From Belgrade to Business and Back

Sabrina de Boer (ESR9)



When you first arrive, Belgrade can be quite a confusing city: Narrow, picturesque alleys lead you somewhere, but certainly not where you expected. Eventually, you get carried along with the crowds on broad, somehow intimidating boulevards. Antiquated trolleybuses which offer better WiFi signals than German universities are making their way along the inscrutable net of overhead wires.

It almost seems that these wires are necessary to maintain a connection between this variety of architectonic styles, epochs, and the extremes of brimming wealth and furtive decay extending over the hills between Sava and Danube. We would have walked out on a grey rainy November morning being led more reliably by the pointing of helpful people than by the Cyrillic street signs or google maps. Certainly, at least one of us would have arrived late to the workshop venue at the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy of the University of Belgrade

…If we wouldn´t have had once again the joy to come together by wireless connections. I was not very sure what would expect me during this workshop, entitled “Entrepreneurship workshop: From an idea to its commercialization”.

Most of us, including me, were so absorbed by our work in the lab, especially one year before our project will end, that we have not thought much about what steps it takes to bring an idea to an invention and finally to an innovation. In this context, an introduction to the process of filing patents by the Serbian intellectual property office could not be missing.

After this introduction, we had the base to get more into the entrepreneur thinking and what to consider when launching a new product according to the well-established business model canvas. After that, we were ready for lunch, but instead of ћевапи with Ajvar (which in fact is from Macedonia, as we were taught later), we nourished ourselves by foodstuff with even more controversial origin, be it from the university canteen or the depths of our fridges.

After the break, we had no time for lethargy since Vojin Šenk convinced us that the best way to solve a problem is to do it with child-like agility. And that for finding the right answers, you have to ask the right questions, in the correct order: Why?, What?, and How?

We did not talk about the When?, so we slightly exceeded the session’s time limit. Still, we would have liked to challenge ourselves with more creative-thinking tasks, maybe even in smaller groups in breakout sessions. Instead, we had to get serious again and answer a short multiple-choice test to understand the topics we treated.

The rest of the afternoon was more in an open format: young entrepreneurs with a scientific background told us about the not always straightforward path they took to bring their idea to reality.

They told us about their success, but what was even more valuable, their failures, and how they moved on.

We learned about several innovation competitions and the importance of connecting with people having different scientific backgrounds. Be it in the respective Marie Curie Alumni Association chapter or more intensely by participating in a problem-solving competition which consists of working, arguing, eating, and sleeping several days with an interdisciplinary group in an unheated 4m3-cube in Swiss autumn.

We were left with the take-home message that it is important to face the crisis, to seek the discomfort, in order to develop new ideas and solutions, and to be persistent and confident along the harsh way of bringing them to reality.

The day ended with a virtual trip across Serbia, leaving us with a little tear that we could not meet there personally.

Altogether it was hardly possible to squeeze more information into this well-organized one-day workshop. I would have liked a session where we could interact as a group, especially since teamwork was one of the main features of successful innovation stories. Maybe a two-day course would have been more adequate to access a lot of knowledge and assimilate it for our future plans.

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