“Successful entrepreneurs, known for their commitment to honest business conduct, can play an instrumental role as mentors, guiding and motivating the youth.”

Interview With Professor Sandra Jednak from Serbia, University of Belgrade

The Review of Economic Theory and Policy requested an interview from Professor Sandra Jednak about the entrepreneurial activity in Serbia and the development path of the Serbian economy regarding the role of entrepreneurs. Sandra Jednak is full professor and vice-dean at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, University of Belgrade.

RETP: What leadership skills and capabilities do you believe entrepre- neurs need to possess in order to meet the demands of new technolo- gies within the emerging knowledge-based economy?

Sandra Jednak: The knowledge-based economy is based on cooperation and coordination of knowledge, innovation, and ICT. New technology dom- inates every segment of the economy, society, and business today. Due to rapid changes in business, entrepreneurs should be flexible and innova- tive. So, to meet the demands of new technologies, entrepreneurs must think strategically and apply knowledge to make innovations and, in that way, raise efficiency. Besides, entrepreneurs should be curious, creative, committed, focused, and have good communication skills to succeed in business. The most important thing is to understand the needs of their customers.

RETP: The knowledge-based economy also means an emphasis on adapting local culture to international trends, monitoring global knowl- edge, and applying it to business. What does this mean in your specific economic context?

Sandra Jednak: Any business and economy cannot progress unless it adapts to global trends. You can stay at the same level of development, or even lag, if you are not open to new knowledge, technology, and changes. You must keep track of global information and knowledge and apply it in business. In Serbia, for example, the ICT sector is very strong. It is the sector with the most exports. The industry adopted new global knowledge and culture of international business. As a result, it became competitive, and its services may now be sold globally.

RETP: What sectors and economic domains do you anticipate will expe- rience growth in the upcoming decade? Are there any national industrial policies in place that aim to support the establishment and growth of internationally competitive knowledge-based enterprises?

Sandra Jednak: It refers to any industry that is involved with new technol- ogy, digital technology, data-driven business, deep tech, fintech, agritech, gaming industry or artificial intelligence. Many companies are undergoing digital transformation and adapting to market demands. Furthermore, Ser- bia has a government strategy for the development of the IT sector, and ini- tiatives for the digital, entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem. Serbia has progressed, and its ecosystems are not in the early stages. Also, Serbia is recognised for its engineering talents. There are also national industrial policies in place to support these developments. Furthermore, national industry policies are aligned with some EU industrial policies. For example, artificial intelligence fields should be regulated by law or regulations.

RETP: What challenges arise from the aforementioned trends in RETP: In the context of the Central and Eastern European region, where business organizations often face significant corruption issues (as indicated by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index), how can we effectively motivate young individuals to venture into entrepreneurship?

Sandra Jednak: Corruption is an issue in the CEE region, but also world- wide. In some countries, corruption is high and obvious, while in some, it is not so dominant and open. However, business organisations and entre- preneurs should not be discouraged by that fact. They should face it and try to run businesses by law and regulations. Especially because the CEE region progressed toward a regulated economy, established institutions, and controlled corruption. A successful business relies on good ideas, hard work and professional expertise. That should lead entrepreneurs. Besides, although entrepreneurship is not so developed in unregulated countries, there are both EU and global trends for strengthening entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture. As the CEE region is part of the EU and global market, its countries should pursue the same aim as the EU and the world.

RETP: What challenges arise from the aforementioned trends in entre- preneurship education? What specific professional knowledge and edu- cational tools are required to foster the development of new entrepre- neurial skills?

Sandra Jednak: The EU set education policies that encourage entrepre- neurship education. In a time of rapid changes, education needs to be adjusted to prepare young and adult people for action, creative prob- lem-solving and quick decision-making. Entrepreneurship education gives students the entrepreneurial mindset and skills necessary to innovate or act upon opportunities by mobilising resources and creating economic, social, and cultural value. This kind of education should be spread through all levels of education, particularly in higher education. Besides, there is an entrepreneurial need for vocational training. All this is a demanding and long-lasting process. There are needs for financial resources, new teach- ing methods and approaches, teachers who possess that knowledge and skills, implementing real business into learning by including entrepreneurs as lecturers, and new content such as incorporating entrepreneurial knowl- edge into courses syllabus, programs, etc. In this way, the young genera- tion will obtain the attitude, knowledge, and skills necessary to start and run a business based on the new idea toward growth and internationali- sation. National and international projects, practice, training, international accreditation, and policies can influence the establishment of this kind of education.

RETP: Is there a recognized necessity to expand entrepreneurship edu- cation to public schools, and are there any ongoing initiatives aiming to accomplish this goal?

Sandra Jednak: Changes and crises require those who can be adaptable, solution-oriented and run their own business and/or entrepreneurial in private and public companies, non-profit organisations, or academia. So, expanding entrepreneurship education to private and public schools and universities is necessary. Still, entrepreneurship education is more devel- oped and applied in EU countries than in CEE countries and Serbia. In Serbia, there are some initiatives to incorporate entrepreneurial mindset and culture into courses and programs via projects, workshops, training for lecturers and students, etc. However, there is still room for even greater progress. But, as time passes, it will be mandatory.

Thank you for the interview!

Loretta Huszák László Trautmann

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