Šibenik is a historic town in Croatia, located in central Dalmatia, by the scenic bay where the river Krka flows into the Adriatic Sea. Unlike other cities and towns along the Adriatic coast, which were established by Greeks, Illyrians and Romans, Šibenik was founded by Croats. The population today is about 46.000 people.
During its almost thousand years old history Šibenik was one of the most significant economic centres on the Croatian Adriatic coast. It had an important role in the economy, particularly in the mercantile, crafts and industrial transformation of Dalmatia during the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century.
As the point of origin for the road connections between the littoral and the broad hinterland area, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Šibenik was during a longer period of time the harbour for exporting wood and minerals. It was the first city in Dalmatia to receive electricity in 1895 after which date its industrial development picked up in intensity. Today the economy of Šibenik is service-based. Overall in Croatia services account for 70% of total gross domestic product (GDP).
My colleague Matija Derk and I have been in this scenic town for the past two days, to run a place management workshop and for meetings on the challenges of Sibenik in today´s globalised economy. It has been a very interesting experience, as we met a young, energetic and interested team of place managers, open for discussions and asking many questions during the workshop and following meetings.
Šibenik has an ambition to develop the towns economy beyond tourism, and it has been selected as the location for iNavis, a Croatian national resource centre for energy, environmental, marine and maritime research and related business innovation. The project is supported by Norway and there are strong links being established between the Scandinavian country and the Adriatic town.
The objective of iNavis are to build and equip facilities of innovative research for industrial products with a focus on light metals and marine industry and similar products come in Sibenik-Knin County, develop and strengthen cooperation between the institutions for business support, academic institutions, research institutions and development, higher education institutions and SMEs, through the binding of physical, human and technological resources.
To achieve a centre of excellence within this field, we discussed how iNavis needs to be positioned in the competitive environment with similar research centres globally, and how benchmarking with other centres can be a catalyst to establish collaboration and talent attraction.
After all, the main challenge of Šibenik is to be clear on a vision and strategy that can position the town as a winning place for the long run.
To succeed with this, the citizens of Šibenik needs to be clear on which target markets and geographies they focus on for the long run, both for the traditional tourism product, which is strengthened through a recent restoration of the main fortress in the city, which has been developed into a concert and meeting venue with capacity for more than 1.000 people, and also for attracting the talented people who will be needed to establish a real centre of excellence within iNavis field, and the investors and business companies which will bring Šibenik into the knowledge economy.
Europe is full of exciting places like Šibenik, with a historic past, where the opportunities of the place have not yet been utilised as they could. To balance and develop all the assets of a place and make it attractive in the global marketplace is a necessity for growth and wealth creation. The certain alternative in todays world of hyper competition is stagnation. Matija Bumbak and his colleagues in Šibenik needs to find its sweet spot for future success, and iNavis is a great initiative that will complement the towns natural focus on tourism.