The possibility of a new global economic crisis was a widely discussed topic even before the COVID19 pandemic. A crisis is no longer just a potential danger; it’s a certainty whose consequences and the subsequent chain of events are impossible to predict. Another thing that is certain is that no segment of the economy would be spared from it and that the smallest and the most vulnerable members of the business community, as well as those who have just stepped into the world of business, are the ones who fear most.
Above all, this applies to startups, entrepreneurs, and small companies that either remain dependent on external financial sources or lack the free cash flow to withstand such crises. According to a survey by Digital Serbia initiative, 46% of local startups already see the negative impact of the pandemic on their businesses, while 38% of them are yet to learn the full impact of the pandemic. However, there are those who believe that the pandemic will not influence their income or that it will help their business generate growth.
What gives up hope is the power to quickly adapt to new circumstances shown by many businesses. Businesses that saw even a narrow window of opportunity have seized it: they made a shift to digital, introduced delivery as part of their regular offer, and are now doing their best to remain afloat.
Using 3D printers — some of which were purchased thanks to EU’s support — business incubators and their tenants joined The Visionaries of Serbia group and started printing face shields for healthcare professionals. And this wasn’t the only idea they came up with as they sought new ways to fight the COVID 19 or any other pandemic in the future. Business incubators, as places for the professional development of startups, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, strive to offer an even higher level of support to their tenants in times of crisis and help them recover after a rough patch.
Thanks to the European Union’s rapid response, through the EUBID project, business incubators tenants have been receiving information, advice, and specific ideas on how to sustain desired business levels during the crisis in the form of online training and webinars. Džemil Dupljak is a software developer in the field of information systems, and, at the same time, he is the project manager of the IT incubator Center NIT in Novi Pazar.
“EUBID—EU Support to Business Incubator development project — our incubator has been recognized as having a significant potential for the development of startups and entrepreneurs in the Sandzak region and is, therefore, receiving substantial support. Within the project, a series of webinars on various subjects has taken place. I’d say it was very useful for us, young entrepreneurs who are just entering the business world,” says Džemil.
With the help of EUBID experts, NIT Center and numerous other incubators have been working for several months to improve the services they provide to their tenants. The aim of the project, supported by the European Union with EUR1.5 million, helps business incubators, startups, entrepreneurs, and small companies in Serbia to promote the business incubation ecosystem to a level that will, not only support but, at the same time, enable progress for anyone who starts their business through an incubator.
|Analyzing the state of the business incubation ecosystem in Serbia, EUBID project has learned that there are 40 operational incubators in the country and that the majority of companies they house are engaged in the IT and the creative digital industries. Approximately 60% of recipients of the services provided by the incubator — innovative companies and self-employed persons (such as freelancers) — belong to these industries and are concentrated mainly in big cities: Belgrade, Niš, and Novi Sad. In smaller cities, incubators services are directed to newcomers to the sectors of wood processing and furniture production, tool manufacturing, crafts, and service provision.