Serbia: a small country with a great vision

Serbia has been striving to implement numerous social and economic reforms, aiming to become a modern state, a thriving democracy and a free market economy. The positive changes in the country become especially apparent if you consider the difficult years in the 1990s and 2000s, when Serbia was embroiled in the post-Yugoslav Wars and fought for its independence. These reforms are now paying off for this country on the Balkan Peninsula – also for entrepreneurs.

Turnaround in terms of appeal

Developments in recent years give reason for confidence, including stable economic growth, an increase in foreign direct investment and a better business climate. Whereas young people, in particular, left their home country after the post-Yugoslav Wars due to a lack of prospects, the trend today is quite different. Increasing numbers of Serbian nationals who have gained valuable professional experience and earned good money abroad are now returning home. This may be because they wish to return to their roots and their families, or because they now see greater potential in Serbia than in other countries.

Back to the future

One good example of a Serb who has returned after spending several years in another European country and has successfully established a company in Serbia is Branko Milutinovic. Together with the co-founders of the company Nordeus, he has developed a computer game that is now successfully marketed beyond the country’s borders. Nordeus shows that a small country like Serbia with a small population and a small market can be attractive for businesses. ‘Business Ideas for Development’ supports Serbs living in Germany to harness the potential of their country of origin.

New impetus in new sectors

People with a good education and training, who have widened their horizons by working abroad, are particularly suited to helping Serbia modernise and diversify its economy. This enables Serbia to shift its focus which is solely on services and traditional sectors such as industry, mining and agriculture. Here, too, Serbia already has examples of best practice, for instance in the tourism sector, which has gained importance in recent years, or in research.

Story of an entrepreneur

Marko Panic with the device that he and his business partner have developed.

Starting a business in Serbia

Marko Panic is a molecular biologist. He acquired his doctorate in Germany. During his work in the laboratory he realised that the steps involved in most experiments and processes are constantly repeated, which can be extremely tedious. Aiming to increase efficiency, he teamed up with a friend from Serbia, who is a mechanical engineer. Together they worked on developing a device for automated biochemical testing. When it came to turning the prototype into a commercial product, the pair decided to set up a company. However, this proved rather difficult in Germany. Panic recalls: ‘There were lots of rules and regulations, lots of paperwork, high setup costs and, above all, high costs for the development and production of individual components, of which we only needed small quantities to begin with.’

The situation was entirely different in Serbia, where Panic and his friend obtained seed capital through the Serbian Innovation Fund and lost no time in setting up their company, Smart Research. Panic names another important reason for this decision: ‘We were also able to set up a small production line of our own in Serbia. Here, the cost involved and the cost of production amount to only a fraction of what we would have had to spend in Germany.’ The first Smart Research devices are already on the market in Serbia. They are set to be available throughout Europe in a few months.

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