The certificates on financing and implementation have been awarded to 22 innovative projects worth EUR3 million funded through the Innovation Fund, in the presence of top government officials and representatives of the EU and the World Bank.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic described the winners of the public call as an important part of Serbian economy based on innovation, know-how and entrepreneurship, noting that the state will create a legal framework aimed at promoting a different pattern of economic growth.

Brnabic said that start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurship as such are the backbone of a healthy, sustainable economy.

The Director of the Innovation Fund Ivan Rakonjac said that 22 out of 218 submitted projects would be funded. The budget, he said, amounts to EUR4.5 million: EUR3 million is secured by the Fund, whereas EUR1.5 million will be secured by companies in question.

Currently, Rakonjac said, we have another two CfPs running. These CfPs will secure a total of EUR2.5 million in support of innovation activities carried out in cooperation with R&D organisations.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi said the Union was the first to partner up with the Innovation Fund back in 2011, approving a EUR8.4 million grant which served to fund 55 innovative projects.

“The project had a dramatic effect on tech start-ups in Serbia. The revenue of awarded companies has increased by 160%. These projects helped to create high-end jobs for more than 480 mostly young Serbian citizens, while exports of these companies rose 10 times.”

So far, the EU has invested more than EUR200 million in the development of various sectors of the Serbian economy and out of this, over EUR 30million is dedicated to innovation, Ambassador Fabrizi said.

According to him, the revenue generated and jobs created have exceeded all expectations.

“Good ideas and good financing create jobs, growth and prosperity,” Fabrizi said and added that science is not an expense, but an opportunity.

The Country Director for the Western Balkans of the World Bank Linda Van Gelder said that innovation, through job creation, has a tremendous impact on economic growth. Sometimes, however, such a plan fails, and usually for two reasons, she said.

The event was also attended by the Minister of Education Mladen Sarcevic. Two companies showcased their projects: Glas Sliper – a new line of women shoes with carbon fibre-based heels, a design that provides for a fast and easy shift from high heels to flats; and Alfa klima – a new design for the production of propane-based heat pumps.