A national knowledge transfer office is set to be announced in the coming months, Chief Scientist and Research and Innovation Foundation President Nikolas Mastroyiannopoulos has told CNA, pointing out that the aim is to commercialise research outcomes and produce products and services with an international orientation so that the country’s economy can be strengthened.
In an interview with Cyprus News Agency, Mastroyiannopoulos speaks, among other things, of the funding programmes in the area of research and innovation for the next six years, the progress achieved in recent years in the field with Cyprus ranking second in Europe per capita in improvement, the fact that Cyprus has raised over €300 million from Horizon 2020”, as well as about the creation of new jobs which will keep young graduates in Cyprus and attract those who left back.
Asked about the recent announcement of programmes of a value of €150 million for the next six years the Chief Scientist says that “in a particularly crucial period when the world economy and of course our country are irreparably hit by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, we feel that investing in research, innovation, technological upgrade and development is very important, so that we can have a more sustainable growth and offer society the services necessary through this investment.”
The goal of the new programmes, he explains, is to enhance an outward outlook, internationalise our environment, to encourage young people to take up research and innovation as a career, continue to strengthen innovative entrepreneurship, support good research infrastructure, the knowledge produced so that we can implement the national research and innovation strategy which is our primary aim.
Replying to a question he says that programmes are divided into five pillars, three vertical and two horizontal.
“We now have over 9 universities, we have established research centres, six new excellence centres which are co-funded by the European Commission, quite a few start-ups but also productive local companies which are showing an increase in research and development activities,” he notes.
Therefore, he adds, “it is understandable that by enhancing research, we are also enhancing innovation.”
Another important pillar concerns the transfer of knowledge and cooperation, he continues, adding that “we need to improve the cooperation of the research community with quality businesses and the country’s industry.”
This is why, he says, that “we will announce in the coming months the operation of a national transfer of knowledge office, so that we can have a commercialisation of research outcomes and also produce products and services of an international orientation, so that we can strengthen the country’s economy, diversify the economic model and so that society can enjoy research and innovation achievements.”
Replying to an additional question on the matter, he points out that the national office will include services such as technology marketing, intellectual property, mentoring and coaching “which is very important so that they can enhance their research activity and by creating new products and services they are likely to have a significant impact in the country’s economy and society.”
Mastroyiannopoulos also refers to the internationalisation of the research ecosystem and the need to enhance infrastructure, making the field more competitive.
Replying to a question as to what has been the greatest achievement since his appointment two years ago and what is the greatest challenge, he points out that he considers as his personal achievement the fact that he has tried to work collectively with all actors involved in the field “so that we can create the research and innovation culture horizontally and create a basis on which we can develop the research and innovation ecosystem.”
I believe, he notes that through team work we have made many steps.
“International indicators show that Cyprus has registered one of the most important improvements in the field of innovation. In fact, it is in the second position,” he says. Cyprus, he adds, is also the second most innovative economy in the region after Israel.
The Chief Scientist notes that over 600 jobs have been created as a result of previous national programmes, while new small to medium enterprises in research and development have surfaced with a turnover of over €70 million.
In the previous Horizon 2020 framework Cyprus is in the first five countries per capita of receiving funds of over €300 million, an increase of turnover of businesses which invest in research and development of over €90 million and the employment of many people in the field, he adds.
Mastroyiannopoulos says that there is still work to be done, that more jobs must be offered to new graduates, there must be more opportunities for research funding, the expenditure on research and innovation should be enhanced particularly in the private sector. He adds that “we need to go up a gear in environmental technologies, where a drop is observed.”
Replying to a question on the role research activity has to play in the green growth transition he explains that the programmes announced for the next six years are derived from the Recovery and Resilience Fund “Cyprus – Tomorrow” and the “Thalia” development plan. Both funds are targeted towards digital transition, green transition, a blue economy and enhance these areas, he says.
Invited to say whether it has been possible to reverse the so called “brain-drain” which Cyprus experienced following the economic crisis of 2013 he says that through the programmes announced we are enhancing research programmes and innovative entrepreneurship.
Therefore, he adds, “we are creating new jobs, we are keeping a crucial number of scientists in Cyprus.”
According to Mastroyiannopoulos the jobs created will also be an opportunity for students and professionals who are working abroad to return to Cyprus with the knowledge they have gained so that the effort can be further enhanced.
Referring to the cooperation of the research community with the country’s industry he speaks of the “Cooperative Growth” programme announced recently which aims to bring together the private and public sectors on research and innovation matters, targeting mainly information technology, communications, health and green growth.
Mastroyiannopoulos also refers to the cooperation the Research and Innovation Foundation has developed with the public sector sighing memoranda of understanding with the Ministries of Defence, Shipping and Commerce.
Invited to send a message to young people who are now finishing their studies as someone who opted to return to Cyprus following his own studies, he points out that “certainly one of our goals is to strengthen the country’s young generation.”
“I believe they will inherit our work and continue it. Therefore, we must continually strengthen the young generation,” he says.
To that extent he refers to the cooperation the Foundation has with the Ministry of Education aiming to create a culture of research and innovation in secondary and tertiary education.
“We will certainly stand by young people. This is within our goals and our strategies,” he stresses.
“They should know that we do not forget about them but rather they are the focus of our plans,” he concludes.