November 9, 2023 | Thursday
By: Vjollca Çavolli, Executive Director, STIKK
Since February 2021, STIKK has been implementing the European Union funded project STAR UP, designed to support the acceleration of 25 start-ups that have already navigated the incubation stage and are poised for further growth. It is through the STAR UP Project that STIKK managed to make the TechPark Pristina fully operational in September 2023.
Thanks to a generous half-million Euro grant from the European Union, STIKK has established a cutting-edge and innovative space within TechPark Pristina, exclusively dedicated to start-ups. Participating start-ups, totaling 25, are guaranteed a 2-year tenancy at TechPark. Throughout this period, they will benefit from a tailored program of consultancies, training sessions, and mentorship. The project also facilitates activities aimed at expanding their services or products internationally, including visits to national and international conferences and business-to-business engagements.
In the wake of its establishment in 2008, the Kosovo Association for Information and Communication Technology (STIKK) played a pivotal role in the rapid evolution of the local ICT sector. Recognizing the sector’s burgeoning potential, STIKK, over the years, identified a growing need for a Start-up incubator, leading to the inception of the Innovation Center Kosovo (ICK).
As the ICT landscape continued to flourish, STIKK conducted annual assessments through the IT Barometer, shedding light on the increasing demand for sectoral support. However, it became evident that existing initiatives, including ICK, were insufficient to meet the evolving needs of the industry.
Extensive research, consultations with regional partners, and dialogues with governmental stakeholders revealed a unique opportunity. STIKK discerned that Kosovo stood as the sole country in both the region and the EU without a dedicated Technology Park.
In a significant milestone in 2017, STIKK successfully negotiated terms with the Ministry of Trade and Industry for the establishment of TechPark Pristina, strategically located in the Bernica village near Pristina. This achievement marked the beginning of subsequent negotiations with public stakeholders and donors, aiming to address the construction requirements of the park.
This journey marked the inception of Kosovo’s first Technology Park, envisioned as a central hub for ICT innovation, collaboration, and growth. STIKK remains committed to fostering an environment where the entire ICT community can interact, innovative ideas can flourish, and both start-ups and established businesses can collaborate seamlessly.
Following the identification of the need for a dedicated Technology Park in Kosovo, STIKK embarked on a journey to establish a contractual relationship with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Economy for the construction of TechPark Pristina.
Designed in three phases, the construction plan outlined rough works, facility redeployment, building adaptation, and finalization of works. However, the project encountered significant challenges, including changes in government and the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially slated for completion by the end of 2020, the contractual agreement with the contractor was eventually signed in 2022, leading to the final phase of construction.
Despite delays and hindrances, STIKK, in collaboration with all stakeholders, successfully navigated through the obstacles and completed TechPark Pristina in September 2023. The facility is now operational, marking a significant milestone for the ICT community in Kosovo. The challenges faced along the way only strengthened the commitment to creating a thriving hub for innovation and collaboration.
In recognizing the European Union’s significant role as one of the foremost donors in Kosovo’s overall development, the impact on the ICT sector has been particularly noteworthy. The EU’s steadfast support, evident through various financed projects aimed at empowering the youth and fostering ICT growth, has played a pivotal role.
Notably, the latest EU support has directly contributed to the operationalization of TechPark Pristina, facilitated through the STAR UP project implemented by STIKK. The STAR UP initiative aims to bolster the Kosovo economy by nurturing the structured growth of promising ICT startups, enabling them to compete globally and provide innovative services. This support extends beyond the local market, reaching both EU and global arenas.
The STAR UP project not only aligns with the EU’s commitment to the continuous development of the ICT sector in Kosovo but also positions TechPark Pristina as a unique space, offering professional services, modern infrastructure, and effective promotion for ICT startups and companies.
Overall, the European Union stands out as a significant supporter of Kosovo’s ICT sector, contributing to its sustained development. We express our gratitude for the positive collaboration and the transformative impact of EU investments on the ICT landscape in Kosovo.
Since February 2021, STIKK has been actively implementing the STAR UP project, a transformative initiative designed to support the acceleration of 25 start-ups that have already navigated the incubation stage and are poised for further growth.
Thanks to a generous half-million Euro grant from the European Union, STIKK has established a cutting-edge and innovative space within TechPark Pristina, exclusively dedicated to start-ups. This space, fully furnished with funds from the EU, not only provides essential working amenities such as tables, chairs, and meeting spaces but also ensures that start-ups are equipped with state-of-the-art IT resources, including laptops, monitors, and conference call equipment. A recreational space, featuring a table tennis table, adds a vibrant touch to the working environment.
Participating start-ups, totaling 25, are guaranteed a 2-year tenancy at TechPark. Throughout this period, they will benefit from a tailored program of consultancies, training sessions, and mentorship. The project also facilitates activities aimed at expanding their services or products internationally, including visits to national and international conferences and business-to-business engagements.
Notably, 15 out of the 25 start-ups will have the opportunity to receive grants valued at around €10,000.00 each, acting as catalysts for their continued growth.
This initiative ensures that young individuals entering the ICT field have unparalleled opportunities for development. Beyond the physical resources, STIKK’s ongoing support, combined with interactions with established businesses within TechPark, positions these young talents for success in both domestic and international markets.
In recent years, the demand for ICT skills has emerged as a vital force across industries in Kosovo, reshaping the landscape of the job market. Young individuals equipped with ICT skills hold a distinct advantage, as employers seek technologically proficient talents. Their involvement in the ICT sector is not only crucial for the industry’s future but also brings fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and adaptability to evolving technologies.
The youth are actively pioneering the use of ICT, becoming key drivers in a dynamic and rapidly growing industry. While their engagement with ICT is promising, the challenge lies in inspiring them to leverage technology for positive change. National policy bodies, regulatory authorities, governments, and civil society can play a pivotal role in recognizing and encouraging the accelerated use of information and communication technologies in development strategies.
We firmly believe that ICT represents more than a skill set—it is an opportunity for governments to foster socioeconomic development. By harnessing the power of ICT, we can improve education, equip the youth with the skills necessary for a knowledge-based economy, and provide abundant career opportunities within the ICT sector itself.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and technology-driven, the youth, armed with ICT skills, stand poised to shape the future. Their explicit inclusion in development strategies is not just essential but transformative, ensuring that the benefits of ICT extend beyond individual careers to the broader prosperity of our society.