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In Serbia: Bringing Bold Ideas to the Marketplace

May 30, 2014

World Bank Group

Strawberries for Solar Power

Villagers across Africa can charge their cell phones, even without access to electricity, thanks to an innovative device developed thousands of miles away in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The device – a small portable solar charger – is called a Strawberry Mini Rural and it is made by Strawberry energy, a company founded by young graduates of the University of Belgrade’s School of Electrical Engineering.  

Models are currently being tested in South Sudan, Botswana and South Africa, but the device played a very practical role recently in the country where it was created.

When Serbia was impacted by severe flooding, the town of Obrenovac went without electricity for days. Thanks to the little solar charger, local people were able to communicate successfully with their families and with rescuers.

" The work of the Innovation Fund changed the climate for innovation in Serbia. "

Gordana Gordana Danilovic

Manager, Business-Technological Incubator, Belgrade


It's all about the good ideas: innovators like Milos Milisavljevic get new ideas and products to the global market, with support from the Innovation Fund and the World Bank.

Photo/Vladimir Miladinovic

“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.”

" We used the funds from the Innovation Fund to create new jobs and to buy equipment which helped us create a new web platform enabling people all over the world to develop their own marketing applications. "

Milan Djordjevic

project leader, DNET-IC


An example of possible applications of the novel App Genie platform for smart phones, financed under the mini grants program – for a wide range of users such as marketing agencies, clothing retailers, furniture stores.

Photo/DNET Inovacioni Centar

Many of the projects are still ongoing, but some are already making their way to reality. So far, entrepreneurs have created eight new products. Two of them have already been sold to commercial businesses, including the Strawberry solar charger.

Nevertheless, Serbian innovators need more than just funding to develop new products. Many researchers and early entrepreneurs simply do not know how to run a business. Knowing this, the Innovation Fund provides firms with training on all aspects of business management, including book-keeping, administrative procedures, marketing, legal help, and registering patents. With this knowledge, the Innovation Fund companies have created ten national patent applications, five trademark applications, and three copyright applications. But, above all, the activities of the Innovation Fund are helping to create new jobs and raise the competitiveness of small Serbian companies.

Change Abroad and at Home

“We used the IF funds to create new jobs and to buy equipment which helped us create a new web platform enabling people all over the world to develop their own marketing applications,” says Milan Djordjevic, the leader of the project DNET-IC Company. “Our innovation enables everyone to develop these applications, as it requires no technical knowledge and no experience with this kind of technology. Without the support of the Innovation Fund we might not have pursued the endeavor.”


Prototype of the Strawberry small solar chargers: can be used anywhere, from Europe to Africa.

Photo/Serbia Innovation Fund

In addition to supporting innovative startups, the Serbia Innovation Project is also helping state research and development institutions to increase the commercial potential of their research.

“Private companies are by definition oriented to commercial products, while state institutes in Serbia tend to stay within the boundaries of fundamental research,” explains Jelena Begovic, Acting General Manager of the Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetics Engineering. “Consultants engaged through the Innovation Project helped us identify our products which have a commercial potential. They also taught us how to manage the process and how to take care of intellectual property. The Institute is in the process of preparing eight products for commercialization!”   

And there is no shortage of ideas. The Fund is also supporting new video games and a mobile device which measures brain waves and could be useful for rehabilitating people with brain injuries. There is even an Innovation Fund-supported idea for people who don’t like to go to the dentist. At the Institute of Physics, Professor Dejan Pantelic is using lasers to make long-lasting fillings for teeth – now that’s an idea with commercial potential.

innovative projects supported with grants from the Innovation Fund of Serbia
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