It’s the beginning of a new era for universities and research centers in Greece that have decided to go into business, as “To Vima” newspaper reports. A new project of the Greek Government aimed at cultivating a brand new ... crop of entrepreneurs in the country and the granting of funds for research ideas and innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprizes (SMEs). The project concerns the establishment of a new Equity fund (Fund of Funds) supporting corporate research and new technologies endeavours and the relevant agreement will be signed on December 22, in Athens. The Fund will consist of three new independent funds to finance research ideas.
A big step in basic research funding was already been taken in the summer of 2016 with the establishment of Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (ELIDEK). ELIDEK will be allocated funds of EUR 180 million by the European Investment Bank, along with 60 million provided by the Greek government for the period 2016-2019 with key beneficiaries academic and research institutions in the country. This will raise research funding in Greece and ensure that research jobs can be created for young scientists and doctorial students, who might otherwise leave the country, leading to brain drain.
The new funding Project
As Alternate Minister for Research and Innovation Costas Fotakis stressed in an interview to "Τo Vima" newspaper, a major initiative is under way: The establishment of a Fund of Funds with strong emphasis on equity and venture capital schemes supporting corporate research and new technologies endeavours. The Fund of Funds will manage an amount of over EUR 250 million that will be collected and allocated in a horizon of 7-10 years. Under the umbrella of this Fund there will be three funds titled “Innovation window”, “Early stage” and “Growth”. The purpose of these funds is to support entrepreneurship, which is derived from the research activity, and thus sustain the effort the country is making towards a strong and equitable development grounded in the knowledge economy.
The project will be financed by the European Investment Fund (EIF), which is the investment arm of the European Investment Bank, specialized in financing the business risk for the benefit of SMEs in the EU. the Greek government through National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) and the private sector. If a research initiative is risky, its funding will be undertaken primarily by the public sector. If there is no significant risk, the private sector can also participate. This financing will include spin off companies, which are connected with Greek researchers contacting breakthrough research at major universities around the world. The three Funds will invest in venture projects starting now and to existing companies, which already have a market value.
Jose Romano, representative of EIF, recently visited Greece in collaboration with Minister Fotakis and had the opportunity to meet representatives of academic and research institutions in Patras, Crete and Thessaloniki. Regarding research funding in Greece, the challenge is to have a framework of actions, said Romano in an interview to Vima newspaper and underlined that there is great potential for Greece to become a “cradle” of innovation.
OECD report on Research and Development in Greece
The new funding initiative is going to address the insulation of public research from the business sector, as described in the recently published OECD report on Research and Development in Greece. The report stresses that even though Greece undergoes a protracted economic recession since 2008, a national strategy for the period 2014 - 20 addresses the weaknesses in the innovation system and aims at regaining competitiveness and sustainable growth: The National Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation 2014 - 20.
According to OECD report on R&D, although intensity increased (from 0.67 in 2008 to 0.84 in 2014 and 0.96 in 2015), cross country comparison places Greece at the low ranks of GERD (Gross Domestic Expenditure on R &D) among OECD countries. While interactions between education and research are strong and vivid, the public research system as a whole is largely insulated from the productive sector. Public Research Institutes and universities do not tend to commercialize their research results, as indicated by their low number of patents. The economic recession has caused a loss of human resources for S & T.
The report also mentions the low innovation output of Greek firms while it highlights recent initiatives of the Greek Government in this context: The Enterprise Europe Network Hellas, the Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation etc, as well as government’s intention to strengthen existing and establish new innovative clusters in key sectors.
Read more: Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation to Strengthen Research across Greece; FORTH’s Nektarios Tavernarakis: Investment in Research Conducive to Growth, Industrial scholarships to boost research in Greek enterprises, Εxports, human capital and innovation to drive Greece’s growth