Having grown up in Kosovo, Visar Berisha is driven to help showcase innovation in the Balkans to the rest of the world. He recently got the opportunity to do just that through the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology, or GIST, Initiative.

“The development and growth of the Balkans region has always been close to my heart,” says Berisha, a professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in ASU’s College of Health Solutions. “When the Melikian Center at ASU introduced me to the U.S. State Department’s GIST Innovates the Balkans program, it resonated with me, as it felt like an opportunity to make a difference in a region that is very special to me.”

With assistance from the Melikian Center and ASU’s J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute, Berisha’s proposal resulted in GIST Initiative funding powering a two-year program with multiple cohorts of select companies based in the Balkans, during which participants learn how to expand their offerings to the U.S market.

The program’s first cohort consists of 13 companies taking part over the course of 10 weeks between July and October 2023. Participants take part in training sessions in which they learn from the experiences of ASU faculty entrepreneurs from the Fulton Schools and beyond. They also get mentorship and networking opportunities with ASU-affiliated entrepreneurs matched to their industries and conduct interviews with prospective customers. Some participants will also be selected to participate in ASU’s Venture Devils pitch competition.

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