Nine domestic startups, nine teams and another 10 SMEs offered the most innovative ideas in the second annual competition of the StarTech program and deservedly won grants reaching a total value of $1 million. The funds will help them develop their products and conquer the domestic and foreign markets in the next year and a half.
Among 197 submitted projects, many interesting ideas stood out, including those about self-sustaining ecological houses, anti-caries gel, fire extinguishing gel, a basket that returns balls after a shot, a smart toothbrush for dogs and a smart house for pets, house building blocks with almost zero consumption of thermal energy, breeding bees in your own home or smart bins for disposing of packaging.
The checks were presented to them at a ceremony, by Minister of Information and Telecommunications Mihailo Jovanović, Minister of Science, Technological Development and Innovation Jelena Begović, Corporate Affairs Director for South East Europe in Phillip Morris Ivan Miletić and NALED Executive Director Violeta Jovanović.
- The Government of the Republic of Serbia, led by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, made digitization a priority back in 2017. We saw new technologies as a not-to-be-missed development opportunity, and over the past 5 years we have invested in the development of infrastructure, data centers, numerous services, systems, and a supercomputer. We also worked on the improvement of legal frameworks, on stimulating the economy, because we believe that, if we provide adequate conditions for growth and development, knowledge and creativity will allow us to develop even faster in this digital age - said Minister Jovanović.
Jovanović once again congratulated all the grant winners and emphasized the importance of the StartTech program for the startup ecosystem in Serbia. The StarTech program worth $5 million was launched at the end of 2020 to support the digital transformation of small and medium-sized enterprises. It is part of a three-year project promoting innovation and technological development in Serbia, supported by Philip Morris and implemented by NALED together with the Government of Serbia.
The StarTech idea, implemented for the second year in a row, provides significant support not only to existing startup companies, but also encourages researchers to start their own companies and take on the path of entrepreneurship. I think this shows the importance of support provided both by the state and the civil and private sector, if we seek to strengthen the innovation ecosystem and foster technological development of the entire society - said Minister Begović.
Numerous grantees’ projects are aimed at people's well-being, such as an application with an avatar that converts video content into sign language for the hearing-impaired, a device that helps paralyzed people regain lost functions, a platform for telemedicine online consultations with doctors and psychologists, or an application for fitness training in to the home, which monitors vital parameters through software and hardware and suggests a way to exercise.
- Money and ideas are sometimes not enough if you don't have state support. Favorable regulation will encourage and make it easier for an innovative idea to gain use value and its place in society. StarTech is recognized as a project that strengthens cooperation between science, business and the state, and also improves access to financing. I am proud of the results, but also of the flywheel that we gave to the topic of innovation in society. The transformation planned by the Government should be supported by all of us, because the dynamics by which we reach a more advanced society is also very important - emphasized Ivan Miletić.
The amount of support received by the grantees ranges from 22,500 to 65,000 dollars, and they will also be able to use the voucher program for expert assistance in the areas of intellectual property protection, marketing, entering the foreign markets etc. In addition to direct financial support to innovators, the StarTech program is also focused on improving the innovation ecosystem they operate in.
- So many good ideas oblige us to make the grantees’ success our job. That's why within StarTech we are working hard to provide them with the highest standards of business conditions. The second edition of the Grey Book of Innovations, which defines the procedures and regulations that need to be improved, will soon be released from the StarTech kitchen. We also have two initiatives for the new Government – to improve the position of lump-sum entrepreneurs, which should be adopted by the end of the year, and for extending the limit on the maximum tax increase and changing the model of taxation of lump-sum entrepreneurs who work on the Internet - pointed out Violeta Jovanović.
The event participants had the opportunity to visit the Experience zone, and learn more about the products developed within last year’s competition, some of which are already being sold. The first mobile CT scanner whose development was financed through StarTech has reached the U.S. market. It will soon be followed by an innovative preparation against Helicobacter pylori, which has received market permission from the US institutions. The developed products also include the first software for detecting counterfeit branded products in online sales, as well as a recruiter based on artificial intelligence that will take over a large part of the work of HR services regarding the selection of job candidates. A prototype of a multi-sensory post-rehabilitation device based on video games has also been developed, while an innovative probiotic for diabetes is in the testing phase.
The StarTech program is unique in Serbia because the support to innovations is provided by a private company instead of state funds. The event also sent a message to other socially responsible companies to support the development of innovative entrepreneurship in Serbia in this way. Candidates who did not receive grants and all other entrepreneurs with innovative ideas will have a new opportunity to apply for the third annual competition in the spring of 2023. Information on the terms of participation is available at www.startech.org.rs.
The most grants, a total of 18, were awarded in Lot 1 intended to support start-ups to develop an innovative idea into a product prototype. Grant winners are Artifit, Biocombat, Bright Signal, City&Me, DeepNetts, Doktok, Endorfit, Logera, Moonshain, Nais Robotics, nZEBrick, Redtech, Sanbioty, Savema, Smart City Technologies, Smartsy, Tillbox, Valuator.
Seven grants were awarded in Lot 2, intended to support the launch of an innovative product on the market, and the winners are GoldenBee, Solagro Smart Recycling, Vis Health, Alfanum, Laviefarm, 3F - Fit Fabricando Faber and EM Analytics Solution.
Three grants were awarded in Lot 3, primarily intended for entering the foreign market. The winners are Coming, Syncit Group and Softech Solutions.
This year, the audience also had the opportunity to pick their favorite, and the most votes were assigned to team Logera for the development of ecologically sustainable micro facilities for housing and tourism.