Is the SEE region moving away from being viewed as an outsourcing destination? And is it getting closer to establishing itself as the corporate innovation hub of Europe?
To add some more context and factual evidence into the conversation, The Recursive team explored in detail which are the companies with regional R&D centers, which are the industries in which the SEE countries specialize, and what are the R&D functions of the local offices and centers.
Country-by-country breakdown and highlights
Serbia stands out as an emerging destination with relatively fewer R&D centers compared to its neighboring countries, but considering its competitive corporate taxation practices and the growing engineering talent pool, it seems like the trend for accelerated innovation and international recognition will speed up. Companies are able to achieve a 0% corporate tax income if they manage to combine the legislative incentives for accelerated R&D deductions and the IP box regimes. And while Serbian startups such as the mobile game developer Nordeus and the genetic research company Seven Bridges are accomplishing significant success abroad, international leaders including Microsoft, Continental, and NCR are strategically tapping into the local research and engineering potential.
Similar to Serbia, Greece is also considered a business and innovation-friendly country in terms of the existing legislation, tax incentives, and opportunities for experimentation. The local government stands out with its efforts to promote more high-tech projects and bring back IT talent to Greece – it even offers a 50% tax break for professionals who return to work home. One of the biggest milestones for Greece over the past year was the announcement of Microsoft to invest €1 billion in building local cloud-computing data centers. Recognized as an innovative sand-box destination, Greece has attracted the interest of Volkswagen. The automobile company plans a pilot project, aimed at transforming the island of Astypalaia into the SEE’s first smart island with EVs that are powered only by renewable energy. Other international giants such as Amazon and Tesla have also recognized the tech potential, favorable legislation, and talent pool of Greece.
A couple of hundred kilometers north of Greece, Romania is already a home to a couple of well-established innovation hubs including that of Amazon and Adobe. The local branch of Adobe, for example, is the largest R&D center of the company in the whole EMEA region. Likewise, Amazon’s Development Center in Iasi, opened in 2005, was the first R&D hub of the company in Eastern Europe. Since then, Amazon has opened another development center in Bucharest, and now has plans to open three more – one în Timisoara and two others in Iasi. So far, the global retail and IT services leader has invested more than €100M in Romania and employs over 3 000 engineers.
In terms of its role as an R&D hub, Bulgaria hosts one of the few SAP Labs centers for development globally. Moreover, Sofia is home to the largest Global Development Center of VMware in the EMEA and the third-largest R&D location worldwide. The capital also hosts the biggest end-to-end hub of Paysafe and the largest global testing center of Sensata Technologies.