Twenty years after he founded the private University of Business and Technology in Kosovo, Dr. Edmond Hajrizi continues to build out an entrepreneurial vision of a transformative digital ecosystem at the center of a larger SMART hub city where students learn, live, start businesses, and create industry and employment opportunities. His professional area of expertise in systems design and management for education, business, entrepreneurship and innovation, provide the knowledge base for him to do this work.  

Hajrizi began in 2001 with two key propositions:

  • It is possible to develop and implement innovative ecosystems in small countries using best practices, modern system design and management concepts and tools.
  • It is also possible to use theories and best practices of developed industries and according to international standards to develop coherent advanced systems that are crucial for the creation of sustainable knowledge, economic growth, and social development.

UBT’s business model combines the requirements of being a university with the best practices of business and entrepreneurship that is proactive in finding and solving problems. “Can we use best practices in building a system like this in Kosovo?,” he asked. “If yes, how much impact can this system have on a city?”

Strategic Goals

Hajrizi wanted to create a small-scale innovation ecosystem, an entrepreneurial innovation university, and to open up science/knowledge to improve the quality of life. His strategic goals were to build out the following:

  • Transdisciplinary across disciplines and internationalization
  • Leadership and innovation
  • Resilience, sustainable development, small scale ecosystem
  • Achieving academic, business, and governance excellence
  • Maintaining and increasing internationalization and regional partnerships
  • Creating positive living, working, and learning environment
  • Partnership with the community as a co-creator
  • Developing research, innovation, entrepreneurship and social responsibility

Hajrizi decided that this experimental university should have SMART, design-built technology. To be considered SMART systems, they have to provide real-time capability to collect, analyze, and respond to data in real time because of safety and security implications.

The Future

Today the STEM-focused university has 12,000-15,000 students and 1,200 staff studying and teaching in more than 150 fields of accredited academic study. Eventually, UBT will build out high school and pre-high school options as well as those for lifelong learning. They need to build more capacity for research and labs. There are no SMART factories in Kosovo or Finland for young people to train in Industry 4.0, so Hajrizi is building it. Students are ready to learn small scale industry on campus. There will be lots of practice opportunities for students gaining competence in SMART systems, such as hospitality and health care.

Hajrizi is still teaching at universities around Europe, learning and collaborating with others to build the future he sees. He is working on intelligence systems with AI and XR technologies. They are working with a US company to create a library of assets in the Balkans that include classes and virtual/augmented reality for virtual labs begun during the pandemic when students were studying remotely. Students and staff created 50,000 lessons in their enterprise platform.

“Our goal at UBT is to open access to knowledge that will benefit society and the human condition,” said Hajrizi. “Everyone is looking for a university that will make an impact on society for people who do not now have access, momentum, or level of technology. This is not a business-based idea, but a university that will support the people and the country.” Hajrizi continued, “this project is not something that could be used in developed countries because of status quo and resistance. But here in Kosovo, we have green fields for innovation and quick decision making.”

“5G is the first generation of technology that is capable of supporting this level of SMART systems,” said Hajrizi, “so that “UBT City” can experiment with more aspects of a self-sustaining ecosystem, such as greenhouses, agricultural monitoring, and other new systems that work together in a harmonized, efficient way.” Kosovo has a good relationship with Finland, so for the last two-to-three years, UBT has worked with Nokia to install a 5G network at UBT. “We chose Nokia because they are a good partner for universities and top industries throughout Europe, and with them, we’ll be able to reach the level of development that we are planning,” said Hajrizi.

As a science and innovation campus, UBT is a member of IASP—the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation.