Press Release

Serbia Hosts Second Biotech Future Forum, Showcasing Sustainable Innovations

19 October 2023

Belgrade, 19 October 2023 – International conference “Biotech Future Forum”, organised by the Government of the Republic of Serbia in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and with the support of the BIO4 Campus, has been opened today in the Palace of Serbia.  

Photo: © UNDP Serbia/Marina Jančević

This year’s second edition of the Forum gathers more than 500 participants from more than 30 countries, and more than 40 speakers – representatives of governments, academia, scientific and research institutions, and economy. 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić emphasised at the opening ceremony of the Forum that positioning of Serbia as a biotech centre has been one of the main goals of the Government.  She said that the foundation for this had already been placed by investing into strengthening of the ecosystem of innovations, consisting of scientific-technological parks, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Artificial Intelligence Institute, the digitalisation-support infrastructure, such as the Data Centre in Kragujevac, as well as by creating a stimulating environment for the development of IT companies. 

Photo: © UNDP Serbia/Marina Jančević

“In addition to cooperation with industry and bringing biotech giants to Serbia, it is crucial for us to provide support to our science and scientists, with the aim for the great scientific achievements developed in our universities and institutes to contribute to the growth of science and economy not only in Serbia, but also globally. Serbia will soon become the home of the BIO4 Campus, a new European centre for the development of biotechnology and bioengineering, which would gather more than 1000 PhDs in more than 300 laboratories, and contribute to further strengthening of Serbian economy and its competitiveness,” said Brnabić. 

 This year, the organisation of the “Biotech Future Forum” is once again supported by the World Economic Forum, within which the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Serbia was also established. 

“Rapid advancements in biotechnology underscore the potential it has to revolutionize our lives and economies by overcoming the world’s most pressing challenges in health and sustainability. Recent developments in technology, in particular, Generative AI, have shown great promise in accelerating and improving not only drug discovery processes, but revolutionizing biotechnology as we know it,” said Managing Director of the World Economic Forum Mirek Dusek.

He added that Serbia was not only the first country to join the Global C4IR Network from the region, but also the founder of the first Centre focusing on biotech and AI in healthcare. “As such, the Centre plays a crucial role in not only building out Serbia’s biotech ecosystem, but leading across the global network on the policies, programmes and systems required to cultivate responsible biotechnology advancement and opportunities,” concluded Dusek. 

“Serbia continues to demonstrate real leadership with its commitment to drive and harness all the benefits and the potential of technological innovation and progress and to do so responsibly. Rapid technological advances are accelerating the potential of biotech to help tackle important challenges – from facilitating more affordable access to even higher quality healthcare, to helping us improve food security and sustainability,” OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann said. “In designing policies, it will be important to get the balance right – to ensure policy responses and regulation provide appropriate levels of certainty, stability, and security while facilitating further innovation and growth,” added Cormann.

The “Biotech Future Forum” involves a number of panels covering the fields of biotechnology, bioinformatics, bioengineering and biomedicine. In his video message at the Forum’s opening, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner pointed out that the role of science in creating sustainable future is emphasised in the UN Resolution on the International Decade of Science for Sustainable Development, which was supported by the Republic of Serbia. 

“There is a vital need to ensure ethical and responsible use of new technologies as well as equitable access and distribution of the benefits of biotech across communities and regions. UNDP has recently supported the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Serbia to help create a legal framework for biotech research that respects citizens’ privacy and lays the foundation for responsible A.I. usage,” said Steiner and emphasised that the priority in using the power of biotechnology should be finding solutions to the challenges of climate change. 

“Projects like the BIO4 Campus in Serbia -- currently in development with UNDP support-- will provide cutting-edge science and research infrastructure for the next generation of biotech scientists and entrepreneurs,” concluded Steiner. 

The Minister of Science, Technological Development and Innovation Jelena Begović PhD said that the “Biotech Future Forum” represents the key event for the scientific, but also business community in Serbia and the region. “We gather experts, researchers, decision-makers, investors and companies in order to build together an ecosystem that would actively aid in addressing local and global challenges via biotechnology. This forum offers a chance for an exchange of ideas and creation of partnerships, and it is truly an inspiration for the further development of science and innovations, but it also considers what kind of a future is in store for the humanity with the development of new technologies.” 

“We continue to promote the importance of research and investment in biotechnology, so that we could all together contribute to the progress of our society and economy, and enable better quality of life for all our citizens in the future,” emphasised Minister Begović. 

Photo: © UNDP Serbia/Marina Jančević

A special programme at this year’s Forum entitled “Green Showroom“, is dedicated to green biotechnology, sustainable solutions and innovations that lead to a “greener” and ecologically sustainable future. This programme includes a presentation of the startups, small and medium enterprises supported within initiatives implemented by UNDP, with the support by the European Union and Global Environment Fund, and within the StarTech programme implemented by NALED, in the field of green and digital transformation. 

Participants of the Forum also include major global names, such as Prof Milica Radišić, PhD, from the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, Reshma Shetty, one of the founders of Gingko Bioworks (a company specialised in biotech, with the focus on synthetic biology and genetic engineering), and Professor Timothy Lu of the MIT University, among many others.  

Also, one of the panels is participated in by representatives of the diaspora – scientists and researchers from Serbia working at leading global universities and in large multinational companies. 

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United Nations Development Programme

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