One million dollars for innovations to small and medium enterprises in Serbia

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The $ 1 million call for the StarTech program to support the digital transformation of small and medium-sized enterprises is open today and will last until May 18.

Within the StarTech program, the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) and the Government of Serbia, with the support of Philip Morris, organize the second annual competition for entrepreneurs, micro, small and medium enterprises and informal teams with innovative business ideas or they want to transform their business by introducing new technologies.

Within the competition, one million dollars of non-refundable funds and up to 1,000 hours of expert support will be awarded, with the value of individual grants ranging from 15,000 to 100,000 dollars, depending on the user and the type of support.

At the announcement of the opening of the second StarTech call, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić pointed out that the information and communication technology sector is growing rapidly and that at the end of 2021 its exports were 1,857 billion euros, of which the surplus is over 1.3 billion euros, the largest export sector.

“The number of employees in that sector has increased from 55,000 to 83,000 since 2016, when we set it as one of the priorities through the Council for Information Technologies and Innovative Entrepreneurship. The average salary in 2016 was 153,000 dinars, and today it is almost 221,000 dinars. “, said Brnabic.

She added that a large part of the educational sector has been reformed and that for that reason, subjects of programming, digital world and basics of artificial intelligence development have been introduced in schools.

“What we still lack for entrepreneurship and development of start-up companies is greater participation of private capital. That is why we passed the Law on Alternative Investment Funds and made the concept of ‘fund of funds’ within which we set aside 15 million euros for this year, we will bring more private funds to Serbia, “Brnabic pointed out.

He says that further investments will be directed towards the development of artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

Director of the Department for Entrepreneurship and Initiatives in the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) Dusan Vasiljevic pointed out that this project is more flexible than other support programs because it is open to informal teams, and that it is more flexible about the purpose for which funds can be used because it involves human resources and marketing.

“I am glad that, like last year, we can announce a million dollars for innovators, start-up types, small and medium enterprises, for their innovations and digital transformation,” said Vasiljevic.

He explained that start-up teams or startups can apply for support in developing innovative ideas worth $ 15,000 to $ 25,000, while micro, small and medium enterprises founded before 2019 can apply for support from $ 25,000 to $ 100,000, depending on whether they plan new employment and business in the national or export market.

“Teams that apply by April 18 will receive concrete support from our experts in making business plans. And those who do not receive funds from the project will leave this process with a business plan, which has huge potential value,” said Vasiljevic.

The StarTech program has so far supported 29 projects for innovation and digital transformation in the field of agriculture, health, environment, machinery and others, and Vasiljevic said that he expects to support about 100 start-up teams and small and medium enterprises by next year.

The general director of the company, Philip Morris for Southeast Europe, Aleksandar Jakoviljević, said that one million dollars, out of the total of five million that the company donates, will be invested in new, ingenious ideas.

“We are continuing with other activities to help the government in economic transformation and reforms. Some of the topics covered by the StarTech project are artificial intelligence, the future of mobility, topics that are avant-garde for the most developed countries,” Jakovljevic said.

According to him, in the previous cycle, 29 projects were supported, out of a total of 229 applications, through grants and other types of assistance – in the development of marketing plans, registration of patents and attendance at international fairs.

Assistant Minister of Economy Katarina Obradović Jovanović presented the new, improved entrepreneurship portal, where all information related to entrepreneurship support can be found in one place.

“In the previous period, the government, together with all line ministries and agencies, significantly improved support for the development of entrepreneurship, not only through the improvement of the legal framework of business, but also through the development of a large number of financial and non-financial support programs for entrepreneurship,” she said.

She added that from 2015 to 2020, the number of small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs increased by over 78,000, employees by 160,000 and GDP in euros from nine to 15 billion euros.

“After the establishment of the portal in 2018, we developed two new modules – one is a small business informant, intended to provide entrepreneurs with information on topics that interest them the most, and the other is a module intended for start-up communities,” Jovanovic added, Nova writes.