CENTER FOR ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES OF CANTON SARAJEVO: From a mural to a drone

CENTER FOR ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES OF CANTON SARAJEVO: From a mural to a drone

This year, the Center’s budget stands at 4.7 million KM, yet the Assembly of Canton Sarajevo has not reviewed the reports for the past three years.

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This year, the Center’s budget stands at 4.7 million KM, yet the Assembly of Canton Sarajevo has not reviewed the reports for the past three years. Why did they request exemption from reporting? Moreover, how did the Center transition from being a scientific institution to manufacturing drones, despite the Court’s decision? What are the founders’ opinions?

This year, the Public Institution Center for Advanced Technologies of Canton Sarajevo allocated funds for various public purchases, including a mural for 6.000 KM and furniture costing over 120.000 KM.

The center’s budget for this year, as outlined in the Canton Sarajevo budget, amounts to 4.7 million KM.

Initially, the draft budget allocated “only” 1.9 million KM, but there was a significant increase in expenses, particularly in the category of “Expenditures for materials, small inventory, and services”.  This category saw a substantial rise from 1.25 million to 3.75 million KM.

The situation would perhaps have been more tolerable if two years ago, the Center for Advanced Technologies of Canton Sarajevo had not requested exemption from reporting its activities to the Sarajevo Canton Assembly through the line Ministry of Economy

Reviving the white surface

And what exactly is the Center for Advanced Technologies, what is its goal of its activities, what does it actually do.

The answer is offered by Ensad Mulaosmanović, director:

– The Sarajevo Canton Entrepreneurship Development Center was in 2022 established as part of our public institution. The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, where we are based according to the founding decision, renovated the third floor, which was severely damaged during the war, to accommodate the center. We now have 25 spaces available for startups, aiming to serve as a hub or incubator. We will soon announce a public call for beneficiaries of incentives for entrepreneurial ideas– said Mulaosmanović.

And thus we arrive to the story of a mural, for which 6.000 KM was spent.

– There a big white surface in that space and our aim was to revitalize it, adding a human touch to make it more inviting for visitors. We commissioned the Arts Academy to conduct a design competition for this purpose. Over 40 submissions were received. To evaluate the designs, we formed a commission comprising a professor from the academy, an architect, and a member of the center responsible for managing the incubator. The cost of the mural amounted to 2.300 KM, covering both materials and drawing expenses. Additionally, there was an award of 500 KM for the selected design and the remuneration for the selection commission – explained Mulaosmanović.

It is difficult

He underlines that the Ministry of economy of the Canton Sarajevo Government, whose part  is the Canton Sarajevo Center for advanced technologies, should soon announce a call for award of grants to startups.

Mulaosmanović: Generating high-quality technological ideas in the first year can be challenging, but it will happen.

– The Ministry is developing a program that will provide funding. As far as I know, the grants will be up to 30.000 KM for individuals up to 35 years old. The objective is for the Center for Entrepreneurship to focus on technical sciences, while also offering space for economists, accountants, lawyers, and others. Users will not be charged for utilities; they can access laboratory services, mentoring support, engineering assistance, and help in creating business plans and financial strategies. It is a well-thought-out initiative, combining the innovative ideas of young people with comprehensive support. We are collaborating with individuals from the university, and recently, Academician Kemal Hanjalić visited, and we discussed strategies for attracting young talent. Progress may be challenging, especially in generating immediate technological ideas in the first year, but we believe in gradual success– said Mulaosmanović convincingly.

He is convinced that “the funds for the incubator and incentives will not be drawn from their budget of 4.7 million”.

 Calling Helez by his first name

When asked to elaborate on the activities of the Center, Mulaosmanović highlights that they are “currently engaged in several directions, but that they are awaiting the approval of their work plan for 2024 and the reports for 2023, 2022, and 2021 by the Canton Sarajevo Government.” 

According to the survey on our establishment, our focus lies in outsourcing for the industry. We operate not as a traditional academic institution and that’s why we were shifted from education to economy. Let’s say we have four main areas of action: 3D technology, mechatronics and drones, electricity production from hydrogen, and the development of laboratories for everything we need – explained Mulaosmanović.

When asked about the type of drones they produce and whether they are the ones mentioned by Minister of Defense Zukan Helez at the BiH Council of Ministers, Mulaosmanović mentions that they have developed five drones with various specifications.

– These are innovations and prototypes, not patented designs. The drones can serve civilian or military purposes, depending on the equipment attached to the platform. They are capable of monitoring fires, forests, sowing…. Currently, the development process is ongoing – said Mulaosmanović highlighting that he is in though with Minister Helez and adding that their aim is to showcase the drones at a fair in Türkiye next year.

Margeta: What is overarching societal benefit?

The goal and tasks of the Center were not clear even to Marijela Hašimbegović, a member of the Assembly of the Canton of Sarajevo representing DF. She submitted an initiative requesting an examination of the Center’s work, capacities, and authorizations, particularly in relation to the “genuine needs of society”

 – First and foremost, my concern arises from learning that the director of the Center previously requested from the Ministry of Economy an exemption from preparing work reports. Additionally, considering the nature of the dedicated industry’s operations and the Law on the Protection of Secret Data and the Law on the Protection of Personal Data, and upon reviewing all available information, I have observed a consistent collision between the work plan and its execution, particularly regarding the flow of budgetary funds. Given these observations, the fundamental question arises: what is the overarching societal benefit that the Center aims to achieve through its activities? Expectations were initially directed towards the development and enhancement of scientific research and the adoption of modern scientific trends, with the ultimate goal of fostering connections between the academic community and EU funds – said .

Where did the weapons and ammunition come from?

She was also alarmed when the Center for Entrepreneurship was established within the Center, especially since the expanded description of activities now included the “production of weapons and ammunition”.

– This highlights an issue with the identification of the Center’s activities, as well as a flaw in the executed strategy and vision. This becomes particularly apparent in the decision made by the Center’s director to engage in work related to defense technologies, which contradicts the institution’s previously established activities. The recent amendment to the Founding Decision now permits such activities, despite conflicting with the Law on the Production of Weapons and Military Equipment of the FBiH. Consequently, the Canton Sarajevo Assembly must also review the Proposal for a new decision on amendments to the Decision on the establishment of the Public Institution Center for Advanced Technologies in Sarajevo. This action aims to comply with a court ruling mandating the removal of activities related to defense technologies  –  said Hašimbegović.

She clarifies that according to the Law on the Production of Weapons and Military Equipment in the FBiH, the production and repair of weapons can only be conducted by legal entities that have obtained consent from the entity government and are duly registered for such production and repair. However, the Center lacks this necessary consent to engage in such activities, as it has not been granted authorization to do so.

The Court: To remove the activity

Hašimbegović also mentions the Sarajevo Municipal Court’s conclusion from August of last year.

Margeta Hašimbegović: It is very important to raise the issue accountability for actions within a public institution that deviate from the established Decision on Establishment and current legal regulations.

– The Municipal Court in Sarajevo issued a decision dated August 18, 2023, instructing the Public Institution to amend its Statute. The amendment entails the removal of activities related to the production of weapons and ammunition, as well as the production of military fighter planes. This adjustment aims to facilitate the registration of the institution’s remaining activities with the Municipal Court in Sarajevo. It is indeed crucial to address issues of accountability for actions within a public institution that do not align with the Decision on Establishment and applicable legal regulations – said Hašimbegović.

Statute before the Assembly

The Director of the Center justifies his actions by stating that “their intention was solely to independently develop products”.

 – A portion of our industry comprises private enterprises, while another part is state-owned, primarily focusing on dedicated industry sectors. These dedicated industry factories rely on technology and it is heavily outdated and there are no developmental advancements. Currently, they are experiencing increased demand due to the conflict in Ukraine and other regions. However, once the situation stabilizes, the market will not remain as receptive, especially considering their incapacity to meet the standards sought by American and Western markets. There was an opportunity for us to intervene and foster the development of new products, but these industries operate as closed systems, reluctant to engage with external entities, despite our formation with the intention to support and collaborate with them. To engage in research activities, we are required by the Law on the Production of Dual Purpose Assets of the FBiH to conclude a contract with a dedicated production factory. This obligation is exclusive to the factory itself, with no provision for external entities. Seeking autonomy in our research endeavors, we aimed to amend our Statute, allowing us to conduct research independently without reliance on dedicated industry factories. Consequently, we modified the Statute to include approximately 20 different production elements, including the production of ammunition and weapons. This adjustment was intended to provide us with the capability to develop and manufacture autonomously. However, our modification was rejected by the Court. To proceed, a change in the law at the FBiH level would be necessary. Therefore, the Statute, now devoid of those provisions, is being submitted to the Assembly for approval to finalize our registration process– explained Mulaosmanović.

But regardless of the Statute, he claims that the Center has already cooperated with factories of dedicated industry, various associations, projects, and faculties.

Helez: Good story

Minister Helez confirms to be in contract with the people from the Center and that they are a “good story”.

– They utilize advanced technology, boasting several types of drones they are developing. They have done so because of the proximity to faculties such as the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Chemistry, from which they draw knowledge and scientific advancement. Additionally, they receive assistance from a highly skilled engineer from Turkey who resides in America. However, they need to establish connections in order to market their products effectively. Here, people react oddly, saying, “Wait, what, we’re making drones?!”. Yet, it is not only them; several other factories are involved, and collectively, we can export all of this – said Helez convincingly.

He adds that the laws that limit Center for advanced technologies have to be amended.

– They persuaded me that one of their tools surpassed the one purchased by our FBiH Ministry of Interior. However, we have no faith in local intelligence. They have requested a meeting with me, and we’ll give it a shot. We can’t exclusively retain these drones due to the complex procedures for the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina; they must align with NATO Headquarters’ requirements. Nevertheless, Bosnia and Herzegovina can market and sell them to other entities –  said Helez.

Founders are in the dark

Unlike Helez, the chairman of the Assembly of Canton Sarajevo, Šefkija Okerić, and vice-chairman Vibor Handžić are unaware of the activities conducted within the Center

– You may have seen the reports we adopted. I can’t recall precisely if they are from 2021 or 2022, but there exists a reporting methodology wherein each institution delineates their responsibilities explicitly. Unfortunately, I do not possess that information regarding the Statute and the Court. I’ll need to acquaint myself with it better. I’m unsure if you’ve already spoken with the director and obtained answers from them, as I lack the information you’re referring to – said Okerić adding that the Work report will certainly come before the Assembly.

Vice-Chairman Handžić mentioned that he is awaiting a more recent work report, although he is uncertain whether the report from 2021 or 2022 will be before the Assembly.

– We have tasked them with managing the Center for Entrepreneurship to address economic matters through it, and we’ll observe how it progresses. I am waiting one of the more recent reports to gauge the results. Regarding the Statute, I believe that for certain activities, they didn’t receive approval from higher levels, which is why we need to revise the founding decision – explained Handžić.

He emphasizes that the delay in the report is not the fault of the individuals at the Center, but rather the Assembly, which (at the time of writing this text) has three ongoing sessions.

From education into the economy

By the way, the Canton Sarajevo Assembly has thus far approved reports on the activities of the Center for 2019, 2020, and 2021 during sessions held in September and October last year. From those reports, it is evident that there were issues with the functioning of the Management and Supervisory Boards, leading to several changes in composition. Additionally, the Center has requested exemption from reporting to the Canton Sarajevo Assembly.

For clarity, the Center was established in June 2018 by the Canton Sarajevo Assembly, with the rights and obligations of the founder assigned to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Youth.

In September 2022, the decision to establish the Center was altered. Consequently, within the Center, there are now three organizational units: the Cabinet of Director, the Center for Advanced Technologies, and the Center for Entrepreneurship Development, with the founding rights shared by the Ministry of Economy and Canton Sarajevo Government.

In September 2022, the decision to establish the Center was revised. As a result, within the structure of the Center, there are now three organizational units: the Cabinet of Director, the Center for Advanced Technologies, and the Center for Entrepreneurship Development.

The survey, which is an integral part of the Decision on establishment and the Decision’s rationale, was prepared by Sifet Kukuruz as team president and members Hasan Ganibegović, Rijad Kovač, Adnan Mašić, Berko Zečević, and Nino Serdarević.

The Management Board comprises Salko Policam, Suad Smajlović, and Mehmed Konaković, while the Supervisory Board consists of Edin Dizdarević, Ajdin Smailbegović, and Neven Gafić.

The right person for web

The director doesn’t conceal his affiliation with the Narod i Pravda party, but he admits he is unsure about the party affiliations of the members of the Management and Supervisory Boards.

“I am Nipa, and the others are… Salko is, Minja is nowhere, I don’t know for Konaković”, Mulaosmanović tried to recall.

When questioned about why they don’t have all this information and reports on their website, he suggests they should have their own designated person within the Institution to handle such matters.

–  We have hired engaged an external company for what we have now, but we know that their performance is not satisfactory. However, it is proving challenging to find someone willing to undertake the task for a salary of approximately 2.000 KM, considering that individuals in the IT industry are often offered significantly higher compensation – said Mulaosmanović.