The “Biotech Future Forum” international conference, hosted by the Serbian Government in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supported by the BIO4 campus, attracted over 500 participants from more than 30 countries and featured over 40 speakers from government, academia, research institutions, and the business sector in Belgrade.
“The rapid advancement of biotechnology illustrates its potential to revolutionise our lives and economy, particularly in medicine and sustainability. The latest technological developments, especially in artificial intelligence, hold immense promise, not just for drug development but for the entire realm of biotechnology as we know it,” remarked Mirek Dušek, Executive Director of the World Economic Forum.
Speaking at the event’s opening at the Serbia Palace, Dušek highlighted that Serbia is the first country in the region to join the Global Network of Centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to establish a centre focusing on biotechnology and AI applications in medicine.
“As such, this centre plays a pivotal role in shaping Serbia’s biotechnological ecosystem, as well as the necessary policies and programmes for a responsible approach to advancing biotech,” Dušek added.
The “Biotech Future Forum” encompassed various panels spanning biotechnology, bioinformatics, bioengineering, and biomedicine. In a video message, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner emphasised science’s role in forging a sustainable future, referencing the UN Resolution on the International Decade of Science for Sustainable Development, to which Serbia was a key proponent.
“We must ensure the ethical and responsible application of biotechnology, guaranteeing equal access to its societal benefits. UNDP recently supported Serbia’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in crafting a legal framework for biotechnological research that respects citizens’ privacy, laying the foundation for the responsible use of AI,” Steiner said. He stressed that using biotechnology to address climate change challenges should be a priority: “Projects like the BIO4 Campus, supported by UNDP, will provide cutting-edge scientific and research infrastructure for the next generation of biotech scientists and entrepreneurs.”
OECD Secretary-General, Matias Korman, stressed the importance of striking the right balance in public policies and regulations in biotechnology, promoting safety alongside innovation and economic growth. “Serbia continues to demonstrate leadership in harnessing the full potential of technological innovations and progress responsibly. Rapid technological advancements also expand the potential of biotechnology to address critical challenges, ensuring better healthcare, secure food supplies, and enhanced sustainability,” noted Korman.
At this year’s second consecutive forum, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić stressed positioning Serbia as a biotech hub as a major governmental objective. “Foundations have already been laid through investments in innovation ecosystems, including science and technology parks, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Artificial Intelligence Institute, digital infrastructure like the Data Centre in Kragujevac, and creating an environment conducive to IT company development,” Brnabić commented.
The forum’s special programme, “Green Showroom”, dedicated to green biotechnology, showcased sustainable solutions and innovations driving a greener, ecologically sustainable future. This segment featured startups and SMEs supported by UNDP initiatives, backed by the European Union and the Global Environment Facility, and within the StarTech programme led by NALED in the realms of green and digital economic transformation.
Among the prominent participants were Prof. Dr. Milica Radišić from the Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, Reshma Shetty, co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, Professor Timothy Lu from MIT, and many more.