Speech of the Chief Scientist for Research and Innovation of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr. Nikolas Mastroyiannopoulos at the EXCELSIOR: First International Virtual Workshop – Space Operations and Environmental Monitoring in Cyprus | 15 July 2020

Dear Distinguished Speakers,

Honoured Guests,
It is with great pleasure that I address you today, at the First International Virtual Workshop of the EXCELSIOR Project, with a view to tackle Space Operations and Environmental Monitoring in Cyprus. First of all, I would like to congratulate the organisers, the ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence, not just for today’s initiative but for also planning to hold this workshop on an annual basis.
Establishing such initiatives as institutions is crucial, especially for our region in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa, as they bring together distinguished scientists from across the globe to discuss the latest developments in topics that can address a wide range of challenges.

Although it would be great to meet you all in person, as originally planned, I must acknowledge that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a promising outlook for the future of digital transformation. The current situation with the pandemic has pushed us to either seek innovative solutions or to adapt plans accordingly, as for instance with this event which has become digital. It is my firm belief that, despite the challenges this situation has brought and will bring in the future, it has also helped create various new opportunities. In particular, it has helped further fast-track digital transformation, while turning challenges into fruitful results. To this end, open access to scientific knowledge, know-how and data-sharing is fundamental, and it is with great satisfaction that we have seen significant steps being taken in a very short time, to facilitate this on a national, European and international level.

Organising such events, like today’s workshop, with the participation of representatives of pioneering and world-leading agencies from abroad, such as NASA and the German Aerospace Center, as well as of prestigious academic and research institutions, can facilitate the exchange of knowledge and international best practices while providing access to top-league expertise. This knowledge exchange chain is not only important for the development of the Centre itself, but it also contributes to unlocking the local research potential and to strengthening the role of Cyprus as a Research and Innovation hub.

Furthermore, it is of outmost importance that Cyprus enhances its extroversion, by developing targeted strategic collaborations in fields including science, technology and innovation. For us, as the National Research and Innovation Governance System, but also for me personally, as the Chief Scientist and Chairman of the Research and Innovation Foundation, creating strong synergies, that will transform Cyprus’ ecosystem to a fully-developed, functional Research and Innovation ecosystem, is a top priority.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are particularly proud of the establishment of world-class Centres of Excellence in our country which facilitate access to new scientific networks and unlock new opportunities for economic development. In fact, the EXCELSIOR Project is one of the most ambitious in the Research and Innovation history of Cyprus, aiming to establish our country in the field of space-based technologies. Space and related technologies were once considered to be too advanced for a country as small as Cyprus. Α possibility that not many would have dared to consider twenty years ago.

As we all know, ERATOSTHENES aspires to become a fully functional Innovation Hub in Digital Technologies and a Research Excellence Centre in the EMMENA region, focusing on fields of research such as earth observation, geospatial information and analysis and space applications, whilst creating an ecosystem where state-of-the-art sensing equipment, cutting-edge research, targeted education services and entrepreneurship come together.

During this critical time, when humanity is facing many challenges, such as climate change and natural disasters, we must take advantage of related technologies, like Earth Observation Data Analytic, in order to tackle these challenges from a different angle. I strongly believe that with a comprehensive approach and connection with similar international infrastructures, we can ensure long-term earth observations and establish useful services on both the national and European level.

Dear guests,
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our full support towards the aspirations of the Centre of Excellence to transform Cyprus into a national and regional hub for earth surveillance and space-based monitoring of the environment.

In addition to the total €15 million funding that the Republic of Cyprus will allocate to the Centre of Excellence, we have committed to support ERATOSTHENES – together with the other Centres of Excellence – in overcoming administrative barriers and achieving sustainability in the long term.
More specifically, support is already provided in facilitating communication with Public Authorities, as well as in liaising with local and regional authorities, to develop new (or enhance their existing) digital tools and services.
Additionally, the political decisions taken to reform the national governance system for the Research and Innovation, as well as the recent establishment of the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, and the Research and Innovation Foundation’s continuous support, reflects the commitment to adopt Research and Innovation as a fundamental pillar of the new model for growth, capable of expanding the productive base of Cyprus’ economy, creating new jobs, investment opportunities and reversing the “brain drain” in the Country. We are confident that these decisions will bring important benefits for Cyprus, with multiplying effects, for the economy, the scientific community and the society of the Country.

I sincerely hope that investments using earth surveillance innovative technologies, will continue being made in order to build the foundation of a modern and therefore sustainable development model which will provide
solutions to real social challenges, whilst having an economic and social impact.

By concluding, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate the Cyprus University of Technology and the Excelsior Consortium for their hard work. Thank you once again for the invitation to address today’s workshop and I wish the discussions will prove to be valuable and beneficial in everyone’s future endeavours.