The Year Behind Us and the Forthcoming Challenges
2014 has been a turbulent year for the Innovation Fund and the Serbian economy. Amid these challenges, that included both political changes in the country and management restructuring within the Innovation Fund, and together with the support from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, financial assistance from the European Union and guidance from the World Bank, the Innovation Fund has continued to devote substantial efforts into creating a positive environment to support the formation of a knowledge-based economy in Serbia.
Successful implementation of the Mini and Matching Grants Schemes continued in 2014 with 12 new innovative projects being awarded EUR 1.3 million. With this amount, the Innovation Fund has now awarded EUR 6 million to innovative projects with high potential for commercialization. In total, since inception in 2011, the Innovation Fund has implemented 4 Calls for Proposals in timely manner, and from a pool of 471 project proposals, awarded 55 projects from various areas of science and technology development.
As a result, thorough governance mechanisms have been established, highlighted by the transparent selection process based on merit and commercialization potential of projects, which includes international peer-reviewers and an independent Investment Committee. This positioned the Innovation Fund as an institution with significant credibility and capacity to absorb and distribute EU funds in a professional and independent manner and as this Annual report is going for printing, the Innovation Fund team is preparing the Serbia Research, Innovation and Technology Transfer Project, which is to be financed through EU IPA 2013 sources in the amount of EUR 6.9 million. The project will commence in the first part of 2015 and will aim to stimulate collaboration between academia and industry to commercialize research and development (R&D) and promote technology transfer.
Moreover, the Innovation Fund is leveraging its international advisory team for the development of future innovation support programs, and is taking a leading role on behalf of the Government of Serbia to design new support instruments for private sector development, including the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF), a EUR 140 million regional program initiated by the Innovation Fund on behalf of the Republic of Serbia. Within this framework, the Innovation Fund will promote the emergence and growth of innovative and high-potential companies, as well as the creation of regional venture capital markets in the Western Balkans.
The development of adequate infrastructure in support of a sustainable innovation-driven economic growth is not yet complete. The activities of the Innovation Fund have begun to unlock this potential, but several challenges remain. Further reforms are needed to support R&D activities and to transform and strengthen the institutional capacities of public R&D institutions involved. In turn, additional financing opportunities are needed for the Innovation Fund to continue its efforts to create the environment that encourages private sector investments into innovative and high-growth potential companies, and as such provide fundamental requirements for the development of a knowledge-driven private sector and a competitive Serbian economy.
The Innovation Fund Team