‘Lime Trees & Honey Bees’  triumphed in Category five “Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency” with a project promoting sustainable development through beekeeping in the Danube Microregion of Serbia. This interview gives us an insight into their application journey, their advice for EEPA 2017 applicants and what to expect from the project team in future.
How did you first hear about the national competition?
We first heard about the national competition through a public notice on the web site of our national EEPA coordinator, the Republic of Serbia Ministry of Economy. Their experience and support was invaluable during the preparations, especially because it was the first time we were applying.
Why did you decide to enter the national competition?
The Local Economic Development Office (LED Office) team prepares, supports and monitors the implementation of a significant number of projects regarding local economic development for the City of Novi Sad. The moment we found out about the competition we knew we had to apply with the project “Lime Trees & Honey Bees for Sustainable Development of the Danube Microregion”. It already had outstanding results in supporting entrepreneurship in a not so commonly exploited field but a significant one for the entire ecosystem.
How did you go about preparing your application?
From when the project was first created and implemented by the LED Office team, to filling in the application, we were sure that the “Lime Trees & Honey Bees” experience was worth sharing. However, the preparation of some supporting materials was challenging since the project officially ended in February 2015. Luckily our enthusiasm about this project once again inspired colleagues from several city departments. We joined forces and completed the application materials. In general, it was rather joyful remembering all the hard work on this project and the great results and we believe that is what made our application stand out.
What was it like to win the award?
Winning the award was a complete surprise! Of course we were secretly hoping for it, but we were also aware that the competition was very strong. Even on a national level we had two winners, the other competitor from Serbia was SEE ICT’s project “We know we can”. Therefore, we thought being on the shortlist was already a success.
We were competing in category number five “Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency” and, as the time was passing by, we were completely focused on the ceremony, enjoying the presentations and great organisation of the EEPA team. Hearing the name of our project being announced as the award winner was an incredible moment. It was overwhelming and exciting, but above all such great recognition for everyone who had worked on this project and supported it.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work?
One of the main reasons for our application was to further support the producers of Fruska Gora lime honey and we expected certain publicity thanks to the award, but we were quite surprised by the amount of interest and increase in the media coverage by the local as well as the national media. This boosted the interest in beekeeping and quality product Fruska Gora lime honey as we hoped. In addition, work on this initiative and winning the award brought recognition to the City of Novi Sad LED Office, as well as invitations to relevant events. It also strengthened our cooperation with the Ministry of Economy on supporting entrepreneurship.
What kind of response did you receive?
The reactions were very positive from the general and professional public. The significance of EEPA was clear despite the fact that in most cases it was introduced for the first time. We have used the increased interest of the Serbian national and regional media to promote Fruska Gora Lime honey and beekeeping as an ecologically sustainable business as much as possible.
We hope that the success of the City of Novi Sad in the EEPA competition will inspire others to create innovative projects on the subject of SME development and to enter the EEPA competition.
Can you already see a long-term impact or do you have any expectations?
Winning this prestigious award has given greater exposure to the City of Novi Sad, thus significantly contributing to our credibility, improving our chances in creating new project partnerships across Europe and working on innovative solutions for supporting the development of SME’s
Entering the EEPA 2017 gives a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and contacts with colleagues, experts and other stakeholders, drawing focus to the relevant questions and impact SME development. A good idea, a quality product, enthusiasm, detailed planning, active stakeholder involvement and teamwork were the key to our success. Our recommendation to future competitors would be to make sure to find their own distinctive formula
What are your plans for the future?
Currently we are working on Horizon 2020 projects, Cross-border-cooperation IPA Hungary-Serbia and IPA Croatia-Serbia with special emphasis on SME development. We will continue our work on improving the business environment and encouraging faster economic development of Novi Sad and expect to achieve even better results in future. As for the “Lime Trees & Honey Bees” we expect that beekeeping associations will continue to follow the guidelines set within the project, use and expand acquired knowledge and skills, and increase the market share of the Fruska Gora lime honey, an exceptional high-quality product, typical of this area.