The Italy-Serbia Innovation Forum called “Matchmaking for Innovation” opened today, Dec. 5th, with introductory speeches by Lombardy Region President, Attilio Fontana, Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation of the Republic of Serbia, Jelena Begovic and Italian Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Luca Gori.
Ambassador Luca Gori contextualized the Forum in relation to Italy’s strategy toward Serbia: “The organization of the Innovation Forum is part of a road to boosting institutional, economic and social relations between Italy and Serbia that the Meloni government has undertaken along four lines. From the institutional point of view, in the last thirteen months, the Italian ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Agriculture, Made in Italy, and the University of Scientific Research have all visited Belgrade. Also, there was a constant exchange of visits between parliamentarians from the two countries.
The second guideline is related to economic relations, which have been promoted through several major events, such as the Italy-Serbia Economic and Scientific Forum last March which saw the participation of more than 200 companies, the participation in the Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad as a partner country, the collaboration of Vinitaly and Agenzia ICE with the Wine Vision Fair that brought more than 50 high-quality Italian wineries to present themselves in Belgrade, the Innovation Forum which, thanks to the contribution of the Lombardy Region, will bring to Belgrade more than 30 Italian innovation stakeholders (incubators, startups, venture funds) ready to meet and collaborate with their Serbian peers.
The third axis of our action is to give visibility to individual Italian regions, particularly those that historically have privileged relations with Serbia. We had the President of the Veneto Region, Luca Zaia, at the Wine Vision Fair, in the coming months we will also have the President of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region, Massimiliano Fedriga, as a guest. The fourth axis is that of institutional strengthening of Italy in Serbia and the Balkans – the consolidated national structures are operational in the country (the Embassy, Trade Office, ICE Agency, Institute of Culture, Confindustria, Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce), while in recent months we have opened the offices of SIMEST, SACE and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti here, a unique case so far worldwide.”
“The visit of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Sunday, December 3rd, was a synthesis and further deepening of the work done in these four directions in the past months, with a commitment to further boost cooperation between the two countries. So much so that Prime Minister Meloni and President Vucic agreed to resume the practice of bilateral intergovernmental summits, which were last held in 2013,” the Ambassador recalled during President Fontana’s meeting with the Italian business community.
For his part, the President of the Lombardy Region highlighted the political choice to consider innovation as the basis of the regional development model, “We are one of the richest regions in Europe, we account for more than 20 percent of Italy’s GDP, and we believe that we can guarantee our citizens the level of well-being they require only through a strong emphasis on innovation. Our region has 25 percent of all researchers in Italy and 35 percent of the patents filed each year in Italy are filed in Lombardy. Next year the European Patent Court will open an office in Milan, in the historic Pirelli Palace, which will operate in agribusiness, fashion and phytosanitary segments,” Mr Fontana pointed out.
“I saw that one of the topics of this gathering is Smart Cities. I prefer to talk about Smart Country, which is the goal, i.e. that all the connections and opportunities that are the result of innovation should be able to extend to all the territories of the region. Every person in Lombardy should be able to realize his or her dream of enterprise wherever he or she was born and wherever he or she decides to live. I have found here a purposeful, concrete world with a great desire to engage and realize their dreams. I visited today excellent research and innovation centres and these are the best basis for collaboration, exchanging experiences and ideas and research projects implemented together by Serbia and Lombardy.
On the other hand, our universities appeal to students from all over the world and 30 percent of all students in our universities come from outside the region. I have met many Italian entrepreneurs and found that they are comfortable here in Serbia – this is an essential element when choosing where to invest abroad and with which partners to collaborate. Finally, a consideration of more geopolitical value – a strong Serbia is and will be an element of balance and stability in the region to prevent the emergence of further factors of destabilization and conflict in the area,” concluded the former mayor of Varese.
Minister Jelena Begovic recalled that Italy is not only one of Serbia’s main trading partners but also one of the main partners in Horizon 2020 projects, thus in scientific and technical collaboration within the framework of European innovation funds. “The iconic figures chosen as symbols of this Forum are Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla – two minds that imagined the world centuries in advance. Leonardo dreamed of flying objects that are now mass-produced and used by millions of people every day, while Tesla laid the foundations for uses of electrical energy and wave properties of matter that have only recently been realized. Here, we need to give the opportunity to anyone with innovation skills to work on their projects and try to implement them. Serbia has a long tradition of excellence in STEM subjects and the government has aptly financed the National Science Fund and the Innovation Fund, investing tens of millions of euros in the creation of science and technology parks throughout the country and activating science research centres in areas not close to universities. I want to highlight the Serbian government’s substantial investment in the Kragujevac Data Centre, which is among the most advanced in Europe in terms of computing capacity and security. Today, we support not only scientists but also Serbian startups or those who choose to develop in Serbia,” remarked the Serbian Minister.
“Innovation opens new markets and boosts the economy, as well as society as a whole. Therefore, in order to promote its focus on innovation, Serbia needs partners like Italy, which has the potential to transfer to Serbia its solutions for automation and digitization of small and medium-sized enterprises in a context like ours with a limited industrial base and a small domestic market,” concluded the Minister, highlighting the need to connect research and industry.
The Forum will conclude on December 6 and its detailed programme can be downloaded here.
This post is also available in: Italiano