The Slovene innovation environment is lagging behind the European average in a period of increasing global competitiveness and technological advancement reveals the European Innovation Scoreboard, which shows that the Slovene innovation index has decreased by 10.6 percent in 2019, which pushed Slovenia from the second most powerful group of strong innovators to the group of moderate innovators. The University of Maribor (UM) is responding to the fragmentation of innovation potentials and the scarcity of funding sources with the INNOVUM platform to reduce the large backlog of the Eastern Cohesion Region compared to the West.
As the University of Maribor, according to dr. Anton Habjanič, Ph.D., is aware of this problem and its proactive role in the development of the region more than ever, INNOVUM, together with the establishment of the Technology Innovation Center, will be the central project of the current Rector of UM prof. dr. Zdravko Kačič Ph.D.
Provide infrastructure and offer capable personnel
INNOVUM is a solution for the needs of the economy, says prof. dr. Miralem Hadziselimovic, Ph.D., Vice-Rector for Infrastructure of UM: "In particular, small and medium-sized enterprises lack the development departments and their personnel and research infrastructure to achieve the development of their products, processes and services. With the INNOVUM platform, we aim to provide infrastructure on the one hand and to offer capable staff on the other, as UM has approximately 1200 researchers who can bring added value to research and development activities for the needs of the economy in all breakthrough fields."
"The University of Maribor has approximately 1.200 researchers who can bring added value to R&D activities for the needs of the economy in all breakthrough fields," says UM Vice-Rector Prof. dr. Miralem Hadziselimovic.
Vice-rector Hadziselimovic says it is often the case that companies develop semi-finished products, processes and services. Due to the absence and fragmentation of development potential, they are never finished. "That is why we want to take a step forward with the commercialization and marketing of the supportive environment so that the products will make it into real life and will be on the shelves, especially abroad, and to give added value to our economy in this way," says Vice-Rector Hadziselimovic.
He is pleased that they have already presented the INNOVUM platform to the Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek, as well as to the Minister of Education Jernej Pikalo: "The platform is supported, our intentions have been recognized."
Development of a supercomputer as an INNOVUM base
Among the projects that will form INNOVUM is the HPC-RIVR project with the development of a supercomputer in Maribor, which addresses the fields of artificial intelligence and digitization of modern society. The establishment of a research infrastructure that will be open to the interested economy will also follow. This also means the construction of facilities, the procurement of equipment and the provision of adequate human resources.
However, the University of Maribor wants to place all equipment and mechanisms in local environments where this is necessary. "If I look at Industry 4.0, the leading position is in Novo mesto, the energy sector in Krško, the development of smart cities and communities in Celje, Talum and Impol, where the metallurgy is, are in Kidričevo and Slovenska Bistrica. Of course, we must not forget Slovenian Carinthia, which has great potential, and Pomurje. That is why we want to make a comprehensive contribution to this cohesion region by raising society to a new level so that young people have the opportunity to work and stay in this region."
Establishing an environment that will keep young people in the region
He is convinced that UM creates good "products", graduates of professional-technical fields, who are easily employed at home and in the wider region. "Young people are leaving because they do not have the opportunity to work in high-tech jobs here and because our products are of low added value, so employers are also unable to provide adequate salaries," says the vice-rector.
The state's job is to create the conditions for jobs and the environment that will keep young families in their homeland.
At the meeting of directors and managers where UM presented the INNOVUM project, Minister Zdravko Počivalšek emphasized that the educated workforce is the reason for the foreign direct investment, the Magna factory in Hoče, adding that the state has the task to create conditions for new jobs and the environment that will keep young families in their homeland.
From muscle to brain commercialization
He mentioned three key objectives that he considered achievable. By 2025, Slovenia wants to increase exports of goods and services from the current 40 billion to 50 billion euros a year. Slovenian also wants to increase the value-added per employee from the current € 42,000 to € 60,000 and provide workers with an average annual gross salary of 25.000 euros.
"We are moving from muscle commercialization to brain commercialization and this is the only real path to higher added value," says Minister Zdravko Počivalšek.
He believes that investing in research, development and innovation is crucial: "We are moving from muscle commercialization to brain commercialization and this is the only real path to higher added value," says Minister Zdravko Počivalšek. He added that there would be no progress if we fail to bring the local community, economy, and state on the same path.