Ambassador Schmid delivers a speech on the launching event of the “SME HUB” project


The SME Hub, partnership project between the Swiss Government and the Serbian company ICT Hub, was officially launched in front of more than 120 guests. The project was ceremoniously inaugurated by H.E. Ambassador of Switzerland in Serbia, Urs Schmid.

Ambassador Schmid at the launching event of the SME HUB project
Ambassador Schmid at the launching event of the SME HUB project ©SME Hub

Dear Assistant Minister Obradović-Jovanović,

Dear representatives of the public and private sector,

Dear partners,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to open this event marking the official launch of the SME HUB.

Serbia has attracted record-high levels of foreign domestic investment in recent years, including from Switzerland. Serbia and Switzerland have been nurturing strong economic ties for decades. With over two billion euros of net investments accumulated in the period from 2010 to 2022, Switzerland has regularly been among the six largest foreign investors in Serbia. Swiss companies in Serbia are employing over 14.000 people. Switzerland has become Serbia's 4th largest partner in trade of services.

Through the SME Hub, Swiss Cooperation intends to capitalize on this positive dynamic, and to multiply the benefits of foreign investment on the local economy, with a focus on the manufacturing sector. This should lead to a triple win situation, advancing simultaneously the objectives of the Government of Serbia, the objectives of the Swiss Cooperation Programme, and the objectives of foreign investors.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, make up 99% of businesses and create 67% of all jobs in Serbia. In this sense, the structure of the economy is similar as in Switzerland, which also relies heavily on manufacturing SMEs. These companies form the backbone of the domestic economy and have a crucial role to play in advancing economic development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For manufacturing SMEs, the first step towards becoming a global supplier often lies in securing a first contract with a large, often foreign-owned company based in Serbia, which exposes them to new operating processes, advanced management practices, innovative technologies and international standards. By adopting new and innovative products and ways of working, SMEs can improve their productivity and lower their environmental footprint. There is significant potential to stimulate such positive spillover effects, and thereby contribute to the creation of more and better jobs and higher incomes for the large share of the population working in domestic SMEs.

We are well aware that enabling SMEs to integrate into regional and global supply chains is a priority for the Government of Serbia and the Chamber of Commerce and Industries, who have created very effective programs supporting SMEs in accessing finance, complying with global standards and changing regulatory environments.

The SME Hub is not intended to substitute for or compete with these sources of support, quite the opposite. The simple idea behind the project is to create a platform which bundles all the required sources of support and coordinates the offer or all like-minded private and public actors into a specific transformation plan that is tailor-made and accessible for small business owners. In that sense, the Hub is explicitly designed to connect with the existing offer of all stakeholders, and to accelerate and complement the objectives of the Government, the private sector, the IFIs and European partners. The SME Hub will provide an interface for

1) Multinational companies looking to upgrade or identify new suppliers

2) SMEs wishing to invest into accessing supply chains of multinational companies,

3) private-sector service providers which offer relevant services,

4) banks,

5) public actors and donors with specific mandates in SME development, chief among them the Ministry of Economy.

What further distinguishes the SME Hub is that it relies on Serbian private-sector expertise, not on foreign consultants. The required expertise to address the challenges facing SMEs is already available in Serbia’s thriving economy. But SME owners are not always aware of the full array of their needs and of where to start, or of the sources of support available. The role of the SME Hub is to act as a facilitator. And nobody can better understand and speak the language of small business owners than their peers from the Serbian private sector. 

Soon, we will hear more from Aleksandar Goracinov, SME HUB Director and an entrepreneur himself, about the pioneering SMEs that will undergo the first transformation plans brokered by the SME HUB.

This project is a result of a public-private partnership between the Swiss Government and the Serbian company ICT HUB, worth over 7 million Swiss Francs. In the next five years, we expect that, thanks to SME HUB, 400 businesses will become aware of the benefits of collaborating with multinational companies, while approximately 80 of them will transform their businesses and, consequently, create better working conditions for over 5,300 employees.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Around the world Switzerland carries many labels – some of them stand for “quality” and “punctuality”. These are the values that we aim the SME HUB to be known for – providing quality service at the right time!

I believe that in a joint effort, with our state and private partners, we can create a positive business environment and further strengthen Serbia’s reputation as an attractive investment destination, contributing to the country’s inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Thank you for your attention!