Saturday, October 5, 2013

1st Hellenic Innovation Forum - October 7-8, 2013 in Athens

This most interesting article from the Ekathimerini alerted me to the 1st Hellenic Innovation Forum which will take place in Athens from October 7-8.

If memory serves correctly, the EU had decided some time ago that all member countries should aim at spending 3% of GDP on R&D. Or rather: all member countries committed that they would spend 3% of GDP on R&D. It would be interesting to know which countries kept their promise.

Greece did not keep its promise. As the article says, Greece spends about 0,5% of its GDP on R&D, less than any other EU country (Sweden, interestingly, spends 3%!). The article states that

"A closer look at research and innovation activities in Greece reveals that some excellent basic research institutes and a few small but innovative companies do exist around the country. However, given the high regulatory burden and the unfriendly environment toward innovative companies, great innovations in basic research cannot spill over into new business in Greece. Instead, these ideas are used by business abroad".

"Of particular importance for Greece is the Teaming for Excellence program. The scheme will offer substantial funding on a competitive basis for projects aimed at developing cutting-edge research centers in less advanced EU regions. The proposals will be submitted by teams comprising an internationally recognized research institute – among those of the European elite – and people from the host region. The key objective is to provide a high-speed lift to excellence in research and innovation in countries such as Greece, allowing them to align high-quality science with technology-based entrepreneurship".

There will be a conference on Teaming for Excellence in Prague from October 17-18.

The article considers Greece’s major assets R&D centers its current research potential, its culture and living conditions, as well as its distinguished diaspora.

The article also references a paper titled "Growing out of the crisis: hidden assets to Greece's transition to an innovation economy". I particularly liked the following conclusion of this paper:

"Greece’s Euro-zone membership may have given the false impression that the economy might be driven by innovation. The Greek economy is not – it faces not only institutional but also severe structural deficits with a small industrial basis, low export ratio, small businesses and many closed professions. If decreasing labor costs and further institutional reforms were to be the only active policy, then Greece’s future would be a low wage economy with an extended workbench of other innovative economies. Greece can only become prosperous if it also uses its comparative advantages beyond tourism, trade and agriculture".

I still recall how enthusiastic I became about Greece's future potential when I first read the Greece Ten Years Ahead report by McKinsey. Reading through the above literature reinforced those feelings.

What if the Greek government felt the same way?


  1. I think you have inadvertently misquoted the difference between Greece and Sweden. The latter spends 3% of GDP on private R&D, Greece spends 0.2% of GDP on private R&D and 0.5% in total. From the OECD, CIA and Trading Economics sites it looks like about 60% of the R&D spend in Greece comes from the government, whereas for Sweden its more like 10-15%. This is as worrisome as the overall difference.

    Not that there is anything wrong with gov't R&D spend, the primary technologies on which the iPhone & iPad are based originate from government funded Research.

    Top 5 R&D spenders are Israel, Japan, Sweden, Finland and South Korea, US is #6. I believe the 3% target originates from the OECD. The OECD has Chile at the bottom of its R&D spend ladder - must be below Greece then? No - it looks like there's not enough data to give Greece a ranking.

    Here's the OECD league table


  2. It's been a while since I read (parts from) the McKinsey report, but from what I remember it mainly dealt with economic sectors that relied on internal demand (energy, health).

    I don't have anything against such plans (although the report's suggestions relied heavily on dubious liberalizations) but there's one small problem: the ECB is doing it's best to cause problems to the Greek banking system by restricting the monetary base. This renders the McKinsey report ineffective.

    Germany and the ECB are doing everything they can to crush domestic demand throughout the Eurozone. It's what Germany knows best, so it sticks to it. The problem is this is a different world to the one of the 00's. I for one hope that the USA don't raise the public-debt limit. This will obliterate Germany and it's dreadful economic model.