Western Balkans Startup Alliance Participates at Future2Tech Expo in Tirana.

Future2Tech, an annual tech conference that brings together entrepreneurs, tech companies and educations institutions, provided the perfect platform for the Western Balkans Startup Alliance to showcase its activities held in the past year. The event, held at the Tirana Palace of Congress, attracted participants and attendees from around the world, all eager to explore the latest trends and innovations in technology.

The Western Balkans region has been gaining attention in recent years for its rapidly growing tech startup ecosystem. With a young and tech-savvy population, a supportive business environment, and access to European markets, countries in the region have become attractive destinations for entrepreneurs and investors alike. The Western Balkans Startup Alliance, a collaborative effort involving startups, incubators, and government agencies across the region, has been at the forefront of this transformation. Their participation in Future2Tech highlighted the innovation and potential that the Western Balkans has to offer.

The WBSA booth at Future2Tech informed the participants about its members services, their activities and policy document that has been developed for the region, The Way Forward to Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. The alliance was also represented in the first panel, Visionary Insights, by Mr. Arjan Ymeri, Executive Director of Oficina. The panel included CEO of international companies such as Vodafone Albania, and regional technology and media companies such as InfoSoft, DevAL and Digit ALB.

Additionally, it featured a diverse range of startups from various sectors, including fintech, health tech, edtech and e-commerce. Attendees had the opportunity to interact with founders, learn about their products and services, and witness live demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies.

The WBSA booth received a visit from the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Business Climate, Ms. Delina Ibrahimaj, who expressed strong support for the alliance’s initiatives. The minister’s presence underscored the Albanian government’s commitment to fostering a favourable business climate for startups and tech companies in the country.

The alliance also used the event as an opportunity to network and establish connections with global investors from Israel and USA, and industry leaders from Germany and Japan. The alliance believes that collaborations and partnerships with the public sector are crucial for the continued growth of the tech ecosystem in the Western Balkans.

Looking Ahead

As the Western Balkans Startup Alliance continues to build the interest in the regional startup ecosystem, events like Future2Tech serve as valuable stepping stones. The alliance’s participation in such international events not only showcases the region’s potential but also opens doors to new opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs to increase their presence in the regional ecosystem. The alliance looks forward to upcoming conferences and presentations of our continuous work in the region and beyond in the next few weeks.

The future of tech in the Western Balkans looks brighter than ever, and the Western Balkans Startup Alliance is at the forefront of this exciting journey.

Small Country, Big Changes!

Montenegro’s Laws on Innovation and R&D Incentives Promote Entrepreneurship and Growth

In recent years, Montenegro has emerged as a promising destination for startups and innovative businesses. The country’s Government has recognized the importance of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship and has taken several steps to support the development of these sectors. 

One of the most significant steps in this regard is the adoption of two modern laws in 2020 – the Law on Innovation Activity and the Law on Incentive Measures for the Development of Research and Innovation. These laws provide entrepreneurs with a clear legal framework, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, reduce bureaucracy, facilitate access to financing and promote economic growth.

By creating a supportive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in Montenegro, laws provide a legal framework for research and development, protection of innovation and establish a range of measures to support innovative businesses.

One of the key provisions of the Innovation law is the establishment of the National Council for Innovation and Smart Specialisation. The Council is tasked with developing policies and strategies to promote innovation, advising the government on matters related to innovation, and coordinating the activities of different stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem. The law also provides for the establishment of the Innovation Fund, which is intended to provide financial support to innovative businesses.

The major result from the Law on Innovation is the establishment of the Fund for Innovation in Montenegro, which formally started working in September 2021.  Its main activity is the implementation of innovation policy by providing and directing financial resources from national, international and other sources towards the development of innovative entrepreneurship and encouraging cooperation between the scientific and economic sectors. The Fund very soon became operational and successfully implemented two program lines in 2022. For this year the Government approved significantly higher budget  and the Fund is going to implement 8 new support instruments during this year, i.e support for startups in pre-acceleration phase and early stage, proof of concept, vouchers for patent protection, support for strengthening innovation culture, educational programs in S3 priority areas,  as well as largest support Program for strengthening the innovation of newly established or existing MSMEs. 

Additional strength to the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in Montenegro is enabled  by the Law on R&D and innovation incentives, which provides a wide range of benefits and incentives for domestic and international companies. These incentives include tax breaks for innovative businesses, support for the commercialization of research and development results, and investments in startups.

This Law outlines the types of incentive measures available for the development of research and innovation and these measures include reduction or exemption of various types of taxes or fees that one legal or physical entity can receive. These measures are aimed to encourage and support innovation and research in Montenegro by providing financial relief and incentives to individuals and companies engaged in these fields. They can be incentivized through exemption or reduction of personal income tax, contributions for social insurance, corporate income tax, fees for communal equipment of construction land, use of state-owned real estate and real estate tax.

The exact type and scope of available incentives depend on the type of entity. 

Start-ups and spin-offs have the most supportive environment and best conditions for development and growth. They are entitled to apply for full exemption from personal income tax and surtax for their employees and other engaged persons for a period of up to five years from their establishment date and receive investment from the other legal entity. 

Practice has shown that the most popular measure is the Corporate income tax exemption. This measure fosters legal entities to invest in their own innovation projects or invest in startups. Based on that investment they are entitled to ask for exemption from the corporate income tax for the profit reinvested in purchase of shares of startups or spin-offs, or profit given as a donation to scientific research institutions, research or innovation infrastructure entities.

Innovation activity entities may use several incentives at the same time, provided that the total amount of incentives does not exceed the permitted limit of 300,000 euros over a three-year period, in accordance with the law governing state aid.

The laws on innovation and R&D incentives are significant steps towards creating a supportive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in Montenegro. Together, they provide a clear legal framework for innovation and establish a range of measures to strengthen competitiveness and support the development of innovative businesses. With the implementation of these two laws, recognizing the importance and positioning  innovation high on the agenda, Montenegro made a significant step forward and it is currently well positioned to become a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

Western Balkans Startup Alliance holds midterm Strategy Meeting

Build, Scale, Connect

The Western Balkan Startup Alliance recently held a significant strategy workshop in the beautiful city of Berane, Montenegro. The event brought together various stakeholders, including existing alliance members, industry experts from the Western Balkans region, and organizations dedicated to fostering a conducive environment for learning, networking, and growth. Notably, the workshop welcomed new members to the Alliance, expanding its collaborative network. mong these esteemed participants were representatives from GIZ Albania EU for Innovation, GIZ Kosovo, ITP, and GIZ North Macedonia EU for Growth Projects. Their expertise, experience, and commitment to fostering regional entrepreneurship were instrumental in shaping the discussions and outcomes of the event.

During the workshop, participants engaged in discussions on new business models, exploring innovative approaches to cooperation and growth. These conversations generated fresh ideas and identified potential avenues for collaboration among startups, hubs, and supporting organizations. The workshop also laid the groundwork for the formation of themed keystone teams, which will be established in the coming weeks.

The creation of these themed keystone teams is an exciting development for the Western Balkans Startup Alliance. These teams will bring together experts and stakeholders in specific areas, fostering focused expertise and collaboration in key sectors of the startup ecosystem. By leveraging the diverse talents and perspectives within these teams, the Alliance aims to drive targeted efforts towards growth, innovation, and regional integration.

In addition to the discussions on new business models and the formation of themed keystone teams, the workshop provided an opportunity to reflect on past achievements. Participants celebrated the progress made by the Alliance in fostering startup development throughout the region. This reflection served as a reminder of the shared vision and commitment to supporting entrepreneurial success.

The outcomes of the workshop have provided the Western Balkans Startup Alliance with a renewed sense of purpose and a clear roadmap for its future endeavors. With the addition of new members, the Alliance’s network expands, enabling greater collaboration and resource-sharing. The engagement and contributions of these new members will undoubtedly enrich the Alliance’s collective efforts.The workshop’s success is attributed to the active engagement and insightful contributions of all participants. Their expertise, experience, and dedication to the startup ecosystem have played an integral role in shaping the Alliance’s strategic direction. The Alliance is grateful for their commitment to drive innovation, economic growth, and regional cooperation.

Moving forward, the Western Balkans Startup Alliance will continue to create an enabling environment for startups to thrive. The establishment of themed keystone teams and ongoing collaboration among members will support startups in their growth journey. These teams will focus on specific themes, nurturing expertise, and developing initiatives to address the unique challenges and opportunities within each sector.With the collective efforts of its members, the Alliance aims to accelerate its impact in the region, supporting startup growth, fostering regional integration, and positioning the Western Balkans as a vibrant hub of entrepreneurial activity.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is extended to the workshop’s participants, as well as the projects from the regional countries and the experts who facilitated the activities. The exceptional support of the team from GIZ Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Foreign Trade has been instrumental in the Alliance’s ongoing progress, and their continuous assistance is deeply appreciated.