Speech of the Chief Scientist for Research and Innovation of the Cyprus Republic, Dr. Nikolas Mastroyiannopoulos at the Digital Cyprus Conference | 4 October 2022

Distinguished Speakers and Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 It is with great pleasure that I address you today at the Digital Cyprus Conference. An initiative that aims to present the future of technology and explore the major new trends that are expected to reshape the business and social landscape in the coming years.

As the Chief Scientist for Research and Innovation of the Republic of Cyprus, and the Chairman of the Research and Innovation Foundation, it is an honor to not only attend this event, but also to support the conference as Technology and Innovation Partner. This event gives us the opportunity to engage with leading C-level executives, entrepreneurs, ICT experts and thinkers from all sectors of the Cypriot economy.

Therefore, I would like to extend my warm congratulations to the organizers; the Cyprus Information Technology Enterprises Association, CITEA, for their relentless efforts to advance Information and Communication Technologies in our country, bringing together tech and innovative companies, startups, corporations, as well as policy and decision-makers.

Let me also welcome all the esteemed fellow speakers and participants. I am very confident that together we can pave the way towards a brighter and more digital and technologically advanced future.

Distinguished Guests,

As we embark on a new era filled with increasing challenges for humanity, innovation and technology offer an enormous potential for economic growth and social prosperity. We are, after all, entering the metaverse era where ICT is expected to have an increasingly leading role as a key enabler towards digital transformation.

Furthermore, the Government has set the bar high through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, code named “Cyprus Tomorrow”. Through targeted reforms and investments, the Plan will help Cyprus become more sustainable, resilient, and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions.

Major opportunities also arise through the creation of the Cyprus Equity Fund. In collaboration with the European Investment Fund, this essential tool aims to support innovative companies and startups based in Cyprus, making risk financing available to companies primarily seeking pre-seed and seed capital to develop their business ideas and innovative products and services.

All the above reflect the Government’s strong commitment to establish research development, innovation, and technology as a fundamental pillar of the country’s new growth model, which will in turn expand the productive base of the economy, foster innovative entrepreneurship. A priority that I deeply aspire to as the Chief Scientist of Research and Innovation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Cyprus is a destination of choice for doing business, offering great prospects, a dynamic and competitive economy driven by R&D, scientific excellence, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological advancement. Over the past few years, R&D activity in our country has grown significantly. Our country is home to a fast-growing ecosystem of world-class research centers, a dynamic community of startups and innovative businesses and a well-educated talent pool.

We are quite proud for this year’s European Innovation Scoreboard results. Cyprus has been elevated to the strong innovators group and is now 10th in the European Union, between Germany and France, having improved its performance by 38% since 2015. Our country’s performance was the highest in Europe. In addition, the latest Global Innovation Index ranks Cyprus 27th out of 132 economies. Consistently climbing the ranks with Creative and knowledge & technology outputs leading the way. These results demonstrate that the huge efforts made in recent years by the ecosystem and the stakeholders of the National Research and Innovation Governance System, are paying off.

It is evident that we are on the right track. However, we are not complacent, and we are still working to strengthen areas where there is room for improvement, such environmental sustainability and technologies, the space of Intellectual Property. Our goal is to fully embrace a data-driven creativity, fuel cutting-edge innovation across the board, diversify the economy, and develop the appropriate conditions to turn challenges into scalable business opportunities.

Taking the aforementioned into consideration, and to demonstrate its commitment to support and further develop the local ecosystem, the Research and Innovation Foundation launched its new framework of research and innovation funding programs for 2021-2027. By providing €150m in funding via various programs, our main goal is to enhance the extroversion, to invest in state-of-the-art research, to build stronger links between industry and academia, to support research excellence and innovation that has the potential to penetrate international markets. All these should contribute to the enhancement of our competitiveness, the diversification of our economy and support the green, blue and digital transition and development.

Moreover, this past July, RIF announced the results of its Innovation Programs, with more than €8.5m being allocated to 22 startups and innovative enterprises, exclusively for the creation and development of innovative products and services with significant potential to penetrate the international market.

Last month, we announced the results of our Co-Develop funding programs with Health and ICT as thematic categories, with a total budget of 4.2m euros. The ultimate objective of the program is to bridge the gap between academia and industry and the utilization of the existing know-how to meet specific needs and challenges.

In addition, we announced specific funding programs in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense for dual use technologies and the creation of classified labs. Furthermore, funds will be allocated for smart shipping innovative technologies in collaboration with the Dep. Ministry of Shipping through our proof-of-concept program.

Distinguished Guests,

 To us, given our different capacities under the umbrella of the Cyprus National Research and Innovation Governance System, but also to me personally, the development of synergies and exchange of expertise with private organizations and public authorities is key. I underline here the potential of utilizing tools like the precommercial and innovation procurement to enable the abovementioned, as well as with countries of advanced R&I ecosystems, this should be the driving force behind the creation of a productive technologically advanced and innovative environment.

One that will strengthen the local ecosystem, attract investors from abroad, create links with international VCs and facilitate access to high-risk capital. An ecosystem that is fit-for-the-future and efficient, adding value horizontally across all sectors of the economy.

With this in mind, and acknowledging that bringing together tech companies and startups as well as enhancing links between our research community and businesses is of paramount importance, the Research and Innovation Foundation is in the process of establishing a national Knowledge Transfer Office. Aiming to transfer the results of scientific and technological research to the economy, and therefore society at large. The establishment and operation of the KTO is part of the National Resilience and Recovery Plan with a €3m budget.

Our goal is clear: Boost Cyprus’ position in the global market and enhance our relations with other countries with emphasis on the dynamic fields of research, innovation and technology. Furthermore, we are stepping up our efforts to globalize Cypriot businesses and promote our island as a regional Research and Innovation hub, while providing our scientists and entrepreneurs with access to a plethora of available networks and opportunities, to help them promote their work on an international level.

Dear Fellow Speakers and Attendees,

 To quote the American writer Stewart Brand, “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’ re part of the road.” This phrase should resonate with us now more than ever.

With the Cypriot ecosystem gaining momentum, we are determined to face the challenges, leverage our strengths, empower novel ideas and provide opportunities to those who have the desire to improve and change. I invite you all to join forces to shape the future together, transforming Cyprus into an innovation and technology fueled engine.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this unique event. I am confident that the discussions following will be valuable and beneficial for everyone.

Thank you.