“Prototypes of our small solar chargers, Strawberry Mini, were developed with the support of the Innovation Fund of Serbia,” says Milos Milisavljevic, the founder of Strawberry energy. The Innovation Fund, with support from the World Bank, aims to get new ideas and products into the global market. “Thanks to the Fund we managed to finance the workforce and tools needed for the product,” Milisavljevic says.
Through a mentoring program of the Fund, Strawberry energy then connected with the Larta Institute in Los Angeles, which provides resources for budding entrepreneurs. “They provided training and contacts with institutions and industries in the United States,” Milisavljevic explains. “Ultimately we signed a sales contract with 3fficient Company from California. Once we had Strawberry Mini, we developed the Strawberry Mini Rural.”
This is just one of 53 innovative projects supported with grants from the Innovation Fund of Serbia (IF) since 2011. The project ideas are nothing if not wide-ranging. Other projects include new software to instantly translate the Serbian language. Another company is developing interactive computers to teach elementary school children. And yet another is using organic waste to grow mushrooms.
International Help for International Products
The leap from innovative idea to commercial product is a bumpy and risky one. In Serbia, the Innovation Fund helps talented people with new ideas develop them properly, create a prototype, meet international experts and, hopefully, turn their projects into successful, saleable products.
“The work of the Innovation Fund changed the climate for innovation in Serbia,” says Gordana Danilovic, Manager of the Business-Technological Incubator at the Faculty of Science in Belgrade, which hosts some 50 startups. “A lot of young people are now encouraged to start their businesses, to register their company and to develop innovation.”