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Exclusive interview with Andor F. Dávid, Visegrad Fund Executive Director, about the Visegrad Fund and V4 Startup Force

Story Highlights

  • The Visegrad Fund focuses on projects involving culture, capacity building, innovation, R&D, and entrepreneurial development.
  • Over the past two decades, about EUR 90 million has been disbursed to fund projects and scholarships: 5,600 projects and 3,400 semesters in total.
  • The V4 Startup Force is a great example of how to make good use of the Visegrad Fund’s support.

Design Terminal has recently launched the V4 Startup Force with the support of the Visegrad Fund. The V4 Startup Force brings together talented entrepreneurs from the Visegrád region to help launch their businesses onto the world stage. We talked to Andor F. Dávid, Visegrad Fund Executive Director, about the Visegrad Fund and the importance of the V4 Startup Force.

What is the Visegrad Fund and what is its mission?

The Visegrad Fund is an international organization established by an international treaty signed in 2000, with headquarters in Bratislava and staff from the Visegrád Four countries. The governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland created the Fund to support joint projects aimed at connecting the people of the Visegrád area, developing cohesion and strengthening people’s regional identity. The Visegrad Fund finances projects submitted by consortia of non-governmental organizations (NGOs, municipalities, universities) registered in the V4 countries and also provides scholarships to researchers, students, and artists.

What is the Fund’s budget and what projects can receive money?

The Visegrad Fund focuses on projects involving culture, capacity building, innovation, R&D, and entrepreneurial development. The Fund has an annual budget of EUR 8 million, to which the V4 countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland – contribute equally. The funds are also distributed on an equal basis.

The Fund also receives external funds from donor countries, mainly for projects that are outside the V4 countries – in EU Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans. Some of the donor countries include The Netherlands, United States, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. 

How many projects have already been supported by the Visegrad Fund?

The organization will be 20 years old in 2020. Over the past two decades, about EUR 90 million has been disbursed to fund projects and scholarships: 5,600 projects and 3,400 semesters in total.

What projects are eligible for funding?

The basic condition for funding a project is that ideally four, but at least three organizations of the consortium that is applying for the funding are registered in a Visegrád country. Visegrad Plus projects also give the possibility to organizations from the EU Eastern Partnership or Balkan countries to partner up with the Visegrád countries and apply for funding together. 

What is the main advantage of the V4 countries and the Visegrad Fund?

We have accumulated a large amount of knowledge in the V4 countries from the last 30 years. We can export this know-how and best practices to countries that want to access the EU or are in the process of democratization. Donor countries may have learned about this process, but we have actually lived through it and that makes our experience far more credible. 

A good example is our civil service mobility program where, e.g. Ukrainian energy experts and decision makers or tourism professionals from Montenegro visited the related ministries in the V4 countries to discuss specific issues that are particularly important in the Western Balkans, where negotiations with the EU and implementation of EU law into their internal legal order have begun. V4 experts can answer these questions, which is an added value of the Visegrad Fund and the Visegrád countries. The EU should see that there is a positive agenda here and a responsibility on our part to the neighboring countries. 

How can the Visegrad Fund contribute to the V4 Startup Force project and why is this important to the region?

I would highlight here the Warsaw Declaration of March 28, 2017, in which all four prime ministers adopted the strategic guideline that the V4 should follow in order to remain competitive, to develop even faster on the field of convergence, and to be able to become the market leader in the 5G, Digital Single European Market and Industry 4.0 platforms.

The aim is to set up an ecosystem in the region that is good for businesses, especially startups with innovative ideas. The key pillars of such systems are e-mobility, environmental protection, and information systems development.

Fortunately, the region is no longer seen only as a cheap source of well-trained labor, but as a region with accumulated knowledge and innovative ideas. It is now seen as an area where innovation can be achieved, the political system is stable, raw materials are cheap, and young innovators can produce, implement, and test ideas. 

The V4 Startup Force fits perfectly into this strategy with all of its goals, participants, and partner institutions. The V4 Startup Force is a great example of how to make good use of the Visegrad Fund’s support.

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