Five million dollars for the most innovative companies in Serbia

Beginners in business and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) that seek to accelerate their growth through innovation and modern technologies will have a unique support program available starting from next year. They will be able to finance their propitious projects with grants, ensured by Philip Morris International with a donation worth five million dollars.

The Memorandum of Understanding on implementing the project for supporting digital and science-based economic transformation - StarTech, was signed today in the Government of Serbia by the Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and the CEO of Philip Morris International for Southeast Europe Aleksandar Jakovljević, in the presence of NALED representatives, who will implement the project.

- The StarTech Project is completely in line with all priorities of the Government of Serbia to ensure strong economic growth and the creation of new quality jobs through digitalization and economic activities based on science, creativity, innovation, and new technologies. The Government of Serbia provided support by adopting a series of initiatives including tax exemption for founders of innovative companies and tax credit for investing in such businesses, but also the possibility of rewarding employees with equity shares and incentives for the employment of returnees and foreigners. Through the activities of the Innovation Activity Fund, Serbia continues to increase the funding and support for innovative companies every year - said Prime Minister Brnabić.

- Since our company has undergone a transformation from a traditional to a modern, technological company, with the help of scientific research and achievements, we are well aware of the importance of innovation and we want to support the creation of better living conditions for all Serbian citizens. In the following 3.5 million USD will be awarded through grants ranging from 25,000 to 100.000 USD, and the beneficiaries will not have to participate with co-funding. The other segment of support will be aimed at improving the regulatory framework for the work of innovative companies, as well as for the promotion of Serbian entrepreneurship, innovation, and innovators - said PMI CEO for Southeast Europe Aleksandar Jakovljevic, adding that Philip Morris has always recognized and strived to support initiatives in the state’s focus. When the main focus involved new jobs creation, we had the "Start up your business" program, and nowadays, with the "StarTech" project, we want to support an export-oriented economy, based on high technologies and innovations," concluded Jakovljević.

NALED Executive Director Violeta Jovanović pointed out that this year, our country improved its ranking on the Global Innovation Index (GII) by four places and is now 53rd among 129 countries. Serbia is 10th among 37 countries with a similar level of GDP but is only 34th out of 39 countries in Europe in the field of innovation support and records the weakest result in that area. "One of the goals of StarTech is to form a coordination body that will identify problems and propose solutions to improve the position on the GII list, similar to the results we achieved upon forming a joint group that contributed to Serbia's big jump on the Doing Business list," Jovanovic added.

The StarTech project is the first support program for innovative entrepreneurs funded by a private, socially responsible company, and PMI has chosen Serbia for its implementation. In addition to grants, vouchers for expert support in business development and digital transformation will also be available to selected companies. The StarTech Program is focused on small businesses because the data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia show that only 47% of small companies have implemented at least one innovation (versus 69% large). One of the key challenges is the poor availability of funds to finance innovative projects.


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