Innovation Conference Business and Education: Challenges and Opportunities


On October 18th, the second Innovation Conference was organized by the University of “Haxhi Zeka” in Peja (UHZ) as part of the T2P project.

The Conference format was delivered in two main sessions dedicated to the topics of:

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture and Gender Differences of Entrepreneurial Challenges.

The third sessions were held in parallel with the groups of students and were about enhancing student readiness for the labour market.

The Conference brought together around 130 participants from all the partner institutions of the Consortium and a large number of students attended.

The ceremony was opened by the Vice-Rector of the University of Peja, Ibish Mazreku and IBC-M’s College Director and CTPCIE Project Coordinator Mihone Kerolli, who emphasized the importance of fully functional universities which should be more practice–oriented and the importance of the CTPCIE project which aims to build this approach.

The first session was moderated by Sabiha Shala from UHZ, with the topic of discussion “The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture”.

Panelists included Florim Kelmendi from IMBUS, Florian Gschweidl from University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg, Philip Devlin from North West Regional College, Dardan Shala from Devolli Company and Diamant Elshani from Chamber of Doing Business in Kosovo. The panelists shared their experience regarding the topic, such as pros and cons of living in the information age, how the information age reshaped the culture of doing business in Kosovo and Europe, how to run a successful business in the information age what challenges do they face.

Theranda Shala from UHZ moderated the second session, where Nasrin Pourghazian from Sweden Embassy, Megan Fisk and Jelena Djokic from IBC-M and Bernhard Gabriel Lapusch from the University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg discussed gender differences of entrepreneurial challenges.

Dr. Fisk stated that confidence tends to be something that women really struggle with, and we cannot talk about entrepreneurship or business leadership without talking about confidence. From psychology research but also from organizational management research we can see that women are often given less credit for successful outcomes and blamed for the failure, these are two big problems that we need to talk about and see how can we change these perceptions. An interesting statistic from the US based Boston Consulting Group is that female led businesses perform much better with women generating 60% more revenue for investors than men led businesses.

Prof. Djokic stated that as a woman, when she hears the word challenge she  thinks of a real urge to solve the problem and to overcome the obstacles, encouraging women to stand up for themselves. “We have to fight for equal rights, not only for women, but for men as well. Education is very important, through education we can teach people to be the power of change, to take tough decisions”. Professor mentioned from her personal observation, that girls tend to study in a very dedicated manner up to 25 years old, but then the tendency goes down, whereas male students take over. Such factors as having a family and children might be the slowing barriers and this is where the society, employers, educational institutions can help.

Bernhard mentioned that also in Start Up center in Salzburg from 14 Start Ups all together only in two of them women are integrated in their teams. “We have to think of possible solutions, women can be great and they should be”. If we look at the statistics from all startups and businesses only about 8-10% are led by women. This can be as a result of some sociocultural factors that maybe from the childhood they start to play in different directions and what they need is some role models.

Ms. Pourghazian stated that one of the reasons for the absence of women in the start up/business sector is that startup businesses usually are being linked with the digitalization and as we now the IT sector if populated mainly by men. In Sweden they started to give extra support specifically for the female start-ups, which started to have a really good turn and this is an issue which need to be tackled also in Kosovo.

Some good examples from the audience where shared with everyone, Sonja Radenkovic from CELP shared her story as a successful woman in the IT sector and Bardha Ibishi, an IBC-M student who leads her own business in digital marketing stated that its not that females hesitate to engage themselves in the business sector, it is the society who created the borders and we need to overcome them.

The third part, was the most interesting part of the conference, it was the time where the students from all the partner universities together with the professors as moderators in five groups discussed five different topics related to current and future problems they face. After exchanging opinions for 45 minutes, each group’s representative mounted the podium and expressed their findings and possible solutions to those problems.

Career Exploration and Skills Development Discussion conclusions: Donjeta, an IBC-M student emphasized that career centers are very important for further career path, and each university/faculty must have their career center. Ajshe from UHZ, stated that from the groups discussions they concluded that students are not ready to start their own businesses right after they graduate, mentioning that public universities are not offering their students enough internship opportunities, especially internship opportunities abroad, where they could gain more practical knowledge. Internships are the crucial tools of the universities to provide students with the practical skills, so a demand for embedded internships is very high and a must for all institutions to adapt.

What changes do we want discussion conclusions: Students from various universities were acknowledging the importance of practical experience. They were hoping for curriculums which would include more hands-on exercises, case studies and internships. Students also called for interdisciplinary cooperation. One specific example was mentioned: design and marketing students working in a joint project.

Valentina from Prizren while presenting group findings mentioned that what they want and what they see as more beneficial in the future is more internship opportunities, collaboration between professors and students of different universities, collaboration between students and the business sector, and more exchange opportunities.

Incentives for students to have volunteer activities conclusions: Amadea Musa, an IBCM student summarized the discussion that the Ministry of Education would provide more space for students and motivate them in many ways for volunteer activities. One option was to require students to complete a number of volunteer hours to graduate from secondary school. Most of the discussion group agreed with this proposal. The group also discussed how to take action activities in the future impacts the future for a better job position, including the experiences that go through at the stage. Our group discussed also about the impact of volunteer activities on a company.

What changes can we bring for a better society conclusion: Benjamin from IBC-M did quite an interesting elaboration when asked are you ready for change, saying that the measuring unit for change is power, the rule of power is simple, it lies on potential, so when asked are we ready for change it only means do we have the potential to actually bring changes. What is going to make us good or bad, or remembered, is how we decide to use this potential. If we want to see a change we always have to start from ourselves, to bring out the best we can and try to do the same with others, Blerta from UP pointed.

Brain drain and its effects on business development discussion conclusions: When asked how to make people stay in Kosovo, the group agreed that much work needs to be done towards increasing opportunities, also matching the academia profiles with the target market Aleksandra mentioned. What government can do to stop the brain drain is to develop a plan, come up with a strategic approach, embrace innovation, lower the corporation tax, take action against discrimination, intolerance and corruption.