Building an Innovation Ecosystem in North Macedonia – Supporting Local Talent to Overcome Municipal Challenges

By Monika Rozalska

When I first came to North Macedonia I had little idea what to expect. I’d heard about some great software developers and successful businesses established in the country, but I couldn’t be sure there were enough resources and capacity to implement the challenging model of innovation we propose.

After less than 24 hours in this vibrant ecosystem, however, it became clear I was surrounded by knowledgeable, bold and smart entrepreneurs, talented students and ecosystem leaders, dedicated to learning about and building innovation. With their participation, our project can successfully support the local innovation community, which has the potential to become the region’s technological powerhouse.

So what is this all about?

CREATORS is an innovation lab based in Tel Aviv in the heart of Israel, ‘the Start-Up Nation’. We empower organizations around the world to achieve growth and develop their innovation leadership through smart processes and innovation-ecosystem expansion.

As the CEO of CREATORS, I have worked on many innovation-ecosystem projects around the world. These projects are often particularly satisfying as we are able to combine our experience as a mature innovation hub with local strengths and creative personalities.

In the last four years, we have worked with many municipalities and governments worldwide to create strategic innovation programmes designed to help make governance more innovative and competitive, developing local startup hubs to support innovative cultures.

The project we have developed with UNDP North Macedonia reflects the methodology we have used so far in Israel and beyond – a comprehensive program concept that supports municipalities in learning to identify and define challenges, validate these challenges and be offered relevant solutions, ultimately implementing the best solutions in a quick proof-of-concept model.

Through the program, municipalities will learn how to work with technology and start-ups in a confident and knowledgeable way. It is critical because, while municipalities are eager to implement innovation, most are still inexperienced in undertaking collaborative projects with the private sector, especially with technology-oriented companies.

Veles, Strumica and Gostivar are the first three municipalities that will lead the digital transformation in the country. Together, we will support entrepreneurs in solving existing challenges that affect citizens and their communities – a win-win outcome for everyone!

How does it work?

The process starts with ‘Challenge Creation’, identifying the most pressing challenges faced by municipalities and their communities. This is not an easy task, since most municipal leaders tend to have a clear understanding of what solutions they are seeking but have a difficult time “ideating the problems”.

Once we have drawn up a list of priority challenges, we start the ‘Challenge Validation’ process. We then bring these challenges to the startup and innovation ecosystem to develop the best solutions.

Next, we embark on the ‘Innovation Sprint’. And this is where the startup community comes into play – since without bold innovators and talented technologists no Innovation Sprint can take place.

This is why we encourage all innovation leaders in North Macedonia to become a part of the sprint, to bring their ideas and win the sprint to implement their technologies in the municipalities. The Innovation Sprint is an opportunity to learn the real, existing challenges, find the best teams and ideate great solutions that will be granted implementation budgets to ensure swift integration within the municipalities.

Within the next two months, we will publish the selected challenges and invite applications to take part in the Innovation Sprint. We encourage all of you to join the municipal revolution and support the development of cutting-edge innovation.

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