On 11 March 2021, Lithuania celebrates the 31th anniversary of the Restoration of Independence. Drawing strength from the centuries-long tradition of statehood, Lithuania was the first to break away from the Soviet Union, thus launching the fall of the oppressive Empire.
Lithuania’s quest for national freedom was followed by the resolve of its people to take destiny in their own hands and succeed. The country has gradually re-emerged with democratically functioning public bodies, financial stability, progress, and the growing wellbeing of the people.
Lithuania gave rise to a generation of true change-makers, who spark creativity and are ready to take on global challenges.
They are the people who make significant imprint on the world’s culture, art, and sports. The people who advance the world’s life sciences to improve human health. The people who master technology innovations and financial services.
Stellar talents in science
Lithuania has given the world many prominent scientists. Among those recognised worldwide are Prof. Vladas Algirdas Bumelis and Prof. Virginijus Šikšnys who has discovered CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique revolutionising the process of gene editing. The discoveries in this field were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2020, while Professor Šikšnys contributed greatly to the global achievement by being the first to prove that the CRISPR-Cas9 system could be transferred from one bacterium to another.
In 2020, Vilnius University team Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM won the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), the most prestigious international synthetic biology competition. Vilnius University students competed against more than 300 teams representing the leading world universities, and won twice.
Lithuania, a leading light in laser technology
If you have seen a laser in the laboratories of the EU, USA or Japan, it is a high chance it comes from Lithuania. Half of all picosecond lasers sold worldwide are produced by Lithuanian companies, while Lithuanian-made femtosecond parametric light amplifiers, used in generating the ultrashort laser pulses, account for as much as 80 % of the world market. The Lithuanian lasers are used by NASA, CERN, and other world-famous companies, such as IBM, Hitachi, Toyota, and Mitsubishi. As many as 90 out of 100 top universities of the world use Lithuanian lasers and related systems at present.
Life sciences industry contributes to solving global problems
Lithuania’s life sciences industry is one of the most advanced in the region. Setting trends in research, collaborating with foreign biotechnology companies and universities, and exporting to over 100 countries, Lithuania steadily sets its foot in the industry that is expected to claim a 5% share of its GDP in 2030. In September 2020, the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and Vilnius University Life Sciences Center entered into Partnership for Genome Editing Technologies. The scientific aim of the Partnership is to improve understanding of fundamental biological processes and disease mechanisms, and to develop and apply the novel genome editing tools discovered by Lithuanian scientist Prof. Virginijus Šikšnys.
Business and sustainability: clear mindset and vitality
Agility and experience have contributed to making Lithuania an investment destination for Nasdaq, Continental, Hella, Hollister, Western Union, Uber, Wix, and other multinationals, home for its first unicorn (Vinted), and the fastest-growing FinTech hub in Europe. The 11th rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index and No. 4 in Global Fintech Index manifest the thirty years of goal-oriented mindset.
There are 1000 innovative startups buzzing in Lithuania, but the success of Vinted demonstrates, how the freedom generation has engaged the rest of the world to support collaborative consumption bringing sustainable living into homes. Every second transaction in France alone finds new home to second-hand items.
Led by women
Ingrida Šimonytė is not the first female Prime Minister of Lithuania. However, currently she is one of the three women – representing each of the coalition parties – pulling the strings of the Government. Ingrida Šimonytė has joined the Premiers of Denmark, Finland, and Germany as the only female Heads of Government in the European Union.
Standing with the people of Belarus
Lithuania has punched above its weight in defending the democratic values and supporting pro-democracy forces in Belarus. The Freedom Way, organised to support the fight for freedom of the Belorussian people in August 2020, stretched 32 kilometres from Vilnius to Medininkai, a town close to the Belarusian border. The Freedom Way coincided with the 31st anniversary of the Baltic Way. On 23 August 1989, over a million people joined hands in a human chain across Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, to demand independence from the Soviet Union.
Startup spirit in the air
Lithuania’s pilot innovation environment (regulatory sandbox) offers a chance to test innovative solutions in real environment and provides the required consulting assistance. There are six official sandboxes – three in FinTech, a regulatory sandbox for the energy sector, a transport solutions sandbox, and a PropTech sandbox – and boasts an exciting line-up of hubs, such as Blockchain Centre Vilnius. A generation of world-changing innovative companies has grown up in Lithuania, featuring Vinted, Trafi, CityBee, Tesonet, Brolis, TransferGo, and Paysera.
Capable to adapt and create
Even though 2020 will enter the pages of history as one of the most difficult years for the film industry, it has been quite a successful year for Lithuania. According to the Lithuanian Film Centre, 58 new films received funding in 2020, including 37 local, 9 co-productions, and 12 foreign productions. Lithuania boasts a reputation as a significant spot for filmmaking and is globally popular with filmmakers and the creators of TV series: Chernoby, Stranger Things and Catherine the Great.
GovTech, a lab for public sector solutions
GovTechLab offers solutions to fight structural problems slowing down innovation in public sector and to stimulate the growth of startups in the field. Ten solutions developed so far through the GovTech Challenge Series is a big first step in breaking down the barriers and stereotypes surrounding the startup and public sector cooperation.
The future is bright
Despite the pandemic which influenced all areas of our lives, Lithuania’s future looks bright. The competencies of Lithuanian technology graduates are ranked as “excellent”. Solutions in different sectors were found and adopted to counter the pandemic crisis. Scientists around the world are still searching for a method to diagnose Covid-19 as quickly, cheaply, and accurately as possible. Such a method of SARS-COV-2 virus detection in Lithuania was proposed by the medical team of Vilnius University scientists who work now on the solution.
It is always possible to find a solution when we work together – in 2020 amid the challenges of state closure caused by Covid-19, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became the first European Union member states to allow the free movement of each other’s citizens within the so-called ‘Baltic Travel Bubble’. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the country’s capital took a creative step: it turned empty restaurant tables into fashion showcases and transformed the city’s streets into the world’s largest open-air café.