Over 50 years devoted to Science, Education and Innovation

 

The National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos” (NCSR “Demokritos”) is Greece’s largest multidisciplinary research center, focusing on basic and applied research in the areas of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Energy & Environment, Biosciences, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Informatics & Telecommunications. NCSR “Demokritos” is ranked first among the Greek Research Centers. Based on recent assessment by international evaluation committee, “Demokritos” excels as three of its Institutes are being listed first among fifty-three Institutes in Greece, whereas all the eight Institutes of the Center are also being placed within the first eleven.

NCSR “Demokritos” aspires to follow the paradigm of National Labs in USA and Europe by engaging in high-risk breakthrough research and innovation and, at the same time, matching breakthrough and incremental research results with technology “needs” of the private sector. In this context, “Demokritos” has initiated an integrated plan for the establishment of the Metropolitan Innovation Campus (MIC) of the Attica region: a cost-effective “Technopolis”. It is worth mentioning that at international level, all the countries and, especially, those attempting the transition from low-cost labor to knowledge-intensive economy invest heavily in establishing “Technopoleis” or “silicon valleys”, in order to gain a share in the global high-tech market (e.g Skolkovo in Russia, SISPARK in China). In the case of Greece, the creation of a “Technopolis” would require a cost-prohibitive large funding in such distressed times. Therefore, a smaller investment “Virtual Technopolis” has been selected as an alternative. As the MIC will be established within the premises of “Demokritos”, it will benefit both from the existing infrastructure of the Center and its location. “Demokritos” is at close proximity to the Attiki Odos Highway, the metro station and the airport, while readily provides access in less than 20-min to approximately 60% of Greece’s private sector enterprises, thus allowing frequent and effective interaction between MIC researchers and private sector stakeholders.

In the first stage of MIC, NCSR “Demokritos” has performed an internal reorganization by integrating eight Institutes into five internationally competitive Poles of Scientific Excellence with critical mass of expertise and infrastructure.

In the second stage, the Poles of Excellence are being expanded via effective networking and joint R&D activities with Research Institutions and Universities in the Attica region - which are not only geographically fragmented but also administratively dispersed to different ministries - into common structures in order to reinforce synergies and reduce overlaps, following the model of the European Networks of Excellence. Upon successful completion of this task, the plan will be further developed into integrating the regional Poles of Excellence of Attica with corresponding ones from Greece and abroad. This master plan also emphasizes the development of an effective cooperation network between the Poles and Scientific Laboratories of distinguished Greek scientists abroad including but not limited to research and education programs (e.g. joint 2+2 PhD programs). One of the aims of MIC is to establish a “hub” of Greek scientists of Diaspora with the organization of exchange programs, lectures and other activities, such as the annual Hellenic Forum for Science, Technology and Innovation initiated in 2013.

In the third stage, MIC will develop and use an effective technology transfer program, from the public sector Poles of Excellence to relevant clusters of private enterprises in the Attica and other Greek regions. The main aim is the cost-effective transformation of scientific excellence into internationally competitive Greek technology and innovative high-added value products for the Greek and the global market.

In this context, MIC project actions include the establishment of a one-stop shop for services provision, the operation of IPR and Technology Transfer helpdesks, the expansion of the Technology Park, the operation of research project support and networking office as well as the establishment of an effective proof-of-concept unit. The establishment of a permanent exhibition of technological achievements is expected to enhance the dissemination and commercialization of Greek IP. The latter is significant due to the availability of a large number of medium TRL technologies as a result of the high competitiveness of the Greek researchers, who in the last twenty years have achieved significant funding from European competitive programs, three times the European average. Following the example of similar in size countries such as Israel, we aspire to create an active, business-friendly ecosystem that on the one hand, will attract foreign investments and on the other hand, will help to reverse the increasing brain-drain trend.

To this end, following the paradigm of American Universities, large “cooperative spin-offs” corresponding to each Pole of Excellence will be established with the participation of a large number of researchers. The “cooperative spin-offs” will apply an effective Guided Entrepreneurship policy, initially implemented at Berkeley, for the commercial exploitation of breakthrough ideas of scientists/members of the “cooperative spin-off”, who would be keen in proving their expert advice and their breakthrough research results, but are unwilling to take the huge commitment of abandoning a dynamic career for the sake of a potential entrepreneurial success formulated through a spin-off. The “cooperative spin-offs” will manage to achieve optimal coupling of breakthrough research results with international market needs and become effective liaison between public research centers and the private sector increasing the chances of success for new start-ups and spin-offs up to 40% from the in average 10 % currently observed.

In conclusion, the Metropolitan Innovation Campus of Attica is a challenging project initiated by NCSR “Demokritos” for establishing a “Technopolis” that could develop into a Greek “silicon valley”. The ultimate aim is to establish an efficient mechanism to effectively propel the research results from the lab to the international markets and become one of Greece’s “growth locomotives” thereby accelerating the country’s exit from the crisis.

 
Dr. Nikolaos Kanellopoulos
Director & President of the Board
of NCSR “Demokritos”