Interview with Dr. Adrian Solomon, EIT Manufacturing Representative Serbia

In January 2023, EIT Manufacturing has established a local office in Belgrade, Serbia. Its representative, Dr. Adrian Solomon, tries to bring the country’s industrial, policy and education ecosystems closter to EIT Manufacturing’s activities to boost industrial modernisation for sustainable and intelligent manufacturing. 

Dr. Adrian Solomon is an experienced knowledge and technology transfer manager with expertise in intelligent and environmentally sustainable production. Industrial and higher education reforms, the transformation of regional innovation ecosystems and digitalisation are among his core capacities. In previous roles, he has served as Director of Helixconnect Europe (Romania), Chairman of the External Grants Committee at the Triple Helix Association, Project Manager at the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (UK), and Deputy Director of the South East European Research Centre (Greece). Adrian is also a keynote and panel speaker at numerous international events and has performed industrial and policy consulting. He holds a PhD in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Sheffield (UK) as well as a Degree in Computer Science.

We have invited Adrian for a short interview to learn about his motivation and ambitions for his new role as EIT Manufacturing representative in Serbia.

Q: How did you get engaged with EIT Manufacturing?
Adrian: I first got to engage with EIT Manufacturing in 2021 when my network managed to win a project of the EIT HEI Initiative. Throughout the implementation of the project, we have been invited to many events organised by EIT Manufacturing. As part of several outreach activities regarding policy commitment and strategic policy partnerships, I also got to meet the team of the EIT Manufacturing Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) and attended two INNOVEIT events in Athens and Brussels in 2022.

Q: You are the new representative of EIT Manufacturing in Serbia. What are your ambitions for the Serbian manufacturing industry?
Adrian: I experienced that Serbia lacks manufacturing ecosystem catalysts that can enable a modernised, low carbon, intelligent and optimised production system in the country. And this is exactly what EIT Manufacturing offers by bringing cutting-edge European manufacturing innovations together with the education and policy sectors.

On one hand, we want to raise awareness among manufacturing companies of all sizes about the opportunities and expertise provided by EIT Manufacturing. We aim to motivate Serbian manufacturing companies to join EIT Manufacturing-funded projects or become members of the association. In the end, our goal is to support the innovative transformation of Serbia’s manufacturing industry. For this, we aim to introduce a wide range of training activities and novel cooperation mechanisms among all involved stakeholders.

On the other hand, we will undertake substantial effort to align policy making and policy incentives with investments in innovative manufacturing by actively working with national authorities in Serbia. Our goal is to make the manufacturing innovation ecosystem work in a balanced co-financing manner.

Q: What potential do you see in the Serbian manufacturing industry?
Adrian: The Serbian manufacturing ecosystem is very strong in Eastern Europe. With its excellent infrastructure, the country is well-positioned across the main EU trade corridors and this paves the way to a promising future. I definitely see a potential for mass production and trade that would foster the local economic development.

On top of this, Serbia is among the strongest tech hubs in Eastern Europe. It has recently received a substantial national-level support to boost the digital transformation of industry by relying on deep-tech and particularly artificial intelligence. Transitioning from a service provider country, Serbia will shift its focus to rapidly transforming its industry digitally, environmentally, and socially. And here is where EIT Manufacturing comes into place, as a catalyst and enabler of manufacturing innovations.

Q: From your experience, what is special about the Serbian manufacturing ecosystem?
Adrian: From an innovation perspective, company owners in Serbia are very entrepreneurial which leads to an innovation infusion into the wider ecosystem. On top of this, the manufacturing ecosystem is becoming more and more exposed to technology transfer. University spin-offs and companies are keen on developing value-added partnerships within the knowledge triangle, which is also facilitated by EIT Manufacturing. Besides this, the strong governmental support for deep-tech and artificial intelligence capacity opens up the opportunity to incrementally transform the ecosystem and diffuse European best practices, making Serbia a true regional leader in low carbon and intelligent manufacturing and generates economic, environmental and social value.

Q: What do you see as the most pressing challenges for Serbian manufacturers?
Adrian: At the moment, many small and medium-sized Serbian manufacturers face equipment and competence gaps, slowing down their ongoing expansions. They are also often not aware of the possibility of acquiring EU grants and of connecting with EU counterparts that can enable these gap mitigations. Standardisation, tracing and certification of end-products are also blocking the potential expansion of sales to EU markets. On the other hand, large manufacturing enterprises are keen to transform towards digitally-enabled, low-carbon processes and to better rely on the knowledge triangle for facilitating the next generation of skilled workforce by developing better cooperation mechanisms.

Q: How can EIT Manufacturing support Serbian manufacturing stakeholders?
Adrian: We can support Serbian manufacturing stakeholders on many different levels. First of all, by education. We can provide access to cutting-edge training courses, for example via Skills.move, applied university-industry cooperation mechanisms like Teaching Factories, open innovation competitions like BoostUp! and other startup events and match-making with experienced EU counterparts. Our topics of expertise are tailored around: Flexible Production Systems; Low Environmental Footprint Systems & Circular Economy; Digital & Collaborative Solutions; and Human-Machine Co-Working and the smart use of automation and robots to enable great workplaces.

Secondly, EIT Manufacturing can provide financial support to manufacturing stakeholders in Europe via our annual call for project proposals, various competitions and calls and many other initiatives. Thirdly, EIT Manufacturing can re-construct and boost the entire manufacturing ecosystem in Serbia by enabling high-level policy making, helping the government to align their incentives to support manufacturing companies and develop successful partnerships with quantifiable impact.

Thank you very much for the interview!
by Theresa Neuhauser

“Through the initiatives of EIT Manufacturing, Serbian manufacturers will benefit from cutting-edge European expertise, grants, equipment and platforms that will make their businesses grow and produce enhanced economic, environmental and social value for the country.”

Dr. Adrian Solomon, EIT Manufacturing Representative Serbia

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