Greece provides investors with numerous incentives in telecommunications infrastructure and e-services, paving the way for a new generation of value added services and human resource management. Microsoft has taken up a challenge to promote innovation in Greece through its Microsoft Innovation Center in Athens.
Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC)
Under the framework of the National Digital Strategy 2006-2013, Greece’s Minister of Finance and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates signed an agreement to launch the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Athens. At 1,000m2, the building is one of the largest of all 110 MICs worldwide and it has hosted events including Innovation Days, the Greek Imagine Cup Finals, the Entrepreneurship Forum and the Athens Startup Weekend.
According to Patrick Malone, Technology Director at Microsoft Hellas, “The cooperation of Microsoft, all involved bodies and businesses is a necessary precondition for innovation to flourish and allow for an initial idea to evolve into a concrete outcome” Fotis Draganidis, Academic Programs Manager, adds “the measure of success is not how much we have invested in but how many people we have encouraged.”
MIC is operating as a facilitating hub to enhance innovation in Greece as an incubator for new software applications with two distinct target audiences:
• Start-ups and ISVs
MIC can provide to 100,000 students in Greece free access to its tools so as to enhance their technical capabilities. An estimated 20,000 students are already registered as users through the Academic Alliance program and the Center expects more to come.
Having secured the provision of Microsoft Tools, Knowledge will be provided through a 25-hour free online e-Learning course. The third component is the incentive to participate through the student contest Imagine Cup; the biggest technology competition in the world for students, with over 200,000 contenders, 800 of whom are Greek. “In fact, Greece’s 2008 national champion is only 16 years old, the youngest contender ever in the competition.” adds Mr. Draganidis.
Start-ups and ISVs
About 100 technology start-ups originate in Greece every year and there are already 400 operating software houses (ISVs). “Our aim with this second target audience is to facilitate the best entities with the wealth of Microsoft’s resources. We will select up to 10 teams and take them many steps further in their operations.” says Mr. Malone.
Microsoft’s role in the economic and entrepreneurial domains of our state shows how innovation may serve as an opportunity for promoting young entrepreneurship and as a creation base for young entrepreneurship. Unlike creativity, which implies the birth of a set of new ideas and concepts, innovation is the implementation of a creative idea, the development of a marketable asset resulting from an invention. This is what provides added value and what an economy’s renewal and evolution capacity depends on. It is the foundation for the competitiveness and outward looking nature of economies and businesses and for job creation. It is the effective tool for managing current structural changes since it offers a number of competitive advantages.
Mr. Draganidis details how the Microsoft Innovation Center will help them:
• Technical Support
“We have a pretty good idea of how global technology trends are evolving as pertaining to Microsoft and can therefore guide the teams accordingly.”
• Business Consulting
“Technologists are not necessarily business oriented. We support them with business plans and soft business skills through universities and other institutions partnering with us.”
• Networking Opportunities
“The 70,000 Microsoft employees in over 100 countries offer a unique multiplier effect for access to contacts, information and an exchange of ideas, which would be inaccessible on a small scale.”
“We have a very good PR engine, probably the best in the sector, with audiences exceeding 2,000 people as well as access to elite government and corporate decision makers.”
“We do not provide direct funding but rather the access to venture capital in Greece (TANEO) and abroad (European Investors Forum in Brussels), among others.”
Mr. Malone adds, “Our goal is for Greek innovation to become a global success story as opposed to just a national milestone. The Microsoft Innovation Center is vivid proof that innovation may serve as an opportunity for promoting young entrepreneurship and as a creation base for young entrepreneurship.”
Mr. Draganidis says “there are tremendous opportunities for partnerships with universities, companies and consultants alike. We have initiated an open dialogue with universities and technology partners.”
Similar initiatives such as technology parks and innovation zones exist in Patras and Thessaloniki. The long standing Technopolis Thessaloniki has already provided its support and know-how for partnership. At a corporate level, Dell Computers has provided free hardware for MIC.
Mr. Malone explains: “there is no competition in the innovation arena. There are so many things that need to be achieved that everyone provides a building block for the country to move forward. We each have our own perspective but as we evolve we find common ground to work together as facilitators in innovation. We say yes to collaborations and building bridges; this is the future. There are no difficulties in recruiting excitement as everyone is keen on to ride the innovation wave.”
And, in the words of the Prime Minister of Greece, Costas Karamanlis, “a society develops and progresses to the degree that it gives its members the opportunity, the tools and the liberty to open up new roads of progress themselves, in accordance with their own dreams, abilities and ambitions.”