The transformation of the Serbian scientific ecosystem and entrepreneurship system, including the development of the startup ecosystem. The European Union has been there for three years to support it through the Serbia Accelerating Innovation and Growth Entrepreneurship project (SAIGE) together with the World Bank and the Government of Serbia.

“It goes without saying that the good will and cooperation of your institutes was the first and most important step on the transformation path! As in any other reform, the ability to recognise the need for change is the crucial part”, said Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU to Serbia, Plamena Halacheva, at the SAIGE project conference with participating Research & Development Institutes.

Through the SAIGE project, which also addresses infrastructure improvements, R&D institutes are receiving targeted technical assistance through consulting, participation in collaborative projects, joint trainings, thematic networking events, and study tours on specific topics, as well as substantial support in taking leaps in transferring knowledge and technology to local and global economies and addressing societal challenges.

“These reforms strengthen the institutes’ capacity to apply for national and international research projects, especially within the EU, fostering new ideas through basic and applied research across scientific fields”, said Halacheva.

EU contributed with EUR 31.5 million through the SAIGE project not only supporting the public sector R&D reforms but also capacity building of the Science Fund and providing grants for the most successful researchers, Plamena Halacheva reminded, stressing that EU provided direct support to the innovation, R&D and start-up ecosystem in Serbia to the amount of EUR 90 million.

“The EU is proud to have contributed to a broad understanding in Serbia that investment in science, research, and innovation is crucial for the national economy and citizens’ well-being. These investments are vital for creating a knowledge-based, green, and digital economy, leading to quality job creation and overall societal benefits. In the coming years, the EU will remain a committed partner to Serbia, helping bring new research ideas to the world market”, said the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation.

The Minister of Science, Technological Development and Innovation, Jelena Begović, reminded that the project started in 2019 and stated that, thanks to SAIGE, the Ministry, through the Science Fund, financed projects aimed at helping the country in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking about the Serbian start-up ecosystem, Begović stated that it is estimated there are more than 750 startup companies in Serbia and that a large part of these companies is related to the information technology industry, the blockchain industry, biotechnology, and other economic areas.

Director of the World Bank office in Serbia, Nikola Pontara, said that to accelerate the growth of Serbia’s economy and bring it closer to the European Union, it is important to improve the country’s productivity and competitiveness.

“One way to do this is to invest more in research and development, to improve the ecosystem of innovation, and to bring research closer to the lives of citizens, businesses, and communities,” said Pontara.

He assessed that Serbian companies engaged in innovation are competitive and said that Serbia is full of bright people and entrepreneurs.

Thanks to the partnership of the Government of Serbia, the World Bank, and the EU, Serbia is developing an innovative ecosystem of competitiveness and entrepreneurship growth, putting scientific research and innovation in the function of the sustainable development of the economy and society.