Nikola Krstić is a young entrepreneur from Serbia whose invention has recently made big news in international markets. In less than two years, Nikola has gone from being a high school student to being CEO of a company. His invention is a “smart glove” through which blind and partially sighted people can orient themselves and recognise colours as well as banknotes and other objects, and through which guardians or friends will be able to follow their movements.
The story of this invention goes back to when Nikola was still in high school and entered a competition where young people were invited to develop and propose innovative business ideas. His entry was inspired by being visually impaired in one eye. “The idea itself was very spontaneous, coming from the fact that I had had this problem since birth,” says Nikola.
However, having an idea of what you want to do and basic knowledge on how to bring it to life is never enough in the world of start-ups. “Developing the idea was just a start: we still had a long way to go,” says Nikola. He and his team still needed support in terms of expertise and financing the further development of the product.
The potential of Nikola’s idea was recognised by the Innovation Fund in Serbia which, through its Early Development Programme with funds from the European Union, supported the development of this innovative product that Nikola named Anora.
Nikola explains that the funding has mainly been used to develop the hardware in the glove with which compact electronics provide all the functions necessary for a blind person’s everyday use. They were also able to invest more in the glove design so now they have one unobtrusive design made of premium material that can last for many years even with daily use. “So, the most important items – the hardware and the design of the glove – were made possible by the EU’s support,” he says.
The glove includes ten essential functions. These include detecting objects in space and returning vibration signals based on the proximity of the objects, like sort of a radar. In addition, it detects colours and banknotes and tells you the date and time. It also helps with orientation and if the person wearing it gets lost, the glove can send their location to friends or guardians.
The Anoris Technology company led by Nikola has now made a deal for production and distribution of the Anora smart glove in the USA, and they are planning to open a branch of the company there very soon. Contact and coordination with partners in EU countries is also ongoing.
Nikola explains that their strategy is to provide this product to end users for free, with the costs covered through publicly responsible businesses, aid organisations or government institutions. In Serbia they are close to delivering over 5,000 gloves for free with the support of the Serbian government. According to Nikola, none of this would have happened without European support. “The support from the EU was crucial, as before that I was just a high-school-leaver with an idea, but now I am the leader of a company making an essential product that will be recognised globally,” he says.
About the project
Serbia is one of the first countries in the region to adopt the so-called innovation imperative – the idea that successful participation in the world economy based on knowledge requires the ability to adapt and improve technological and research capacities through cooperation between the public and private sectors.
Active since 2011, its Innovation Fund is a pioneer in the institutional implementation of this imperative – primarily by increasing the capacity of start-ups and the resources available for their growth. Since the Fund began in 2011, the European Union has given essential impetus to this financing of innovation in Serbia and the strengthening of links between the research and private sectors. So far, more than €17 million euros have been allocated from Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) funds for these programmes.
Photo credits: ANORA
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