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Science is the future of Serbia

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Of all organizations engaged in scientific research and research and development activities, the non-financial sector participated with 52 percent, higher education with 31 percent, the state sector with 16 percent, and the non-profit sector with one percent.

In 2021, there were 23,977 employees in this industry, of which 16,962 were researchers. The participation of women is 52 percent, while the participation of researchers in the total number of employees is about 71 percent and has increased by two percent compared to 2020.

Science Fund as a key support

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The Science Fund was established four years ago by a special law, as part of the state strategy of institutional, project and competitive financing of scientific research projects. Funds for financing the fund program are provided through the Serbian budget, as well as on the basis of a joint investment by the Government of Serbia – the Ministry of Science, Technological Development and Innovation, a loan from the World Bank and non-refundable financial support from the European Union, which are part of the SAIGE Project.

Upon its foundation, the Science Fund opened eight programs that are currently in various stages of implementation – Promise, Diaspora, Ideas, Covid-19, Artificial Intelligence Development Program, Identities, Prism and the Green Program of Science and Business Cooperation. 74.5 million euros were provided for these programs, which supported the implementation of 318 scientific and research projects.

“According to the adopted plan, this year the Fund will open public calls for four more programs: Promise 2023, Proof of Concept, Diaspora 2023 and Ideas 2023 with a total budget of 33 million euros. It is with great pleasure that we can announce that on May 8, our ninth program – Promis 2023, worth four million euros, will be opened, which is intended for the best projects of young researchers and scientists in the early stages of their careers”, emphasized interlocutors from the Science Fund.

Green program of cooperation between science and business

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Science plays a key role in overcoming numerous challenges faced by the modern world, while in cooperation with the economy, scientific solutions can find practical application in various areas of life. The Science Fund thus opened the Green Program of cooperation between science and business, which supports projects aimed at reducing environmental pollution.

“This program finances applied research in all scientific fields that will develop patents, technical solutions and other forms of intellectual property that in the future, in cooperation with the economy, will enable the development of new products and services.” With 3.5 million euros provided through the budget of Serbia, 20 projects are financed aimed at the development of solutions that will help reduce air, water and land pollution through the reduction of harmful substances, from organic pollutants, through microplastics, pesticides, dangerous chemicals, heavy metals to electronic and plastic waste, which will contribute to the restoration of degraded ecosystems. The projects will also be aimed at sustainable industry and the development of business models that reduce pollution while increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions of harmful gases,” the Fund states.

The projects of scientists supported through the Fund develop scientific solutions that will find application in all spheres of society in the future – from industry, agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, energy, environmental protection, culture, development of artificial intelligence, to solutions that will improve our everyday life .

“That is why the Science Fund will continue to support scientific excellence and provide conditions for the continuous development of science. So far, the selection of projects has been carried out by more than 1,300 independent international evaluators from more than 60 countries who, based on the criteria of excellence, impact and implementation, evaluated 2,669 project proposals that were submitted during open public calls for Science Fund programs,” our interlocutors point out.

They add that during this year the Fund will open the Proof of Concept program, intended for testing scientific ideas, hypotheses or assumptions with the possibility of commercial application and of importance to the economic sector.

Competitiveness of the Fund for Science program

The Science Fund emphasized that they finance projects that are very competitive. They say that there is great interest in all calls, while in the end between 10 and 15 percent of the best-ranked projects are supported.

“Our role is to ensure an independent, objective and transparent project selection process and offer international evaluators who will select the best projects, without pressure and influence on reviews. Serbia has great scientists who have achieved notable results during the implementation of scientific research projects supported by the Fund. From 2020 to 2023, a total of 1,685 publications were published in journals and conferences. 1,028 papers were published in international publications, of which 467 papers were in top international journals. Also, researchers who lead projects financed by the Fund receive prestigious international awards and significant international grants for further research in their fields”, explained our interlocutors.

Prominent scientific events in Serbia

The 16th Science Festival under the slogan “New Era” was supposed to be held from May 4 to 6 at the Belgrade Fair. However, due to the tragic events that marked the last few days, this important scientific event was postponed.

It Is certainly planned that this year’s Science Festival will host more than 800 participants from Serbia and abroad, who should present more than 170 scientific programs within four program units.

The competition for the Best Technological Innovation has an even longer tradition, which marks 19 years since the organization of the first competition, whose goal is to promote an entrepreneurial way of thinking and behavior by providing participants with educational and financial support.

So far, prizes worth 99.5 million dinars have been awarded, and 88 companies have been founded. A total of 3,305 teams participated, for which 485 training sessions were held with more than 10,100 people. Among them were researchers, members of high-tech companies, students, innovators. More than 1,200 business and marketing plans and business models were written, with the involvement of 384 reviewers.

The coordinator of the competition for the Best Technological Innovation, professor Dragan Povrenović, tells that the goal of this project is to find people in Serbia who are developing something creative and new, which they want to offer to the market.

“Innovations are only inventive solutions that can be found on the market, they are the best technological solutions offered to customers. Every year, we have a campaign in which we want to gather all these people, through public information media, through social networks, public forums throughout Serbia, that is, direct contact from Bujanovac to Sombor and from Zajecar to Prijepolje”, says our interlocutor.

He emphasized that the key Is to encourage people to appear at such a competition in the first place, as well as that it represents a great education of people through various types of training. He pointed out that the most important thing is to provide knowledge and introduce people to the world of entrepreneurship.

The most Interesting innovations

Professor Povrenović singled out several innovations that are particularly interesting, and which passed through the NTI competition.

“The innovation developed by the company Typhoon Hill from Novi Sad achieved a world record, and they won here in 2009. Then we have an innovator who developed a whole set of agricultural machines for picking berries from Mladenovac, who succeeds in selling his products all over the world. People abroad know more about him than those who live in his immediate vicinity,” says Povrenović.

He adds that the Innovation that won in 2019 is particularly interesting, and it is related to the test for trichinosis. After that, as he pointed out, scientists from the Institute for the Application of Nuclear Energy created their own test for the corona virus, which became the official state test. He also emphasized that in 2020, a group of female professors from Novi Sad created a product that helps combat the problem of helicobacter pylori.

“Sometimes top-notch technology, science, and knowledge are included in all of this, but innovations can also be simple solutions that can make a hazelnut cracker, a system for roasting peppers, a chopper for branches… This year, applications were open until May 5. Of May for realized innovations, and we also had categories of ‘innovative ideas’ for high school students and students with a deadline of March 15. The category ‘innovative village’, which we introduced last year, refers to all those who live and work in the countryside, and have some innovative solution whose goal is to improve and innovate their work, but also their place”, explains our interlocutor. Professor Povrenović expects that around 150 teams will register this year.

What are the investments in science in the region?

In the surrounding countries, it is concluded that it is necessary to increase investment in science. Such were the conclusions of the conference “Challenges of Science and Innovation Policy”, which was held at the end of February, in which it is stated that the situation in the Montenegrin scientific and innovative system is not satisfactory and that additional investments in science are necessary, according to the website of the PRONA Foundation.

On that occasion, the “Analyses for the implementation of the national programs of Montenegro in the field of science and innovation” were presented, in which it is stated that during 2019, this country invested 0.36 percent of GDP in scientific and research activities, while the world average of spending on science 1.79 percent of GDP, and in the countries of the European Union 2.02 percent of the gross social product.

Data from the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) show that 1.3 percent of GDP is invested annually in research and development in Croatia, while the EU average is around 2.3 percent.

During 2021, Croats spent HRK 5.5 billion (around EUR 730 million) on research and development, which is 15.5 percent more than the previous year, according to the website of the Croatian State Statistics Institute.

Of the total funds for this activity, the most was spent in the business sector – 46.5 percent. It is followed by higher education with 32.3 percent, while the smallest share went to the state and private non-profit sector – 21.1 percent.

Data from the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina show that this country is reducing allocations for science from year to year. Thus, in BiH in 2012 a total of 0.27 percent of GDP was allocated to research and development, a year later 0.32 percent, and in 2018 and 2019 investments in science amounted to only 0.19 percent of GDP .


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