The lesson from the Nordic countries: Innovation crucial for competitiveness

All five Nordic countries are among the best eight countries to live in, according to the World Economic Forum. The reason is an open society, characterized by trust, integrity and freedom.

Nordic countries are the biggest winners of globalization, said the ambassador of Finland to Serbia, Pertti Ikonen, at the Nordic Innovative Business in Serbia conference, held in Belgrade on September 6.

– The Nordic market with 27 million people is not a big one, which is why the companies needed to think globally in order to succeed. This is the way Serbia should go too. A lot of effort has been put into reforming the society and the results are apparent, and we will be Serbia’s partner in continuing down that road – Ikonen emphasized.

The fact that, in a modern society, everything is based on sharing outside of national borders was also emphasized by Jasmina Vignjevic, the chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Nordic Business Alliance, who pointed out that Nordic experience can be used to help Serbia on its way to becoming the most competitive country in the region.

This is especially applicable to the Law on E-commerce and the Law on E-communication, Vignjevic said and added that the association was ready to give recommendations regarding a pragmatic evaluation of innovative pharmaceutical drugs in order to further stimulate putting new therapies on the reimbursement list.

Vignjevic also pointed to the growth of trade between the Nordic countries and Serbia, which was higher by 23% percent in 2015, compared to the previous year, whereas it reached nearly EUR 300 million in the first half of 2016, with a tendency of further growth.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that he expected that the trade would grow with the arrival of new investors, but that he also hoped that Serbia would have a lot more products to offer to the Nordic market.

The cooperation with investors from the Nordic countries is excellent, he emphasized, citing the example of Sweden’s IKEA.

– The investment in Bubanj Potok is 2-3 weeks ahead of the schedule, and the toll booth will be moved on time.

The arrival of foreign investors, Vucic emphasized, should stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit, bringing back the work ethic among the people of Serbia, as well as the regional development of the country. He added that he was aware that at least 100 years needed to pass in order for the Serbian mentality to get close to the Nordic mentality.

While talking about the implementation of new technologies in Serbia, the prime minister noted that we lacked knowledge above all.

– The subsidies policy has stimulated the development of the IT sector in particular, which is something we’ll continue working on in the future. We will form new working groups, which we expect to produce the desired results – Vucic said and emphasized that the changes in the education system were a key to success.

Within the working part of the conference, representatives of the Nordic companies had the opportunity to give their suggestions, in an open conversation with the prime minister, about what Serbia needed to focus on more in order to keep up with the changes in the global market and continue the process of reforms.

Ingeborg Ofsthus, CEO of Telenor Serbia, said that Serbia is a country of paperwork and that the society and work processes needed to digitalize. She especially emphasized the need for solving the issues of e-signatures, e-government and the cross-border flow of information, saying that it would contribute to a more transparent work of the Government on the one hand and easier operation of companies on the other.

Vladislav Lalic, manager at IKEA Serbia, pointed to a positive practice of the unified procedure and issuing permits electronically.

– These two points have not only contributed to the commencement of the realization of IKEA’s investment in Belgrade after 25 years, but have also given Serbia a competitive advantage when it comes to all other investors.

Lalic added that Nordic companies were ready to invest in the projects of socially responsible operations, but that there were not enough good projects in Serbia.

– 50% of donations in Serbia end up in state institutions. This is why some work needs to be done on increasing the projects’ attractiveness. I’d also urge that the Law on Corporate Income Tax, which enables the donating companies to be freed of 5% of the income tax, should be implemented more efficiently in order to increase the number of donors.

The conference, which was held at the residency of the Finnish ambassador to Belgrade, was also attended by Andreja Pavlovic (Nordic Business Alliance), Algirdas Krupavicius (Tikkurila) and Predrag Radosevic (Novo Nordisk). All the participants agreed that support to further implementation of innovations was crucial to future investments.

The Nordic Business Alliance is a non-profit organization founded with the aim of becoming a platform for sharing ideas and experiences of the Nordic business community in Serbia. It currently consists of over 40 member-companies operating in Serbia.

(eKapija, 18.09.2016)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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