a significant destination. Google Launchpad ranks us among the richest countries by the number of freelance engineers by population. We export about $2 billion in IT products. We run autonomous vehicles around the world. Serbia is located in a place from which we can easily export our products to the European Union, Russia, the countries of the Euro-Asian Union, and even to China. We can say that it is in the position of a special economic zone, a Chinese invention for the structural start of the modern economy – European Shenzhen.

So, to wrap up, we have a history of culinary digital innovations in Serbia. From the very beginning and Tesla, all the way to today’s STEAM chefs, there is equipment and environment – the secret recipe is insight too. So, let’s make Serbian Micheline star meals.

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