Series: European inventions
Bosnian innovators and inventors
In our search for the right contacts for our series on inventions in Europe, this time in Bosnia-Herzegovina, everyone recommended just one person to us: Husein Hujić, secretary general of the Bosnia-Herzegovinian innovators’ association, and also its first president and founder in the year 1994 and a long-standing member of the committee of the International Federation of Inventors’ Associations (IFIA).
The 70-year-old mechanical engineer, journalist and painter is an open-minded free spirit with whom it is difficult to focus on a single subject due to his fascinating life story. However, he is the “prototype” of the Bosnia-Herzegovinian inventor – with all his problems, efforts and successes – of which there are many.
He is reluctant to talk about his own successes, but is far more eager to list the latest prizes and inventions of the 340 members of his association. Since the association was founded in the year 1994 following the country’s declaration of independence in 1992, Bosnian innovators have received 1,022 prizes, accolades and certificates world-wide. In the dreariness of everyday life in Bosnia, which is strongly impacted by the political situation, local innovators can come up with good news even when the country’s newspaper editors are desperate for positive news.
Dynamic invention scene
Without any false sense of pride, Husein Hujić tells us that Bosnian innovations have achieved a 50-per-cent success rate at international trade fairs, where no fewer than half the innovations exhibited have won prizes. Measured in terms of the number of innovations per head, Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the countries with the most dynamic development. The international coefficient for applied innovations is around 5 per cent: in Bosnia it is 15-25 per cent. The thing that makes him sad is the fact that, of the 40 to 50 innovations realized each year, only two on average are deployed by companies. In practice innovators create their inventions at their own initiative: the government and industry are not very innovative at all.
Over 800 patent applications have been filed since the patent office was established in the war year 1993. Only five of them were not filed not by private individuals, and none at all by research institutes or local companies. “This is probably why the innovators’ association has become an essential stop for inventive spirits, an oasis for like-minded people who can seldom find support elsewhere,” relates Hujić, emphasizing that the association is no place for politics and ethnic differences: “Innovators just happen to be strong, independent individuals.”
Although in former Yugoslavia he was chairman of the innovators’ association in Sarajevo and editor of the magazine “Pronalazač” (inventor), Husein Hujić can hardly speak of a Sarajevo school of innovators or a long tradition: “The Nobel prize winner for chemistry, Vladimir Prelog, was born in Sarajevo in 1906, but there are no other links between him and the city. The older generation of innovators attaches great importance to getting young people enthusiastic about research and development, and therefore organizes regular school campaigns, and awards innovation prizes to pupils who, despite their incredible inventiveness are scoffed at as anti-heroes by modern society.
No invention without deprivation
When asked about innovators’ “working conditions”, Hujić replies: “An idea is sustained by a creative force. Innovations are based on things that already exist. Everything that exists today was once an innovation. Unlike other activities, such as writing a novel, painting, cooking, building, which are always brought to a close, invention is a never-ending process, motivated by a desire to continually improve something. An innovator must doggedly pursue his idea to a conclusion. It is, at the same time, a struggle with yourself, with your family, with your situation, even with the idea itself. The things which we do every day are only the surface of our creativity and our innovative force. Only if a person is fully concentrated, achieving an ‘intellectual libido’, can he truly develop his ideas. The success of an innovator is the result of many deprivations. If you have an idea, it means absolutely nothing unless you devote sufficient energy to it.”
Waiting for the “Eureka” effect
When asked about the fine differences between inventors and innovators, Husein Hujić replies: “An invention involves creating something that has never existed before: an innovation means improving an existing thing. You seldom make an invention, but innovations are a sure way to a better future, before the “Eureka” effect kicks in – if it ever does.”
Despite the technical innovations that have made him a great deal of money, his favourite invention is a calendar which he describes as an instrument for measuring Julian and Gregorian time, but which can also be extended to measure Islamic and Chinese time. The calendar is designed as a system of slides that can represent time from 1st January in the year 1 AD to 16th February 4916. This invention has also produced a good income for him after winning large orders for it, and it was also patented in France in 1992.
He is keen to stress several of the inventions made in Sarajevo. In May of the war year 1992, a group of Sarajevo orthopaedists together with a mechanical engineer invented the so-called “Sarafix”, an external fixative that saved about a thousand lives during the war. The same year an invention made by another orthopaedist was very successful and is already being employed in medicine. This was an “orthopaedic bed” for the treatment of bone fractures developed by the Sarajevo surgeon Dr. Adnan Dizdar. Yet another Sarajevo inventor attracted the interest of the Americans – in accordance with the motto “Everything is bigger in America” – the “100 kilometre high building” was an invention made by Muhamed Semiz that was patented in the USA.