News archive - Launching a social innovation hub in FYR Macedonia

Two months ago, the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia launched the first Regional Hub for Social Innovation, together with UNDP.

The Hub will make the most of technology to tackle social challenges and advance human development.

To learn more about the scope of the project, the Voices from Eurasia blog spoke with Dimitar Trajanov, PhD, Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering.

Q: What is the idea behind the Regional Hub for Social Innovation?

Dimitar Trajanov: Well, the main idea behind the whole project is to encourage the development of innovative [information technology (IT)] solutions to social and economic problems.

This concept is underpinned by the remarkable strength of the country’s IT industry, which has been outrunning the pace of development of the overall economy and has become an engine for growth, innovation and competitiveness.

Given this burgeoning and highly skilled IT sector, and given the favourable policy environment, there is a clear opportunity to create new interfaces that will overcome obstacles and stimulate innovation to tackle societal issues.

Did you know that over 90 percent of IT products and services are exported throughout the world, and the [information and communication technology] (ICT) industry now makes up four percent of [gross domestic product] in the country. Internet penetration has expanded widely in the country. Almost 60 percent of households have broadband internet access, for example, with 96 percent of these households including young people.

Q: So the idea is to provide a kind of regional centre that brings together expertise to accelerate development?

DT: That’s right, though it should be stressed that the Hub will seek to draw skills from a diverse range of sectors – from undergraduates, from the private and the public sector, from civil society – and not just people already involved in IT but also from people with know-how in other relevant fields such as human development.

One of the main aims of the Hub is to facilitate and foster new partnerships between the private sector, policy-makers, academics and other players interested in promoting social innovation.

The combination of skills and expertise in development and IT and other areas will help usher solutions through every stage of the process from ideation to prototyping and all the way to scaling up.

The Hub will act as a kind of catalyst for the incubation of innovative IT solutions to address the most pressing needs of the population throughout the region. The products we develop will be aimed at the local, national and regional level. Some solutions may even be applicable on a global scale.

Q: How will the social innovation hub help tackle unemployment?

DT: One of the key aims of the project is to develop new innovative businesses that generate employment.

And the Hub will provide a number of young people with the opportunity to gain basic entrepreneurship experience and upgrade their skills so they have a better chance to create new start-up businesses.

The Hub will also offer internships for students. In cooperation with the private sector, we will organize a number of trainings in the areas where there is a lack of highly qualified workers.

Q: The Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering will be UNDP’s main partner in this project. Is this the first collaboration you have had with UNDP?

DT: The Hub project is certainly the biggest project we’ve worked on with UNDP. The Faculty has had excellent cooperation with UNDP before – for example on the development of a disaster app and anSMS notification system for farmers in the Prespa Lake region. Given the success of these small projects, we decided to join forces and we are now seeking new partnerships with the private sector, national and local government, civil society and citizens – especially young people.

We hope that this project will lead to the Hub becoming a major innovation hub in the country and a catalyst for all citizens interested in contributing their skills and time to solve social challenges.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering?

DT: The Faculty is the largest and most prestigious faculty in the field of computer science and technologies in the country and one of the leading faculties of its kind in the region.

Our policy of encouraging open collaboration between academia and industry has made us highly adept at implementing different project ideas. We have a rich array of skills to draw from and that has been reflected in the many awards we have won.

Last year, for example, our students won first place in Europe and fourth place in the world in theIEEEXtreme 24-Hour Programming Competition. And our students also won first place worldwide in the non-game category in the Samsung Smart App Challenge 2012 competition for the development of mobile applications.

Q: That’s very impressive. Do you think that current conditions in the region are conducive, though, to the idea of a Regional Hub for Social Innovation?

DT: Absolutely, yes. The launching of this initiative could not have come at a more appropriate time. It follows the recent passing by the Government of a national law on innovation, and it is clearly in line with global trends. There has been a great surge of interest in social innovation as a way of fostering sustainable growth, creating jobs and increasing competitiveness.

Social innovation has had a global impact and helped create prosperous societies. I am glad to see that interest in social innovation exists in the country as well. And I hope that soon, with the creation of the Hub, we will be able to make the most of technology to tackle social challenges and advance human development.

Dimitar Trajanov standing behind a young man sitting at a desk in front of a black laptop

At the Hub, designed in part to develop entrepreneurship skills among students

Republic of North Macedonia
Geographical focus
  • General/no specific focus
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Social Sciences

Entry created by Desiree Pecarz on September 6, 2013
Modified on September 6, 2013