They are original; they are innovative; and they are Greek. The 21 proposals – candidacies that were shortlisted to the final phase of the applied research and innovation competition “Greece is Innovative”, sponsored by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises – Industry and Business Association (SEV) and Eurobank EFG, are being presented in Thessaloniki. It is the first of a series of exhibitions, which will inform the general public about the innovative work by Greek researchers and will simultaneously bring the country’s research and business community into contact by building a bridge between the research community and the production sector.
A special event that is entitled “Research, Innovation, Enterprise: Conditions for Development” was organised in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition at the “Noisis” (i.e. Intellect) Centre in Thessaloniki. In his address, Mr. Michalis Chrysochoidis, the Minister for Regional Development & Competition, spoke about a comprehensive institutional and financial aid package for youth entrepreneurship and innovation. “We have called this move “Start Up Greece” at the Ministry for Regional Development & Competition; to “start up” enterprise; to restart the economy with new and innovative enterprises. We have created an innovative digital platform so as to provide credibility to our movement, which contains all the public information concerning enterprise, from programmes to useful information, interactive contact with public administration concerning any questions or queries and networking mechanisms via the social media for the youth”, said Mr. Chrysochoidis
Mr. Chrysochoidis presented the Ministry’s comprehensive action plan to promote new / innovative youth entrepreneurship, in conjunction with the creation of the “Start Up Greece” movement, which includes:
1. The special Community Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) programme to promote new innovative entrepreneurship for € 30 million and has already been pre-published;
2. A new training program for new small businesses and young entrepreneurs with emphasis on innovative activities;
3. The creation of new financing tools for small loans and improved access to liquidity (seed capital, start up capital, venture capital, etc) within the context of The National Business and Development Fund (ETEAN), which is aimed at enterprise in general as well as the creation of end-to-end products to support the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) industry (under the JEREMIE fund); and
4. The institution of a new regime to support new enterprises by young entrepreneurs through the special regime for Youth Enterprise under the Investment Law (€ 150 million for 2011).
Mr. Nicholaos Nanopoulos, the Chief Executive Officer of the Eurobank EFG group noted that, “today our country needs a breakthrough; a new dynamic mobilization on the path to modernising and adapting”. Mr. Nanopoulos said, “We must positively startle – with some shock reforms – our partners, the markets, as well as the Greek citizens, to strengthen their confidence”, and added that “we firstly need to cover the shortfalls in the fiscal adjustment program; to implement a coherent and credible program of adjustment and reform by 2015; and to draft a serious and a realistic Privatization and Development of Public Property Plan. The implementation of such a serious and credible package of measures and initiatives might enable our partners in Europe to appear more conciliatory and ready to consent to activities with beneficial consequences in controlling our debt”.
The CEO of the Eurobank EFG group stressed that “any initiatives should be undertaken in a climate of greater consent, or at least tolerance. He stressed that, “ barriers and red lines, whose common ground is an absolute zero and lead to a complete standstill, should not stand on the way of every proposal for change”. He further added that, “a development strategy that is based on an expansion of our production base and the exploitation of our comparative advantages, on openness and an export-oriented economy with products and services of a high quality and added value, an emphasis on innovation, research and knowledge. We need to bolster our competitiveness, and create an enterprise friendly environment, which will mobilise enterprise capital, attract investments and create opportunities and employment”.
“Innovation and technological modernization are now the main pillars in our country’s effort to overcome the deep structural crisis”, was stressed by Mr Haris Kyriazis, the deputy chairman at SEV, who noted that “there are many who believe that innovation flourishes only when you pour money into it. Or that the size of the enterprise is crucial. Experience has shown the opposite. Innovation is directly dependent on the social, political and cultural institutions that influence thought from the beginning to the end”. Mr Kyriazis added that “the development of research, innovation and technological development in Greece conflicts with the dominant obsession against entrepreneurship, the state-sponsored concept that avoids risk, the deficient link between universities and production, the daunting legal framework for high risk venture capital, and the dominance of an uninspired state with obsolete structures”. And the SEV deputy chairman concluded by stressing that “real innovation in Greece would be to give freedom of action and a role to play to all those with the knowledge rather than the means. Innovation can only flourish on the terrain of a society of creative people”.
“The transfer of innovation and research into the production process: methods and tools for development and competitiveness” was the topic of a roundtable debate that was chaired by Mr. Nicholaos Karamouzis, the Deputy CEO of the Eurobank EFG group. Mr. Karamouzis opened the debate and stressed that “We have a great opportunity before us to highlight and release the creative and productive forces in the country and to turn them into firepower; a cornerstone in upgrading the productive base in the country; to exit from the crisis and to return the country to stable and high rates of growth and prosperity”.
“The country’s exit from the crisis – according to Mr. Karamouzis – requires a restarting of the economy and the country’s return to high growth rates predominantly through an increase in private investment, openness, an improvement in the competitiveness and productivity by the Greek economy”. And he highlighted the economic efficiency of investments in the specific area: “academic estimates concur that an increase of 3 % in the GDP for investments in Research and Innovation result in an improved productivity by the economy of 1 % per annum”. However, in Greece, “the situation is not encouraging, despite the brilliant examples of individual and positive initiatives. Spending on research and development has remained at 0.6 % of the GDP, which is a very low level, where the private sector contributes only 27 % of the total, as opposed to 64 % on average in the European Union. There are only 3.3 researchers per 1000 inhabitants in Greece, as opposed to 5.7 in the European Union”.
Mr Ioannis Milopoulos, the Rector of AUTH (Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki) and the Chairman of the “Noisis” Centre stressed that “research – technology results have the greatest added value when they are converted into products and services, when they namely exceed the framework of scientific publication”. According to the rector “nowadays there is a significant economic, political and social interest in the exploitation of research results. At the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki there is a growing interest in exploiting research results through the assignment of exploitation rights to third parties and through the acquisition of a patent. Recent examples of successful research results in these areas relate to concession agreements for exploitation rights such as the automatic Greek text dictation software and the feeding formula for animal production, as well as patents for an internal combustion engine and the formula for preserving agricultural food products”.
Mr Yannis Hatzidimitriou, the Rector of the University of Macedonia, defined innovation as research’s “child”. He stressed that “competitive and efficient entrepreneurship today relies heavily upon innovation. An economy’s competitiveness and the existence of prospects for sustainable economic growth are all the more dependent upon both the business competitiveness of the economy in this globalized environment as well as the enterprise institutional development and operating framework that is established by the State. It is now assumed that in any economy where the state does not support and does not facilitate research, innovation and entrepreneurship, the outlook for economic growth and consequently the improvements to social welfare are very limited, if not non-existent”. According to the rector, “The Greek reality shows that research, innovation and entrepreneurship should be supported and encouraged a lot more by both the State and society, if we want to overcome the very critical juncture that Greece is in today, as both a State and a society, and to see better days in the foreseeable future”.
Mr Athanasios Tsaftaris, the professor of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki and director of the Centre for Research & Technology Hellas (EKETA), Institute of Agrobiotechnology, described the Cluster institution in terms of the Cooperative Formation as “a cluster of many and diverse institutions (production, research and technology, education, and the providers of innovation and venture capital etc), namely different institutions that would never be found collaborating together are now united under one umbrella”. Mr Tsaftaris provided a characteristic example in our country, namely the Βιο-Agri-food Cluster for the production of special food and beverages for large specific consumer groups. He said that “Its purpose is to bridge the spatial, business and operational gaps and the deviations in food production and to also give added value to the agricultural products produced and the products of the industrial processing and production of food and beverages”.
Mr Dimitris Stratakis, the Managing Director of U&S Unismack, in his speech described the actual path of an innovative product from concept to research and from there to production and eventually into the hands of consumers. Mr Stratakis explained how a Greek product in the food sector is now being launched with excellent prospects in the U.S. market through strategic partnerships that the company has precisely developed for this purpose.
Mr Anastasios Tzikas, the Chairman of “Technopolis” and president of the Information Technology Association of Northern Greece, stressed the need for “a new spirit of entrepreneurship that is based on innovation, openness and social responsibility that can motivate young people and make Greece a competitive and innovative country over the next few years”. Mr Tzikas stated that “In a time of crisis when financial tidying up is the object and development that will provide emphasis to a new model, new technology can be the lever for a radical restructuring of the Greek economy”.
The exhibition at the “Noisis” Science Dissemination Centre and Technology Museum in Thessaloniki will run until 17th April.
The exhibition will then be presented at Patras (Polychoros Politeia, 9th – 15th May), Herakleion in Crete (Research and Technology Institute, 31st May – 5th June) and Athens from 17th June at the “Elliniko Kosmo” (Hellenic World Centre) where the competition process will be completed on June 21st with the award ceremony for four proposals, two from the field of innovation and two from applied research.
Further information on the competition website at http://www.kainotomeis.gr/