Proof of Concept Scheme under WB EDIF: Mechanical Ventilator Project (KO) – seeking support from our community

For the last 18 months the ‘Mechanical Ventilator’ project has been supported through the Proof of Concept Scheme under WB EDIF, which ended in 30 January 2022.

The project is developing a novel low cost medical ventilator suitable for respiratory problems such as COVID-19 and targeting lower income countries that cannot afford high-tech medical equipment. These will be the same countries that will struggle to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine program. The target market also means that the number of possible industrial commercialisation partners is likely to be lower than for expensive commercial machines aimed at the EU and USA. The product has patentable novelty: unlike most existing systems that force the breathing rhythm on a patient, this device allows the patent to trigger each breath sequence.

The team behind the device comes from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Pristina and is led by Prof. Arbnor Pajaziti, an expert in the field of robotics. Prof. Pajaziti has previously realised several prototypes including prosthetic hands, robotic hands and mobile robots to help clear antipersonnel mines.

WB EDIF has supported the project to acquire the bare minimum of hardware needed to prove the underlying concept, draft a professional EN language patent application based on comprehensive prior art search and investigate the regulatory landscape for the device.

With the Proof of Concept Scheme coming to an end the Mechanical Ventilator project needs to find further support to continue. This could take the form of a grant (round EUR 50,000) to purchase the hardware and develop associated software needed to take this from Technology Readiness Level (TRL3) to TRL4. Certification would then be needed before it could be tested in the University of Pristina Clinic. In the longer term, the project will need to identify an industrial partner to turn the prototype in to a full certified product.

This situation is not without precedent in the region. TMD group in Bosnia and Herzegovina have developed a mechanical ventilator. Support for this initiative came from the British Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina who helped TMD group to work with the Center for Testing and Evaluation of Medical Devices (MD-TEC) in Great Britain as part of the UK Government’s “Ventilator Challenge” program. As a result of the certificate from MD-TEC, the device can now be tested at the University Clinical Center (UCC) Tuzla. If successful, the device will then be built by TMG group in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

If your organisation or group thinks that they might be able to support this project in some way (with funding or with the search for an industrial partner) or you just want more information, then please get in touch with Lisa Cowey (EU4TECH Proof of Concept Team leader and/ or Professor Arbnor Pajaziti (

This is considered to be a very good project. If it had come from an EU MS it would have found it much easier to secure support. Lisa Cowey is urging the organisations that operate in the Western Balkan region to help turn this project into a success story.


Grand Finale of the PowerUP – Support Program for Western Balkan Companies



Eleven PowerUP Finalist Companies Competed for the “Western Balkan Entrepreneurial Excellence Award”

The final event of the PowerUP program which supports innovative SMEs and startup companies from the Western Balkans took place on 29th of June 2021 where eleven finalist companies had the opportunity to pitch their businesses in the best light in front of eminent investors from the region.

The project was launched by the World Bank in November 2020, was funded by the European Union under the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF), and was implemented with the support of consulting company Deloitte.

Alessandra Viezzer, Deputy Head of Unit, DG NEAR – Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programs from the European Commission highlighted the importance of the PowerUP Programme as it “gave power” to many companies to grow, expand business, create jobs, innovate and contribute to the path of the region towards EU.  Viezzler explained that the European Commission is applying a growth strategy for the Western Balkans  which is similar to the one followed by the EU. She further highlighted that this strategy- the EU Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans,is also taking into account the COVID-19 challenges. „The Plan aims to bring EUR 29 billion of investment in the areas of sustainable infrastructure, energy, green and digital transition, and business development to create sustainable growth“- explained the Europan Commission’s representative.

Adittionaly, Linda Van Gelder, World Bank’s Regional Director for Western Balkans –  highlights that: „The chosen companies that have been participants in the programme include some of the startups and small and medium-sized companies with the highest potential and degree of innovation in the Western Balkans. Our promise was to help them develop strategies to expand their firms to new markets, adapt their business models to current and future crises, and attract investment.“

Eleven finalist companies, along with over 200 other participating companies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, were part of a months-long training program in the previous period aimed at supporting companies in further growth and business development and aimed at increasing their ability to attract investment and crisis resilience due to COVID-19.

Investors who were also jury members at the final event include recognized regional Venture Capital companies such as J&T Ventures, Phil Rouge Capital, South Central Ventures, Meritus Investments Ltd, Prosperus Invest, Day One Capital, Gap Minder VC, Seedstart URU Capital, and others.


Stevica Kuharski, Principal of Fil Rouge Capital, who was also a jury member indicated: “The PowerUP final event showed eleven teams in a different stage of development. Companies in a more mature phase were easier to present themselves because they represented the figures, everything they have done so far and thus gave weight to the projections they presented. The whole region, from Slovenia to Bulgaria, needs programs such as PowerUP to show openness to ideas and opportunities ahead of startups. We are a proverbial closed region and do not open easily to others, especially when it comes to sharing an idea or business plan. That’s why events like this matter.”

According to jury evaluation, the three most successful companies won the “Western Balkan Entrepreneurial Excellence Award”, and tailored business advisory support from local and regional experts from the eminent professional services company Deloitte. In the first place was the company Dwelt from Bosnia and Herzegovina, an IT company and the only startup with its own technology product in the field of energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The second place in the competition was taken by NF Innova from Serbia, which focuses on digital banking and the provision of services to financial institutions. Third place was secured by the Serbian company Blinking with a focus and expertise in building and developing digital identity, identity verification, and user data protection.

Marija Dimitrijević, Sales and Marketing manager from the winning company Dwelt said that: “The digitization of the energy sector has never been greater, nor has the focus on a customer who is no longer a passive member of the market because they have no insight into the availability of his own energy sources which provide the opportunity to become an active member of the ecosystem. To reflect this, our software platform that is there to enable it.”

Furthermore, Dimitrijević noted that: “This is a very significant recognition for us, as it comes from programs organized by the European Union under the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF), the World Bank and renowned consulting company such as Deloitte. We are very honored to have been part of the PowerUP program, which has provided us with professional support in various spheres of business in the past months, as well as the possibility of presenting our unique solution to investors and representatives of corporations, as well as networking opportunities with other companies throughout the program.”

Representatives of Deloitte who led the program in its realization shared their perspective on the importance of the program:

“It has been a great pleasure to work with such a large number of potent and innovative companies in the Western Balkans. We are proud that we are already getting many positive comments about the impact of the program on the businesses of companies, and we hope that the knowledge, skills and contacts acquired through the program will be useful to them in their further business steps. In addition, the program has given us a unique opportunity to promote Western Balkan companies and connect them with a number of investors and business partners who will certainly be valuable contacts with companies for their future growth and progress.” said Muhamed Semić, Head of the Consulting and Risk Advisory department in Deloitte Bosnia and Herzegovina and Elma Delalić, Senior Consultant in the same department.



Elma Delalić

Project Coordinator, Deloitte Bosnia and Herzegovina

+387 61 912 884


1st Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) Business Forum

On 25 June 2021, the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) held its first virtual Business Forum. The event was organized by the Enterprise Europe Network and supported by the European Commission and the European Investment Fund.

More than 130 participants from the entire Western Balkans region and beyond attended the Business Forum. Most of the attendees were Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), local intermediaries and entrepreneurs. The participants wanted to learn more about the existing and future funding opportunities provided by the European Commission and international financial institutions under the WB EDIF platform. The audience also had the possibility to hear about the experience from finance and advisory providers and fellow SMEs who had benefited from the available programmes.

The event was opened by a lively panel composed of representatives of the Enterprise Innovation Fund (ENIF) under WB EDIF, EBRD, Raiffeisen Albania bank and the Serbian SME BG Reklam. The speakers shared their experience from the pandemic and how the available opportunities could be utilized. The panellists shared a common opinion that the region has a very good potential, plenty of innovative ideas and creativity that can be translated into new business opportunities and growth, if the existing hurdles and market failures are adequately addressed. The general consensus was that, like and more than in the EU, the crisis in the Western Balkans can be also an opportunity to grow stronger and more resilient if companies find market niches, show creativity and innovation.

In the second part of the event an online matchmaking took place, where companies were able to meet finance and advisory providers under the WB EDIF. The meetings were bilateral and the overall feedback provided by attendees and intermediaries has been very positive.

A special thanks goes to the Enterprise Europe Network for organizing the event and to all attendees and entrepreneurs who contributed to making it a success.

Support to the private sector has been identified in the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans as one of the Flagships. The development of a robust, innovative and competitive private sector is essential for the socio-economic development of the Western Balkans and its regional integration. This requires, in particular, increased investments in SMEs and their capacity to innovate, scale-up and grow


Can Private Equity or Venture Capital Work for You

Here it is – the online-publication on Private Equity/Venture Capital Training preparedness for SMEs: “Can Private Equity or Venture Capital Work for You”, released by the World Bank. This guide is targeted at SME owners and managers of SMEs in the Western Balkans who are interested in developing their businesses and are considering whether venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) could be an option. Read more


WB EDIF story

Small businesses form the backbone of the Western Balkan economies and are the stepping stone to their economic convergence and path towards the EU accession. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) employ between 60% and 80% of the active population in the region, which is on average higher than in the EU. Since its foundation in 2012, the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) supported 4,000 SMEs and created 78,000 jobs in the Western Balkans.

Read more about the WBE DIF story here.


WB EDIF at the Poznan Summit 2019

The Western Balkans Summit Poznan 2019 took place on July 3-5, where the Ministers of foreign affairs, internal affairs and economy convened on July 4 and on the day after the heads of states and governments discussed key issues concerning Western Balkans. The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn opened the Berlin Process for Western Balkan with the participation of the Forum for Business and Civil Society.

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On 7 May 2019 in Sarajevo, the Western Balkans Enterprise Development & Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) held its second SME Forum in the region. The Forum, hosted by the EBRD and coordinated by the European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF), brought together key stakeholders from the private and public sector, Chambers of commerce, International Financing Institutions and entrepreneurs to discuss the challenges and opportunities for SMEs in the Western Balkans to grow and develop.

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