For years, we have been talking about the necessity of getting Slovakia to support its knowledge economy. This country is small and has an open economy, focused on export, which forms the majority of its GDP. Yes, reading these words, a lot of us conclude that we should be grateful and that Slovakia is doing well. But now that we’ve addressed A, let’s have a look at B.
In short, the traditional industry model, which is popular in Slovakia, needs to be innovated to survive. It’s important not to rest on our laurels, keep up the pace with current industry trends, and start transforming the manufacturing economy to a knowledge one, while still supporting R&D centres. Ideas for this shift cannot be made ad hoc — they need to be carefully planned, so that we have enough short-term and long-term solutions. We should stop talking about what cannot be done, and focus on WHAT CAN BE done. Add in some hard work, unique and complex solutions, strong and expert teams of professionals, good cooperation partners, state-of-the-art technologies, and change can really be imminent.
What should Slovakia’s TO-DO list look like?
This topic could be discussed for a really long time. The hypothetical ‘to-do list’ could be filled with a whole lot of beneficial ideas, and then sent off to competent authorities. But which changes do I think are the most crucial? I’ve outlined some of them in the introduction of this post, but let’s look at them now, in more detail.
1. INNOVATE, INNOVATE, INNOVATE
These days, innovations cannot just be seen as an added value or a matter of personal interest. It is important to realise that innovations are ESSENTIAL. How is Slovakia doing in this area? The truth is that, in terms of our innovation efficiency, we are still behind the majority of the EU, even though our potential is high. Simply put, we seem to lack the innovative spark. For our traditional industry model, however, innovations will be a matter of survival. And I mean that literally! Without them, companies won’t be able to progress. Believe me, falling behind current industry trends can be very dangerous.
2. TRANSFORM THE MANUFACTURING ECONOMY INTO KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
Despite the fact that we have been discussing Slovakia’s need to transform its economy into a knowledge one for ages, results are still few and far between. To talk about something over and over won’t actually solve our problems. The Slovak economy is defined by its manufacturing industry, which is valid, however our capacity to make full use of human capital and its know-how to create further capital, is still close to non-existent. Arguments that we’re limited by our size don’t hold much value. Look at, for example, Slovenia, Ireland or Finland. They are also small in size but big in terms of their well-developed and thoughtful economies. Slovakia is considered to be the Mecca of the automotive industry, and we have the benefit of our central location. We should try to profit from it even more. Let’s innovate and develop our industry, services, and managerial skills. We can only do that, of course, with a much-needed, suitable legislative environment. I think we all have the same goals, but little has been done to achieve them so far.
3. FIND OUR WEAK POINTS, LEARN FROM THEM, AND START MOVING FORWARD
This point also relates to the development of a knowledge economy and innovation. Where do I see our weak spots? The level of a country’s knowledge economy is indicated by the volume of investments into various areas, such as education, research, innovation or ecology. We lack comprehensive education in several necessary fields, and skilled young people often leave to study or work abroad. Moreover, we lack a supportive infrastructure, in the form of labs, innovation centres, and clusters. Investment into these areas is crucial for Slovakia’s future, and I’m happy that these issues have recently been brought up by our government officials in Slovakia’s recovery and resilience plan. Discussions about this topic have finally been addressed in a real plan, and I’d like to believe that, this time around, it won’t stop at written ideas, and that we will have a chance to witness real change. It’s also important to mention that, by following these steps, we will also raise Slovakia’s attractivity in the eyes of potential investors, partners, or customers. A win-win situation, don’t you think?
FINDING THE RIGHT PARTNERS IS CRUCIAL. HOW DO COMPANIES CHOOSE THEM?
Even stable companies that have been successful in the market for a long time can’t, of course, move towards innovations on their own. To progress in this area, they definitely need to find the right partners. I consider collaborations to be a very important step in a company’s continuing development, as well as in the development of the aforementioned knowledge economy. But how do companies choose the right partners? There are many points to address here, but let me elaborate on a few of them. First and foremost, there needs to be a well-planned idea. Companies need to be careful — short-term solutions are not enough! The ideas need to be elaborate, have long-term potential, and aim to benefit society in the long run. And that’s still not all. There are other extremely crucial elements — such as having a strong team of experts, state-of-the-art technologies, and putting an emphasis on research-development centres. I could write a lot more about this topic, but I’ll save it for future blog posts. Either way, these aspects are closely tied to my previous ‘TO-DO’ list. Let’s look at one more concrete example, to illustrate my points.
LET’S FOCUS ON A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
An innovative company called InoBat was founded in Slovakia in 2019, and I became its project manager. Looking back, I’m extremely grateful. I think InoBat is the perfect practical example for this blog post. Its story shows us how the ‘to-do’ list can be implemented within a company. As mentioned, Slovakia is a Mecca of the automotive industry, but thanks to companies like InoBat, it could shortly expand into the electromobility sector. In particular, it could lead the way in manufacturing batteries that are tailored to specific electric vehicles. I see a huge potential in InoBat and think that it could bring long-term benefits for Slovak society. The reasons for why I joined InoBat in the first place were, I think, the same reasons that allowed us to establish collaborations with key industry players, such as strategic investors ČEZ, Matador, AEN, MSM or Across, but also important technological companies Wildcat Discovery Technologies or Takenaka. Collaborating with these names brings many benefits to our society and we can learn a lot from working with them. But why did these companies agree to collaborate with us? Considering they are leaders within their fields, with top quality technologies and longstanding experience with business building and scaling, they approach each collaboration expecting considerable added value from their potential partners. Clearly, InoBat offers this value, which the companies recognised. They saw our strategic and long-term plans for Slovakia’s development. The second question, then, is what we can offer our partners in return?
THE ‘QUID PRO QUO’ PRINCIPLE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
The biggest added value that the Slovak InoBat can offer to its partners is, in my opinion, the fact that it can provide a huge added value for society and the environment. I will address this topic further in my future blog posts, but let me mention at least a few of the benefits that InoBat could provide— those which I find to be the biggest assets. Our research, development, and manufacturing of tailor-made batteries offer our partners and customers complex energetic solutions, with emphasis placed on sustainability, a high quality global team and technologies, unique solutions, collaborations with strong partners, and further collaboration with the academic community.
Lastly, I’d like to mention some up-to-date information about InoBat’s operations in Slovakia. It’s only been 15 months since the company was founded, and we have already managed to develop the first generation of InoBat Auto batteries — ones that stand out in comparison to equivalent batteries of our Asian competitors, by offering great energy parameters and efficiency. We are also gradually succeeding with the reconstruction of our R&D centre in Voderady, which received EIA approval at the end of 2020. Currently, we are waiting to be issued a valid building permit, and in the second quarter of this year, we’ll start the reconstruction of this exceptional hall. In addition, we are also planning to host an Open Day, sometime before the summer of 2022. We believe that we’ll soon be able to showcase Slovak batteries, from the heart of Europe, to the rest of the world.
Project Manager, InoBat Auto