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Newsletter November 2014


A High-Tech (and High-Energy) Ecosystem

Yiannis Kotsis-Giannarakis, General Manager, the Association of Hellenic Mobile Application Companies (HAMAC), discusses one of the most vibrant sectors of the Greek economy.

Please discuss Greece’s high-tech sector.
Under the motto “Challenge Accepted!” 34 Greek innovative companies and institutions participated in the world’s key digital business event, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. It was the second time an official Greek pavilion was present in the Apps Planet section, organized by our Association, HAMAC, the Association of Hellenic Mobile Application Companies.

It is not yet widely known that in Greece an innovative, hi-tech ecosystem is flourishing—despite the financial crisis. The core of this ecosystem revolves around mobile technologies, services and apps, and some globally acknowledged companies have emerged.

To the surprise of most visitors, almost all the hot topics of the congress had a relevant product or service represented in the Greek Pavilion. From mobile health to micropayments and electronic wallets, NFC and the “internet of things”, mobile marketing services and cross-platform development tools, Greek-born innovation displayed an appealing and competitive product. At MWC2014, we saw that the products and services offered by our companies are competitive with those offered by other exhibitors. The current challenge is that while many Greek companies develop quality, competitive products we must now focus on a more outward-looking strategy to make them more well-known and available to the global market. 

How has this mobile ecosystem evolved?
As the mobile sector grew rapidly in the 90s, a number of innovative Greek companies grabbed the opportunity to expand into the global marketplace, following the wave that transformed our everyday lives, disrupted most industries and emerged as the greatest technological revolution in human history.

Those companies founded the Hellenic Association of Mobile Application Companies (HAMAC), a non-profit organization that now represents more than 80 companies in this vibrant sector, developing mobile applications and providing innovative marketing, communication, content and application services. Our members provide employment to more than 4.000 people, including one thousand professionals with the highest educational credentials. Additionally, the members of the association generate more than 400 million Euro in turnover and have a presence in more than 50 countries. Some of these companies have already expanded and distinguished  themselves as worldwide leaders in the mobile services market, provide services  to the largest telecom operators globally, are listed on stock markets of London LSE/AIM and have achieved substantial growth, both at the national and international level.

What impact can high-tech have on the economy of Greece?
Sometimes, when we talk about the future of the Greek economy, many think that the undiscovered wealth of modern Greece lies in the gas fields off southern Crete and the oil reserves of the Aegean. We strongly believe that, aside from these valuable natural resources, our real, sustainable wealth is in the minds of young scientists and engineers who have already formed a knowledge industry. Notably, this knowledge economy now surpasses the revenues generated by another, more well-known, and important Greek product, virgin olive oil. 

Greece is among the countries with the highest levels of knowledge capital, ranks 11th globally in engineering talent and has a vast Diaspora of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs in many fields.  In the 21st Century, Greece’s hi-tech exports have surpassed virgin olive oil by a factor of 5:1. Greek olive oil exports for 2010 amount to 200 million Euro, an amount that is less than half of our member’s aggregated turnover. Of course olive oil is important for the Greek economy as it supports many rural families; I simply want to make a comparison with this well-known industry to emphasize the importance and vast potential of the knowledge sector.

The latest value for high-technology exports (current US$) in Greece was $1.17 billion as of 2011, which accounts for about 10% of total exports. Over the past 23 years, the value for this indicator has fluctuated and grew from $72 million in 1988, to  $1.29 billion in 2008. Greece ranks 50 among the 171 countries listed on the United Nations Comtrade database. (Although the country has lost almost 10 positions during the crisis, we believe there is significant  momentum for improvement as our economy recovers). When we speak of high-technology exports we refer to products with a high R&D intensity, such as those in aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals, scientific instruments, and electrical machinery. Detailed data is available in the United Nations Comtrade database.

Although the numbers clearly show the value of the Greek high-tech industry, Greece is not yet perceived by its counterparts as a technology producer. This, we believe, is going to change and we surely help in the shift towards this direction.

What are the plans for the sector moving forward?
Developing this ecosystem in tough times needs synergies and survival skills.

Going global is our first priority, and our association's prime objective is assisting the smaller companies to address the challenges of international markets. In this aspect, the development of a spirit of cooperation among its members and the promotion of mutual collaboration is of the utmost importance, and is cultivated through our joint presence at international events such as MWC, business delegations to areas of common business interest and experience-exchange workshops.

Of course, growing a company in Greece, in 2014, needs more than innovative spirit… Nowadays we face the challenge of funding sources, a variety of obstacles and, sometimes, the hesitation of international partners as Greece emerges from crisis.

So we are taking initiatives to mobilize local and international investors, promoting the real values of our companies and the intellectual capital they possess. We have catalyzed the development of a new generation of investment funds matching local knowledge with the international experience. We lobby systematically to lower the barriers to entrepreneurship and encourage a legal framework friendly to innovation.

We put a lot of energy in developing the Hellenic Mobile Cluster, a competitive,  globally-oriented  cluster  which will contribute to smart, sustainable, outward-looking development of its members and all actors of the broader ecosystem.

Are there plans for a more “hands-on” approach in developing talent?
In cooperation with the City of Athens and four other industry associations (microelectronics, bio-medical technology, aero-space and startups) with whom we undertake common initiatives under the motto “Σynergies”, we have established an innovation hub in Athens. Our hub, named "InnovAthens" is based in the Athens Technopolis and its activities launched in May.

Hopefully 2014 will be the year of a revolution within the high-tech sector, globally and in Greece. As the number of mobile devices is bigger than the world population, creating a huge global market, we face a great challenge: To bring out new services and applications that will add value to everyday life and enrich the experience of communication among the people on this planet. This will create new value to our companies and our stakeholders. And this is a “challenge accepted!”