Supporting the development of the innovation ecosystem in Montenegro

August 27, 2023


Representatives of the Montenegro Innovation Fund, the Office of the President of Montenegro, the Ministry of Science and Technological Development, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Montenegro will embark on a four-day visit to Finland starting Monday, August 28th. This visit signifies a significant stride towards bolstering collaboration in the realm of innovation and possesses the potential to empower the national ecosystem through the exchange of experiences with representatives of Finland’s foremost institutions engaged in innovation development and implementation.

Role of UNDP

Since 2018, UNDP has been strongly supporting the state administration in establishing an innovation ecosystem within the country. Over the preceding period, UNDP, together with the Government of Montenegro, has been diligently shaping the legal framework for innovation – pivotal laws and subsidiary regulations have been adopted, guidelines for implementing innovation policies have been formulated, innovation programs have been outlined to align with the core facets of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3), and the Innovation Fund has been instituted. These combined endeavours, aimed at the objective of ensuring that Montenegro’s innovation, scientific, and research community secures its rightful place on the Balkan and European map, have continued within the second phase of the “Norway for You” project, funded by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and implemented by UNDP and UNOPS.

Along with the financial support aimed at enhancing Montenegro’s innovation ecosystem, the Kingdom of Norway is also offering invaluable expert assistance to the country. In 2022, Norwegian counterparts from two of Norway’s most prominent institutions for fostering the innovation ecosystem – Oslo Science Park and the state agency “Innovation Norway”, shared insightful experiences and best practices with representatives from the Innovation Fund and the Science and Technology Park Montenegro.

The shared intent of the Government of Montenegro and UNDP to gradually channel the potential of creative and innovative individuals and communities towards the development of the innovation ecosystem in the country has culminated in the organization of another substantial study visit, this time to Finland – a nation renowned for its commitment to stimulating innovation. This way, the UNDP Country Office in Montenegro once again reaffirms its unwavering dedication to sustainable development and underscores the significance of its partnering role in advancing Montenegro’s competitiveness.

Strategic Role of the Innovation Fund

Experiences from developed countries bear testament to the fact that promoting innovation and commercializing innovative ideas is a pathway that catalyzes economic growth, competitiveness, and sustainable development within a nation. The Innovation Fund, as the executing body of the innovation ecosystem, occupies a pivotal role in this context.

Since its establishment in September 2021, the Fund has played a pivotal role in refining the S3 Strategy, with a concentrated focus on its implementation, monitoring of progress, and strengthening of capacities for absorbing EU funds.

Despite operating within constrained financial parameters, the Fund has achieved substantial outcomes within a mere few months. It has successfully launched two support programs – innovation vouchers and collaborative innovation grants – both aligned with the Smart Specialization Strategy. With an expanded budget in 2023, the Fund has introduced seven programmatic lines encompassing the entire scope of innovation. This spectrum ranges from bolstering startups, patent protection, reinforcing the culture of innovation, to supporting educational programs aligned with the Smart Specialization Strategy. In 2023, the Fund also piloted a fresh funding model, oriented towards energy efficiency in production through innovative technologies. This unified endeavour has merged resources and expertise from diverse ministries.

The Finnish Model

The trip to Finland is a logical step in Montenegro’s journey of innovation development. Through its resolute commitment to thoroughly implementing an innovation agenda, Finland has effectively cultivated an enabling environment for innovators and innovation-driven companies. It has also facilitated the transition of markets to embrace the dynamics within the concept of the fourth industrial revolution.

Finland’s stature as a global frontrunner in innovation renders it a compelling model for Montenegro. Through engagements with Finnish institutions, the Montenegrin delegation is poised to gather practical insights and glean a nuanced understanding of strategies adaptable to Montenegro’s context. Some of the preeminent institutions set to host the Montenegrin delegation over the course of four days include:

  • Business Finland Venture Capital Fund (BFVC) is collaborating with venture capital funds to contribute to the growth and development of the early stage companies;

  • Finnish Industry Investment Ltd (Tesi) is a state-owned investment company investing in growth companies;

  • Slush is a non-profit and the world’s largest gathering of startups;

  • Business Helsinki is a City of Helsinki service that aims to help new businesses and startups succeed;

  • Aalto University Innovation Services manages commercialization of inventions, intellectual property and technology transfer at Aalto University:

  • Enter Espoo helps companies and investors access business opportunities;

  • Finnish Business Angel Network (FIBAN) is a non-profit association of private investors on a mission to inspire private investments;

  • Urban Tech Helsinki- incubator for clean and sustainable urban solutions which helps turning business ideas into a growth-oriented startup;

  • The Finnish Innovation Fund (SITRA) is a future-oriented fund that is influential nationally and internationally and acts as a think and a catalyst for cooperation;

  • Maria 01 is a community-driven initiative funded in 2016 and co-owned by the City of Helsinki, Startup Foundation, and Helsinki Enterprise Agency.

Through focused discussions and the exchange of knowledge, this collaboration will expedite the realization of Montenegro’s innovation agenda, invigorating sustainable development and nurturing an innovation-driven Montenegrin economy.