TECHNOLOGY

General Info

Life Sciences industry in Greece has been developing at a vigorous rate. Start-up and spin-off companies are emerging with new products and established players are

increasingly pursuing international R&D collaborations for the development of competitive, technology-based products. Essential to this dynamic growth is the Greek R&D infrastructure, which includes internationally renowned Research Institutes and University Research Groups. Greece is proud to host world-class research teams, engaged in leading-edge Life Sciences Research and international collaborations with corporate and research players, in Europe and worldwide.

 

Science & Technology

In Greece nowadays, Science & Technology is definitely based on the inventions and discoveries made by the old scientists and scholars. Until the foundation of the academy of Athens, a lot has been done in the field of science and technology in Athens.

The Greek Research and Technology Network helps in the research and development of the communication and Information technologies throughout Greece. The Ministry of Development in Greece controls the functioning of the Greek Research and Technology Network. Internet technologies and e-Learning on the national and international levels are supported by GRNET. Research and innovation in Greece, are the primary keys to the rapid development of science and technology in Greece. Pan-European Grid infrastructure and SEE Federation for EGEE are coordinated by the GRNET.

The Biotech market growth in Greece has been exceptionally strong. Total pharmaceutical spending in Greece, as a proxy for Biotech spending, has grown at an annual pace of 17.5% from 2000 to 2007, while the total annual healthcare expenditure in Greece from 2000 to 2006 has been growing at 11%.

Greece boasts the largest number of pharmacies per capita in Europe, with 94.2 pharmacies per 100,000 inhabitants. The strong growth in pharmacy spending in Greece is supported by the social security safety net, through which most pharmacy expenditures are reimbursed by the Greek state. The Greek state pharmacy expenditure covered 90% of the total pharmacy expenditure in 2006. The growth in pharmacy expenditure is estimated to continue as Greece’s population ages, Greece smoking rate remains high, obesity rises, and sedentary lifestyles take hold.

Despite the fact that Greece is a net importer of pharmaceuticals, domestic production of medicines has grown by 11.1% annually from 2000 to 2007. Furthermore, Greece’s highly effective drug management system has reduced counterfeit medicines to a minimum compared with other European Union countries.

Healthcare services in Greece have also been growing strongly. Private hospitals have increased their market share and the demand for privately funded health care is proving strong. Obstetrics is one of the most rapidly growing private healthcare services sectors. Greek private hospitals are expanding into neighboring Southeast European countries and analysts estimate that Greece could become an attractive destination for ‘health tourists’ seeking high quality healthcare services at competitive rates.

 

Regional Hub

Greece has established itself as a regional hub for clinical trials and most major international pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials in Greece. Approximately 300 protocols are approved each year, with about 700 state university and research institutions overseeing these protocols. The average cost per clinical trial per patient stands between €2,000 - €3,000.

 

Investment Opportunities

Greece offers a unique investment opportunity to international pharmacy companies to enhance and support their main growth driver: the development of new medicines. With an exceptional talent pool at very competitive rates, top universities and research facilities to conduct R&D, and a competitive overhead structure, Greece is an ideal location for a research team developing and testing a new medicine or for developing medical and diagnostic devices. And, as underlined, a conducive environment for clinical trials presents an opportunity for biotech companies looking to the international market to gain the extra edge over the competition.

Establishing regional headquarters in Greece for the Southeast Europe, Middle East or North Africa region allows companies to tap into highly educated, strongly motivated human capital with strong multinational corporate ethics.

 

Strong Market Fundamentals

The Greek Life Sciences market has been displaying strong growth in recent years, with pharmaceutical expenditure growing at a pace close to 20% annually, supported by a strong state social security net. This trend is expected to continue, driven by the demographic characteristics of the Greek population.

Over the last decade, Greece has made significant improvements in research and technological development. Today, Greece is in a “catching up” phase, compared with the other EU Member States, with strong overall trends in improving research and innovation.

The gross expenditure in R&D has been rising steadily from 0,20% of GDP in the early 1980s to 0.68% in 1999 and has experienced the highest annual growth rate in the EU since 1995. The number of people employed in the area of R&D overall, as well as by occupational category (i.e., researchers, technicians and supporting staff) has increased dramatically between 1993 and 1999 by as much as 80%.

Additionally, a significant percentage of R&D positions are held by women, thus making Greece one of the leaders in the EU in terms of the percentage of female researchers represented in the entire research workforce.

The country’s efforts have also helped raise awareness in the Greek industry for the need to improve competitiveness and reduce the gap with European industry. The result of these efforts is reflected in the increase in innovation both in the manufacturing and services sectors. Furthermore, there is an encouraging change in the business culture since newcomers seek to gain their competitive advantage through differentiation and innovation rather than relying on cheap products and low-cost production.

Creation of new high-tech and knowledge-intensive start-ups is enjoying significant support. Since 1995, seed and start-up venture capital investment in Greece has achieved an average annual real growth close to the EU average, and is comparable to Ireland’s annual growth in 2001. On its way to developing a knowledge-based economy, Greece also has at its disposal well-designed research policy implementation tools with concrete objectives and clear priorities. The new vision for research and technological development builds upon the results and experiences of the past and reflects the international priorities, the strengths and weaknesses of the Greek research community and the needs of Greek society. Greece is entering the research and technology area dynamically, aiming for a better quality of life for its citizens and a most-promising future.

“Commitment to developing and utilizing new knowledge is evident”

R&D intensity (GERD as % of GDP) in Greece has been constantly improving from 1991 to 1999. Furthermore, since 1995 R&D intensity in Greece has been characterized by the highest annual growth rate in the EU increased activity in R&D is reflected in improved scientific performance.

Scientific performance expressed in the number of scientific publications has almost doubled between 1995 and 2001 (Figure 6). Also, the number of scientific publications per million people presents one of the higher averages annual growth rates in the EU for the same period the percentage of high-tech products exports in relation to total exports is an indication of the economic productivity of R&D activities. Although this figure is still low for Greece, it more than quadrupled during the 1990s (Figure 8). Additionally, Greece’s share in the world market of high-tech products exports presented one of the highest average annual growth rates since 1995 compared to the other EU Member States

 

Priorities and Objectives

The priorities and objectives of the Greek research, technological development and innovation policy apply on three levels: structural and programmatic interventions, thematic or sectoral specifications and regional dimensions of these specifications.

The structural and programmatic interventions mainly include:

Increase in demand for new knowledge and research results and an increase of investment in knowledge-intensive sectors in Greece. Actions are taken to increase the strategic interest of businesses in technological innovation and the utilization of this new scientific and technological knowledge, as well as to create new knowledge-intensive enterprises. An indirect aim of these efforts is the development of enterprises and organizations in Greece providing scientific and technological services with significant export activities.

Businesses are supported with both indirect (tax incentives) and direct (grants) measures to become involved in research, technological development and demonstration activities or to hire research personnel that will enable them to design and carry out such activities.

Researchers in public research centers and higher education institutes, as well as the institutes themselves, are encouraged to develop new entrepreneurial initiatives in collaboration with the appropriate funding organizations.

Foreign investors enjoy the same incentives as local ones to establish their organizations in Greece and to utilize the human resources and infrastructure in their efforts to increase competitiveness in the international arena.

Regional and local players for economic and social development become more active and participate in initiatives to create innovation centers through scientific and technological parks and incubators in direct collaboration with private investors.

 

Re-organization of the public research system

The priorities of the public research centers are redirected towards economic and social development policy. The research mission of the centers supervised by the GSRT is differentiated from that of the higher education institutes so as to be complementary. The public research centers become more oriented in covering the medium- and long-term needs of businesses and public organizations and services and in creating new entrepreneurial initiatives.

The average size of a research unit in the public research centers increases while the number of research units decreases, and the sources are focused on priorities of international scientific and technological interest and of national or local economic and social utility At the same time, the selective development of research units is promoted: merging of research centers for marine research, development of a Centre for Information and Communication Technologies Applications in southern Greece, convergence of the structures and objectives of the biology institutes in Attica.

University-based research is primarily supported for educational purposes and the training of new researchers, as well as for the creation of reference points for international research. Exploitation of research results is supported either by rendering services or with the creation of business incubators.

Effectiveness in the administration and management of the research centers is improved to assist the research teams in meeting the complex needs of the new decade.

 

Technological infrastructure for the implementation of science and technology

The continuous modernization of electronic networks, access procedures in networks, databases and data banks, as well as the improvement of other infrastructures (buildings, equipment, etc.) are necessary prerequisites for ensuring the entire system’s competitiveness. Upgrading the system for patenting or acquiring other industrial property titles, and the facilitation of access for researchers and the public in patenting and intellectual property rights information also form important conditions for the transition from an agricultural and trade economy to an economy based on knowledge and technological innovation.

Focus of public and private research and technology investments on selected priorities Focusing of public funding on sectors that combine the national economic and social interests with the international scientific and technological trends and perspectives is a condition without which no investment can be successful. The creation of a steady organizational infrastructure for technology foresight activities and the selection of priorities with social participation and consensus will contribute to increasing the credibility of the process and the social acceptance of the priorities chosen.

At the regional level, the Ministry of Development promotes the creation of technological innovation hubs, around which efforts will be focused to create economies of scale and scope, thus making selected regions attractive to investors in knowledge intensive sectors. These regions have to be «visible” worldwide, showcasing available human resources, organizations and their infrastructure, so as to attract investors from the most developed areas of Europe, Asia and the US. Specifically, the Ministry’s policy aims to:

  1. Establish Athens and Thessaloniki as European innovation hubs

  2. Establish Patra and Iraklion as Mediterranean innovation hubs

  3. Establish Volos - Larisa, Ioannina, Xanthi - Alexandroupoli, Chania, and other areas as innovation regional axes.

 

Dynamic Research Performance

Education undoubtedly forms a country’s future in economic development, in improving social structures and living conditions and in increasing the intellectual standards of its citizens. By paying appropriate attention to the development of its research workforce, Greece not only lays the foundation for a healthy tomorrow, but also defines the course for economic activities. The Greek Universities show significant research performance both in projects aiming at strengthening the competitiveness of Greek enterprises, as well as projects addressing social issues.

R&D expenditure of the Higher Education Institutes (HERD) presents a steady upward trend. HERD expressed as a percentage of GDP has been steadily increasing since 1993 reaching 0.33% in 1999.

Brighter Future

In recent years, Greek research and technology policy has focused on international cooperation and opening up the national research community to international competition. This vision reflects the overall efforts undertaken at the European level for the establishment of the European Research and Innovation Area — a key point in Lisbon strategy. Greece today, through its fast rate of development and successful economic convergence with its European counterparts, can afford to look at the future with great optimism. We are now in the position to not only want, but to be able to play an active role within a united Europe, contributing to human progress and social growth. We are ready, more than ever before, to put to use our past experience and to help forge a common Greek, European, and global future.

 

So far, it has been a long and difficult road. But, despite the difficulties and challenges encountered, we have become more determined in shaping a better future, ensuring fair management of common resources, achieving harmonious cooperation of nations, and enabling effective use of science, research and technology to benefit humankind and to better protect the planet we inhabit.

 

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