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Ana Grujović, Executive Director Of The Swiss-Serbian Chamber Of Commerce, SSCC

Rapid Economic Growth is Based on Innovation

The utilising of new technologies, the strengthening of links between the education system, research work and industry, which is at the essence of creating a strong startup ecosystem, as well as the operations of the ICT sector, represent some of the most important topics for exchanging experiences at the gatherings of SSCC members

There are numerous member companies of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce operating in the IT sector, such as Zühlke Engineering, Merkle, Prodyna, Sky Express, Codetribe and InterVenture, among others. This naturally ensures their great interest in bringing the areas of digitalisation, IT and artificial intelligence into the thematic focus of the Chamber, says SSCC Executive Director Ana Grujović in this interview.

Statistics actually show that, in the area of trade in services, Switzerland is Serbia’s 4th biggest partner in terms of the total volume of exchange, with ICT services providing a significant contribution to that total. This is why the SSCC established its Working Group on Digitalisation, which held its first meeting this June. “During discussions with member companies, artificial intelligence proved to be a hot topic, both in the aspect of legal regulations and its use for conducting daily business activities,” says Grujović.

Alongside this initiative, May 2023 also saw the staging of a seminar on the topic of Human Resources and legal difficulties confronting the IT sector, which was organised in cooperation with SSCC member company TSG Law office. “This event enabled participants to discover more about the challenges confronting IT companies in Serbia as a result of the latest global events that are being increasingly reflected in our market, including the implications of using Chat GTP for the way work is done and employees are motivated,” says Grujović. Finally, during the June webinar, “The SSCC’s partner from Zurich, the Switzerland-Central Europe Chamber of Commerce (SEC), presented ways companies can increase productivity with a suitable corporate strategy on the use of artificial intelligence,” explains our interlocutor.

What are the “eternal topics” and in which areas are companies’ new interests?

Due to the topical nature of individual themes, certain events will become regular in the plan of SSCC activities. One such case is the working lunch under the heading “Start-up ecosystem in Switzerland – key success factors”, which was organised last October in cooperation with SSCC member company Holycode. The key success factors for the ecosystem that were cited at the time include the capacity for innovation and adaptation, which is put into practice every day by start-up companies that are often at the very forefront of innovation. Interconnectivity between higher education institutions, research work and industry is supporting the development of an innovative and dynamic start-up ecosystem in Switzerland. We are planning another working lunch for this year that will address the topic of Swiss experiences in the fields of fintech, medtech and ICT, with guest lecturers from Switzerland.

We are also continuing the series of webinars on the topic of cyber-security in cooperation with member company Sky Express, which aims to ensure the protection and security of company information.

The new interests of companies are in the field of green transition: the struggle to combat climate change, decarbonisation, the use of renewable energy sources, the applying of new and sustainable technologies in business operations, protection of the natural environment etc.

Among the invaluable experiences of Swiss companies, I would single out company ABB, a technological leader in the field of electrification and automation, which enables a more sustainable future with the efficient use of resources, as well as Nestlé’s regenerative agriculture initiative, which aims to preserve and maintain agricultural land.

Has the slowdown in economic growth, both globally and locally, impacted on the number of inquiries that you receive from potential Swiss investors and the general activities of the SSCC?

Periods of economic growth slowdowns are nothing new; those are periods when companies consider, among other things, conquering new international markets. I would cite one example from the machining and metal processing sector: this February’s official opening of the Kruševac factory of Swiss company Etampa.

There are many SSCC member companies operating in the IT sector, and thus digitalisation continues to represent an area of great interest to them

When it comes to the Chamber’s activities, they are implemented regularly in collaboration with member companies, colleagues from other bilateral chambers and business associations, as well as with institutional partners from Switzerland. I would emphasise in particular the importance of the gatherings of SSCC members that provide new member companies with opportunities to present their business activities and fortify their connections with the business community of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber. Among the most recent companies to become SSCC members I would mention gategroup, Nicoll Curtin and the Winsedswiss Education Group.

From the perspective of the need to advance the business climate in Serbia, what do your members single out as the most important issues requiring discussion with public policymakers?

Legal certainty is crucial. All investors need to feel that sense of certainty, both potential investors and those already present on the domestic market. The results of the SSCC survey on the business climate showed that the majority of surveyed companies expect further changes when it comes to the efficiency of the work of public institutions, administration and the application of legislation, as well as in the area of ensuring legal certainty.

The area of CSR has been changing dynamically over recent years, with an increasing number of topics in the focus of companies’ concern – from the green economy, to labour rights and human rights. To what extent is this area in the focus of CCSS activities and the informing of members?

Business has a broad influence in society and is also able to contribute to advancing human rights in various ways. The ways companies can positively influence human rights is becoming a high priority topic. That’s also the reason SSCC member companies are invited to participate in the Swiss Forum “Economy and Human Rights”, which is to be held in Bern on 18th October 2023 and is being jointly organised by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. (FDFA).