Biotechnology is crucial to advancing solutions in fields like medicine, agriculture and the food industry. Growing investments and technological advances have served to accelerate its development and application possibilities, which is why biotechnology will define our future world
As a country that has recognised the importance and potential of biotechnology, we founded the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, together with the World Economic Forum, with the aim of identifying opportunities brought by new technology, primarily in the field of biomedicine, and to work on the development of an ecosystem that will stimulate the development of biotechnology and bioengineering – says Jelena Bojović, director of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, speaking to CorD Magazine.
Biotechnology is today one of the key areas that we mention when considering areas that could accelerate Serbia’s economic growth. Where are we today on this front and in which direction should we develop our capacities?
The Government of the Republic of Serbia recognised the opportunity to become the region’s driver of the development of bioeconomy and, together with the World Economic Forum, founded the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Serbia. This is the first such centre in the region and only the third in Europe, while it is the 16th to be founded by the World Economic Forum worldwide. The centre began operating in March 2022, under the auspices of the Office for IT and eGovernment of the Republic of Serbia and with UNDP support. The Government of the Republic of Serbia and the World Economic Forum, in cooperation with the UNDP, are organising the first International Conference, entitled “The Future of Biotechnology”, to be held at Belgrade’s Palace of Serbia on 20th and 21st October. This conference will be officially opened by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and World Economic Forum President Borge Brende. This is the first such event to be organised by the Government of the Republic of Serbia in cooperation with the World Economic Forum.
What can we discover about these development directions at this upcoming international conference?
The goal of the Conference is to bring together in one place the three sectors of society that have the greatest influence on the development of biotechnology: the public and private sectors and the academic community, to encourage cooperation and exchanges of knowledge and experience. Apart from biotechnology, the topics that will be represented at the Conference relate to bioinformatics, bioengineering, the use of data in development of healthcare and biotech development, encouraging public policies and scientific achievements and their application possibilities, especially in the field of medicine and healthcare.
Given that this event is a high-level international conference, which of the panellists and sessions would you draw our attention to in particular?
The conference’s two-day programme comprises several sessions: a ministerial panel, expert thematic sessions, as well as visits to our most famous institutes: the State Data Centre in Kragujevac and local businesses. Apart from Serbian participants, panellists and speakers will be coming from all over the world, including Singapore, Rwanda, Norway, the UAE, U.S., UK and many other countries, representing leaders in this field and examples of good international practice.
It is precisely due to the diverse content and prestigious participants that I believe all the panels that we’ve organised will be very interesting to the scientific community, because we haven’t previously had so many prominent experts in this field in one place. I will use this opportunity to invite members of the scientific and business communities to register and attend the panel discussions that are the most interesting to them. All information and ways to apply can be found on the website biotechff.gov.rs.
What are this conference’s long-term goals?
The long-term goals are for the “Future of Biotechnology” conference to become a regular annual gathering of the new biotechnology community in Serbia, and to position Serbia as a country of new technologies, knowledge and innovation.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia and the World Economic Forum, in cooperation with the UNDP, are organising the first International Conference, entitled “The Future of Biotechnology”, to be held at Belgrade’s Palace of Serbia on 20th and 21st October
Any cooperation with countries that have already recognised biotechnology as one of the priorities is important to us for any kind of cooperation and the dissemination of knowledge in this area, as we have laid the foundations for the development of this area in Serbia.
How important to Serbia is it to cooperate with the World Economic Forum, given that this cooperation extends far beyond the conference itself?
We are all witnessing the extremely rapid advancements of science and technology, which we can utilise to make our everyday life simpler and easier. This is precisely the role of the Centre: to use the connecting of science, new technologies, knowhow and business to help us receive better and more effective medical treatments, to ensure innovative new medicines and devices are made available to us, to live in a healthier society thanks to technological solutions. Cooperation with the World Economic Forum is very important to us, particularly through cooperation with all centres around the world and with the leaders of the World Economic Forum. Serbia has been given an opportunity to utilise the latest scientific achievements, while at the same time enabling the promotion of our own science, economy and knowhow.
How does the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution facilitate activities related to Serbia’s innovation potential and which partners does it cooperate with the most?
The projects dealt with by the Centre encompass the development of a unique repository of genetic data, with the aim of being able to quickly diagnose rare diseases, make smarter choices of medicines through personalised medicine (it is known which medicines are more effective for patients on the basis of genetic markers), the use of artificial intelligence in fast and smart diagnostics, as well as the use of new technologies in the pharmaceutical industry, applications of cell and gene therapy, and the development of fast-growing high-tech companies in the health sector. We will bring together scientists and researchers, as well as representatives of the state, industry and civil society, in order to create conditions for the development, testing and improvement of new technologies, while we will also strive to develop cross-sector partnerships in an effort to encourage innovations that benefit society. We are already cooperating with all other centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution around the world, as well as international companies in the area of biotechnology, Serbia’s scientific community, the Institute for Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering, the Faculty of Biology of the University of Belgrade, associations of patients in Serbia, as well as international organisations that deal with the development of biotechnology.