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Stanislas Pierret, Counsellor for Cooperation and Culture at the Embassy of France, Director of Institut français de Serbie

Synergies of Science and Culture

The French Embassy and the French Institute are dedicated to fostering scientific collaboration between Serbian and French researchers in forward-looking fields like renewable energy, environmental protection and artificial intelligence

This interview with Stanislas Pierret, counsellor for Cooperation and Culture at the Embassy of France and director of the Institut français de Serbie, delves into fields that are less often promoted in the press: scientific collaboration and synergies in cultural production.

The Cooperation department of the French Embassy is this year focused mainly on promoting the priority axes set up by the Plan France 2030, namely to “support start-ups, SMEs, large industrial groups, higher education establishments, research organisations, laboratories or schools that would like to help “give France a head start” through innovation”, explains Stanislas Pierret. “That’s why we organised the third edition of the Serbian-French Innovation Forum in April 2024, with the aim of promoting partnerships between different French and Serbian actors in this field (research promotion centres, clusters, start-ups and colleges). The 2024 edition of the Forum, held at Palata Srbije and attended by Serbian Science and Innovation Minister Jelena Begović, brought together more than 300 entrepreneurs, researchers, students and directors of key organisations in Serbia (https://sfif. rs/events/#speakers-event ). The forum was dedicated to biotech and renewables.”

In addition, and in an effort to strengthen cooperation on innovation, the French Embassy has launched two additional programmes. The first is the “Energy 2030” hackathon, which brings together students from the best engineering faculties and is aimed at encouraging the development of their entrepreneurial spirit. The other programme is called “Mission France” and it allows the best Serbian start-ups to discover the French market during Viva tech, Europe’s main tech event.

“Through this “innovation” component, the Embassy wishes to reach new audiences and foster the visibility of “France Excellence” scholarships that are reserved for Master 2 students and the “IT makes S(ci) ENSE” programme,” says Pierret.

The “IT makes S(ci) ENSE” programme allows Serbian researchers to travel to France for 15-day residences at research laboratories in order to identify common areas of research. “It aims to develop Franco-Serbian scientific research programmes on priority themes such as energy, AI, biotechnologies and therapies,” explains our interlocutor.

Furthermore, through the sponsoring of scientific exchange programmes that has lasted for decades, France has enabled longer residence trips for many Serbian researchers or practitioners in other fields of scientific research, which has contributed to increasing scientific knowledge and collaborative research in both countries.

“It is well known that dozens of famous oncologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, historians or nuclear scientists from Serbia have spent some time at the most reputable research centres in France and that many French specialists subsequently came to Serbia, further strengthening the ties between our countries,” emphasises Pierret.

The Embassy also organises conferences and exhibitions for the general public that address various subjects related to the world of science. “We this year concentrated on the themes of generative AI or the role of science in sporting performance, as the whole year celebrates the Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in Paris and across France.”

The French cultural institute additionally organises frequent events related to the fields of the humanities and social sciences, often helping in the translating and printing of books in Serbian and bringing their authors to the country. Last year saw the IFS and the Belgrade Book Fair invite Thomas Piketty, one of the most famous researchers in the field of economic sciences, but also the organising of discussions and roundtables on psychology, history or French-Serbian cooperation in the field of archaeology.

Furthermore, Luc Julia, a French artificial intelligence expert, co-creator of the SIRI application and former technical director of Samsung, held recent a lecture at the Faculty of Organisational Sciences in Belgrade on the future of our society after the unfolding AI revolution.

Many of your events are regional and focus on the development of cultural actors from France and Southeast Europe. How does this approach foster the revitalisation of cultural production in the region?

— The Teatroskop programme, which was created in 2011 at the initiative of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and French Ministry of Culture, aims to foster and support collaborations between France and the region of Southeast Europe in the field of contemporary performing arts. In this very vast area, extending from Slovenia to Turkey, and very diverse region, which includes both the countries of the former Yugoslavia and EU member states, several cultural organisations collaborate mutually from one country to another. Through European programmes (such as the new Moving Balkans project: a platform dedicated to contemporary dance that brings together organisations from North Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Greece, Croatia and Albania) or historical relationships (Cirkusfera in Belgrade and Cirkorama in Zagreb have thus created a common network: Cirkobalkana, which notably pools a circus big top and the organisation of festivals). Teatroskop, promoting the circulation of French artists and professionals in the region, often helps to create additional links. We also have the long-term objective of creating direct collaborations between French and regional organisations, so that the projects envisaged between them can be displayed even further, in the medium to long term.

Could you tell us more about one such project, CIRCUS = ART. How did you come up with the idea to support the regional contemporary circus scene?

— Through the Teatroskop programme, the French Institute in Serbia has been supporting the contemporary circus scene for over 10 years – not only in Serbia, but across Southeast Europe. The Circus=Art project is special this year, as it has received dedicated funding that was requested by Teatroskop directly from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The idea and main goal are to support three Serbian circus associations: Cirkusfera, Ludifiko and Kreativni Pogon, for all the activities they’ve been implementing for many years: performances shown during festivals in May and September; circus practice and discovery workshops for children and adults; creation laboratories for regional circus artists; circus pedagogy workshops; advocacy for contemporary circuses among public institutions. These associations are linked with organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, thus ensuring that this project also has a regional dimension.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Through the “innovation” component of our programme, the Embassy wishes to reach new audiences and foster the visibility of its scholarships

COLLABORATION

Renowned Serbian specialists in oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, history and nuclear science have collaborated with leading research centres in France

SUCCESS

The third edition of the Serbian- French Innovation Forum brought together more than 300 entrepreneurs, researchers, students and directors of key organisations in Serbia