New digital transformation opportunities: A study visit to Croatia demonstrates best practices for small and medium-sized companies

A study visit focusing on digital transformation of small and medium-sized enterprises was organised with the support of the project ”Innovation and Digitalisation in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU4DigitalSME” that is co-funded by the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Representatives of digital innovation hubs (DIHs), authorities, development agencies and associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina visited Croatia in the period from May 15 to 17, 2023 in order to exchange experiences and learn about best practices.

The visit was prepared by experts from the consultancy firm Luvent Consulting GmbH and aimed to ensure an exchange of experiences between business support providers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. On the first day, the delegation visited:

  • BICRO BIOcentar, a unique incubator focusing on provision of support to the development of biotechnology in Croatia,
  • ZICER, an innovation centre from Zagreb and one of the oldest entrepreneurship centres in the region, as well as Plavi ured that is part of the innovation centre and offers trainings, counselling, co-financing and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs throughout Croatia.  

“Becoming acquainted with the best practices in the region is the first step towards an improved innovation ecosystem in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During this study visit, we had an opportunity to meet different actors (innovation centres, incubators, development agencies and companies) and learn about their development path, which is something that still needs to happen in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the strategic goals of ”Bit Alijansa”, an association of leading IT companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a digitalisation of the society. Experiences related to these topics acquired during this study visit are therefore invaluable and extremely useful,” Kristina Erak from ”Bit Alijansa” pointed out.

On the second day of the visit, the delegation consisting of representatives of the three DIHs, which was supported by the project ”Innovation and Digitalisation in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU4DigitalSME” (DIH ”IDEMO” from Banja Luka and DIHs ”Digital Storm” and ”Its4Health” from Sarajevo), representatives of the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Industry of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, representatives of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chamber of Commerce of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zenica Development Agency ZEDA and the association of the largest IT companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina (”Bit Alijansa”) visited:

”Three representatives of the DIH Digital Storm participated in the study visit to Croatia. During the visit, the team learned about the Croatian innovation ecosystem and took part in working meetings with representatives of technology and innovation companies, innovation centres and incubators. As a result, they acquired important know-how about the structure and set-up of organisations from the region that implemented numerous projects funded from EU pre-accession funds and entered the EU market once the country became a full EU Member State. The expansion of the partner network by including new members and strengthening of the existing partner network is one of the most important results of this well-organised visit”, Mirza Suljagić from ”Digital Storm” Hub pointed out. 

At the very end of the study visit, the participants also visited Sobočan d.o.o., a company producing high-quality furniture for businesses that managed to cover the whole value chain, from an idea, over design and delivery of produced furniture, to post-sale support. 

By visiting the mentioned locations, the delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina strengthened its capacities. Specific activities were planned after the study visit in order to enable the members of the delegation to exchange their observations and impressions.  

”Thanks to the visit, we were able to acquire new know-how and best practices through specific examples regarding the structure, organisation and operations of innovation centres, but also successful companies from Croatia. Upon our return, we will apply the acquired knowledge during daily work activities to all companies, but also our colleagues from the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Boris Marković, a representative of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointed out.

A representative of the Zenica Development Agency ZEDA, Goran Janković, said that ”Persons present were able to see what similar organisations from the region, in this case from Croatia, are doing and offering to future and existing entrepreneurs in terms of support and development of their ideas or businesses and compare it to their own operations. This was a confirmation that we are doing the right thing and that some details can be used to improve services for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

The new technological development implies the introduction of digitalisation and innovation, which is a key pre-requisite for a better competitiveness and development of small and medium-sized enterprises. SMEs undergoing transformation need all the support they can get from business support providers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project ”Innovation and Digitalisation in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU4DigitalSME” will continue organising study visits, including a similar visit that will take place at the beginning of 2024.


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