Today’s market is ever more demanding and competitive, and companies that miss out on transforming digitally and don’t encourage innovation face the possibility of becoming technologically obsolete and thus losing their position on the market. Through coordinated policies of the Government of Serbia, we will encourage our companies to introduce a wide range of innovations, which will result in increased economic growth and higher exports.
According to analyses conducted by economic experts, the technological intensity of Serbian exports and the speed of technological convergence have been becoming increasingly favourable in recent years. This is also confirmed by data presented to CorD by Serbian Economy Minister Anđelka Atanasković.
“In the 2014-2020 period, the structure of exports shifted to favour industrial areas of high technology and medium to high intensity. The areas of high technological intensity that have been recording mild growth include the production of basic pharmaceutical products and preparations and the production of computers, electronics and optical products. The average participation of these two areas stands at 3.5%,” says our interlocutor.
“In the same period, the area of medium-high technological intensity had the largest share and amounted to 36.9%. Within the scope of this technological group, the best results were achieved in the production of electrical equipment, motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, regardless of the fact that they experienced a slight downward trend in the share of chemicals and chemical products.”
Similarly, according to Minister Atanaskovic, the area of medium-low technological intensity also had a high share amounting to 27.9%, with the standout products being those made of rubber and plastics, as well as base metals.
Serbia adopted a new Industrial Policy Strategy recently, which is synchronised with the Smart Specialisation Strategy. In the development of these complex policies, which areas included the participation of your ministry?
Alongside the expert working groups that were engaged on the drafting of the Industrial Policy Strategy and the Smart Specialisation Strategy, an inter-ministerial working group was formed and its work was coordinated from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The drafting of these strategies was carefully coordinated, bearing in mind that they have very similar goals – to raise the competitiveness of industry, i.e., the economy – and that these two strategies practically complement one another.
Additionally, within the scope of the specific objectives of the Industrial Policy Strategy that are dedicated to digitalisation, innovation and export restructuring, there are a number of activities that are supported by the findings of the smart specialisation process.
Through the work of the aforementioned inter-ministerial working group, industrial policy is coordinated with all other relevant policies, as well as being harmonised with projections of future economic trends, including in the monetary and fiscal sphere.
We support companies that devote attention to modern technologies and form departments to conduct research and development within the scope of their capacities, as that will make our economy even more competitive and result in increased exports and growth as a whole
Which mechanisms does the ministry use to influence the creation of policies in the field of education, which is in the process of gaining a strategy of its own that will run until 2030? What is your response to the growing shortage of labour?
– The Ministry of Economy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Agency for Qualifications, strives – through the activities of the Sector Skills Council for Industrial Development – to determine the qualification needs of the labour market in the Republic of Serbia, through analysis of existing qualifications and determining the required qualifications in this sector, identifying qualifications that need to be modernised, but also qualifications that no longer meet the needs of the sector, as well as promoting dialogue and collaboration between the worlds of labour and education.
Which measures does your ministry use to encourage innovation and digital transformation?
I would remind your readers that the Industrial Policy Strategy of the Republic of Serbia from 2021-2030, as well as the action plan for its implementation, contains two special goals, which should – alongside other special goals – contribute to raising the competitiveness of our country’s industry, dedicated to innovations and digital transformation.
Specifically, within the framework of the first specific goal (Improved digitalisation of industrial production business models), a series of promotional activities are envisaged to raise awareness of the need for digital transformation, as well as a series of educational activities that will help the economy to apply these solutions practically.
The Digital Transformation Programme is envisaged as additional support and will, among other things, provide subsidies of up to 6,000 euros in dinar equivalent to all enterprises that receive verification of having undergone the digital transformation process.
Alongside this, plans also include activities aimed at raising the level of digital security for industry, harmonising digital education with the needs of industry and activities intended to strengthen the digital skills of employees in industry, through the system of non-formal education.
Within the framework of the second specific goal (Development of industry based on innovation and development of higher stages of technological production), support activities are envisaged for the development of innovative solutions for businesses that form part of institutional infrastructure, such as clusters and business incubators, as well as support for the development of their production processes and organisational capacities.
To what extent are favourable technological changes a result of the arrival of increasingly sophisticated foreign investors, and to what extent are they the creation of domestic medium- sized companies that are ready to apply new technologies?
– A stable business environment, with a recognisable and attractive investment environment, is one of the reasons that companies are interested in investing in Serbia.
The Ministry of Economy will continue working on Serbia’s further development and modernisation as an investment location, and the aim will certainly be to bring more technologically developed companies, as has been the aim to date.
We mustn’t forget that new investments drive entire chains of domestic suppliers and manufacturers, as well as the introduction of new technologies and new employment.
I must note that we are considering further directions for the development of the Serbian economy through those economic branches and areas in which we already have growth, but also through those areas that need additional stimulation to achieve better results.
In this context, in the period ahead we will consider the possibilities of greater incentives for advanced technological solutions in the manufacturing sector and modernisation of production processes.
There is noticeable interest in the economy for projects in the area of artificial intelligence, but also among researchers who possess or are developing the skills required to develop algorithms or systems based on artificial intelligence
We need to devote more attention to the possibilities of introducing and more broadly applying modern technologies, as well as to research and development, which in combination can have a positive impact on reducing operational costs, but also creating new value.
By providing new opportunities to export companies, but also those companies that devote attention to modern technologies, and accordingly forming departments to conduct research and development within their capacities, our economy will be even more competitive on foreign markets, which will result in increased exports and growth as a whole.
Otherwise, with the aim of attracting both domestic and foreign investors, the Investment Department of the Ministry of Economy applies four regulations in its work that govern the criteria for granting incentives to attract direct investment, as well as attracting direct investment in the food production sector, the automation of existing capacities in the domain of the food industry and the sector of hotel accommodation services.
With the applying of these regulations, through direct investments, we have also enabled, among other things, the automation of existing capacities aimed at improving the productivity of recipients of incentive funding.
Which of the innovations supported by the Innovation Fund and the Science Fund would you single out as being particularly important for providing an impetus to certain smaller or larger sectors of industry?
– The Innovation Fund provides financial support for the implementation of development and innovation projects.
The Fund has to date supported more than 220 projects, through which more than 300 new, innovative products have been developed.
When observing the industrial areas to which they belong, half of all innovations supported by the Fund are in ICT domain, followed by the food industry, agriculture and mechanical engineering.
Within the framework of the Programme for the Development of Artificial Intelligence, the Science Fund finances 12 scientific projects that use innovative artificial intelligence methods that are based on, or related to, associated scientific and technological achievements.
Within the scope of this programme, scientists use artificial intelligence to develop a software system for agriculture, create tools for saving electricity, develop a versatile and intelligent production system for Industry 4.0, improve algorithms for increased safety at work and conduct research that will yield results that will be applicable in other sectors of industry.
There is noticeable interest in these projects in the economy, but also among researchers who possess or are developing the skills required to develop algorithms or systems based on artificial intelligence.
Some of the project teams have already established cooperation with the economy, both with domestic and foreign companies.
In which sectors do you see the leaders of digital transformation? Are those some of the classic sectors, or some newly created industrial sectors?
– On the basis of cooperation between the Ministry of Economy and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Centre for Digital Transformation, half of all companies plan to advance operational processes through automation and the connecting of their systems and processes in a single solution that will enable all-encompassing review and control.
Despite the fact that this represents an opportunity for companies to reduce costs, it simultaneously also includes challenges.
In almost all cases, it is essential to initially reengineer existing processes and optimise them prior to proceeding with digitalisation.
The most common advances in digital transformation for companies that have implemented solutions with the support of the Centre for Digital Transformation relate to improvements to business processes (74%), improvements to the business model (15%), improvements to services (8%) and improvements to products (3%).
On the basis of the results of the joint work of the Centre for Digital Transformation and the Ministry of Economy, the leading industries, or the sectors that have the greatest need and strive for digital transformation the most, are trade, the metal and electrical industries, expert, scientific and technical activities, as well as the sectors of food, construction and the creative industries.
The Ministry of Economy will continue working on Serbia’s further development and modernisation as an investment location, but also on enticing more technologically developed companies
The leading industries in digital transformation are trade, the metal and electrical industries, expert, scientific and technical activities, as well as the sectors of food, construction and the creative industries
Our focus includes the harmonising of digital education with the needs of industry and activities aimed at strengthening the digital skills of employees in industry, through the system of non-formal education