D. Ćirić, V. Todorović, B. Lalić

University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Technical Sciences (SERBIA)
Entrepreneurship is considered to be a major driving force to economic development throughout the world and especially in developing countries such as Serbia. SMEs account for more than 98% of Europe’s businesses while providing more than 58% of gross value added and 67% of jobs in the European Union. It is obvious that SMEs are important drivers of economic growth and sustainable job creation opportunities; therefore, there is a strong need in Serbia for a systematic promotion and development of entrepreneurial culture and entrepreneurial learning. Education (formal and non-formal) can be a main pillar to help foster a strong entrepreneurial spirit among students through teaching and practice. In this regard, the importance of non-formal learning should be recognized and encouraged. Thanking into account the statement from EU strategy Rethinking Education (2012) that: “All young people should benefit from at least one practical entrepreneurial experience before leaving compulsory education” students’ entrepreneurship should get more attention and support from policy makers and university leaders in Serbia.

To address this gap iDEAlab concept was born through the project,, Fostering students' entrepreneurship and open innovation in university-industry collaboration”. iDEAlab is a pre-incubator and creative co-working space for generating, developing and commercializing innovative students’ ideas, through relevant training, mentoring and technology put at their disposal, in the very heart of the University.

By being engaged in a laboratory for ideas, students develop their creativity, learn how to work in a team and to use their knowledge and initiative. This enables them to acquire the necessary skills to enter the labor market. Students have the opportunity to express their creative potential by launching a completely new business (start-up) or to work on innovating existing products and services (open innovation) in cooperation with companies interested in new ideas. The IDEAlab vision is to see students as owners of fast-growing companies, which would contribute to the development of entrepreneurship and exploiting large but underutilized potential that arises from the most valuable resource, and that is knowledge. In its mission iDEAlab systematically encourage and channel creativity, innovation and proactivity of students, promote their talent and strengthen their entrepreneurial skills and the possibility to be employed in existing and to run their own companies, therefore creating meaningful connections between the HEI and the overall environment and encouraging entrepreneurial climate. The overall broader objective to which iDEAlab contributes is the enhancement of the economic development and competitiveness of the region by fostering students’ entrepreneurship, creation of business start-ups at university settings and open innovation in collaboration between universities and enterprises.

As intermediaries in collaboration between companies and students, universities get the range of benefits: enriched educational and learning experience for students, becoming one of key stakeholders in entrepreneurial ecosystem, and reinforcement of its relationship with industry.