Deputy Prime Minister Bytyqi and Director Petrov presented the public call for digital AI assistant, which will be used for the needs of the state aid programs of the Government - Greater transparency, efficient and effective obtaining of business data in real time

The Deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic affairs, coordination of economic departments and investments, Fatmir Bytyqi and the director of the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development, Kosta Petrov, at a joint press conference, presented the public call for digital AI assistant, which will be used for the needs of the state aid programs of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia that are realized through the Economic Growth Plan.

Deputy Prime Minister Bytyqi said that this digital tool will have the task of facilitating communication and access to information of domestic and foreign companies and investors. The digital assistant should be able to learn quickly, enable communication with users via text messages, adjust their language and tone based on context, understand and respond in Macedonian, Albanian and English and be easily updated in real time.

"For the realization of this public call, we have provided 9 million mkd from the budget of FITD or about 150 thousand euros and that will be 100% support for the most innovative idea for creating a digital assistant based on artificial intelligence, which would be used for the need of state public programs and will be implemented in the Agency for Foreign Investments and Export Promotion, the Directorate for Technological Industrial Development Zones and the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development. This should reduce the waiting time for a response from the institutions as well as facilitate the whole procedure and access to information that is important for companies and investors" said Bytyqi, adding that this is only the first step taken, along with the development of artificial intelligence strategy, we have a vision for the development of the whole ecosystem.

The tool will provide all the necessary information and assistance for the measures of the Economic Growth Plan which is an instrument to support the development of domestic and foreign companies, in order to equalize the criteria and conditions for receiving state aid to all companies, regardless of whether they are domestic or foreign, micro, small, medium or large, adopted and adopted in 2018.

"All measures are aimed at encouraging new investments by the companies themselves, for their technological development, new product lines, increased productivity, new better paid jobs, and ultimately improving the competitiveness of companies to conquer new markets. Through the Law on Financial Support of Investments, we have already concluded 245 agreements with domestic companies, and the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development already has over 650 companies in its portfolio, which means that in just three years, we have supported almost 900 companies through the Economic Growth Plan. This concept is comprehensive, it does not recognize foreign or domestic companies, everyone has the same chance, the only thing they need is to invest and they know that the support from the Government will be provided. We have created a transparent system in which all criteria are clearly and precisely defined, there is no discretionary negotiation and negotiation of state aid. It is very different and the business sector that uses, recognizes and welcomes these measures" said Deputy Prime Minister Bytyqi.

The Director of the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development, Kosta Petrov, at the beginning of his speech, expressed satisfaction that the Fund through this project for the first time is seriously involved in the digitalization of processes in the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia.

"I am sure that this is the beginning of many new initiatives through which we will enable citizens, but also companies, easier communication with government institutions. Considering that our strategic focus in the next period is the development of artificial intelligence, I believe that opening the challenge on this topic will be a serious step forward in terms of technological advancement, but also an indicator that we have companies in the country that can offer solutions equally quality like the world ones", Petrov started.

The director also announced the details regarding the features that the digital assistant should have as well as the way of applying for the public call, which was published on the FITD website.

"The digital assistant should be able to handle a complex request, to understand and respond in Macedonian, Albanian and English with great precision in a natural way. He also needs to deal with a number of issues and be able to understand the Macedonian language equally well in Latin and Cyrillic. The assistant should provide 24/7 availability and direct access to citizens through Facebook Messenger, Viber and Web and serve an unlimited number of people at the same time. The duration of the project, for which funds have been allocated, is 24 months, 12 months for development and implementation and 12 months for maintenance and upgrading. The competitor should be a legal entity that meets the following conditions: to be a company established in accordance with the Law on Companies and registered in the Central Register of the Republic of North Macedonia, to be majority Macedonian owned (with 50.1% or more), annual income of the company should not exceed 10 million euros in the previous two fiscal years, according to the financial statements. The full list of criteria is available on the Fund's website" explained the director of FITD.

Petrov pointed out that the companies that will submit an application should present that they have experience and references from previously made and proven solutions for digital assistant based on AI in Macedonian, Albanian and English, at home and abroad, and the project proposal should contain the following activities: testing activities, design, research and development activities, digital assistant training and re-training activities.

"In terms of which costs are eligible for funding, I will list some of them: gross salaries - the amounts of gross salaries for the employees engaged in the project should correspond to the established practices of the award beneficiary before the start of the project, procurement and / or rental of equipment and consumables for research and development (procurement and / or rental of server, hosting, etc.), hiring experts / advisors for research and development. I would like to mention that for the development of this solution, no costs are allowed for the purchase of licenses for existing solutions for building a digital AI assistant" presented the director of the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development, Kosta Petrov.

The main criteria according to which the project proposals will be evaluated are the degree of innovation, the capacity of the project team, the quality of the project, the potential for implementation and the impact of the project.

The project proposals will be evaluated by the Evaluation and Selection Committee, which is composed of two representatives from the partner institution, two experts in the field of challenge and one representative of the Fund.

 The procedure for selection and selection of projects will take place in five steps, first an administrative check of the project documentation is made or whether it is complete and in accordance with the eligibility conditions stated in the public call, then the first evaluation of the project proposal is adopted or pre-selection, followed by a selection of the best project proposals, after which the presentation of the pre-selected project proposals will be enabled before the Commission for evaluation and selection. The last step is to choose a winning solution and sign a contract.

The application process is exclusively online. All information related to the call, the necessary documentation and the way of application are available at: https://fitr.mk/digitalai/