Valerio Valla, CEO Studio Valla European Consulting, Guest of July Smart Talk.

The Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that the July Smart Talk will have as guest speaker Valerio Valla, CEO and Founder of Studio Valla – European Consulting and valued Member of the Chamber’s Advisory Board.

The Smart Talk will be held online on July 25, 2023 at 14:30 ITA / 15:30 CY and will focus on “EU Funding and Programmes. Opportunities for Cyprus and Italy Cooperation”.

Registrations are already open at the following email address: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

6th CY-IT Business Forum: Strengthen the Business Cooperation between Italy and Cyprus.

The 6th edition of the Cypriot-Italian Business Forum, titled “Economic Development and Opportunities in the Mediterranean. Strengthening the Business Relations between Italy and Cyprus” co-organised by the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry took place in the Unioncamere premises on Wednesday 21th June and was, as every edition, a really important opportunity to share experiences and prospects on the Cypriot-Italian Axis.

After the opening remarks of the President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino who took the occasion to give an overview on the activity of the Chamber from the foundation and to give some reference to the upcoming projects and the institutional greetings sent through a video message by Christodoulos Angastagnotis, President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry who remarked the strong cooperation in place with the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce it was the Ambassador of Cyprus in Italy H.E. Yiorgos Christofides to offer the institutional greeting recalling the historical relations between Italy and Cyprus and mentioning the current numbers in terms of commercial exchange between the two countries as well the positive prospects to further enhance the already excellent relations.

Particularly noteworthy was the panels of speakers moderated by the Vice President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce Federico Franchina who gave the word first to Vincenzo Ercole Salazar Sarfield, Global Head of Italian Infrastracture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of Internationalization of the Italian National Constructor Association (ANCE) followed by Marco Ragusa representing the Engineering, Architecture and Technical Economic Association (OICE) and from the Cypriot side by Stephanos Pierides, Secretary General of the Federation of Building Contractor’s Association (OSEOK) with at the end the presence of Marco Piredda, Senior Vice President of ENI who gave an important overview on the status of the activities of ENI in the area.

Particularly important was the announcement by the representative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ANCE of a Memorandum of Understanding with OSEOK aimed to further improve and develop the business cooperation in the construction and infrastructure field.

The second panel was opened by Ivo Blandina, President of Uniontrasporti the Italian chamber system company in the field of Transport and Logistic followed by Andreas Yiasemides, President of the Cyprus Investment Funds Association who remarked the competitive advantages of the Cypriot jurisdiction in the field and Christos Akkelides, Director of Argus Asset Management, one of the most important Cypriot company in the field who also recently performed an important deal in Italy.

The panel was closed by the two representatives of the Shipping Clusters Xhantos Kyriacou, Managing Director of Columbia Ship Management and Paul Kyprianou, External Relations Manager of Grimaldi Group who presented the respective groups underlyined from different perspectives the importance to work on the improvement of the existing business relations mentioning also some of the areas with more potential.

The closing remarks were given by Constantinos Katsaros, Vice President Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, after thanking the authoritative speakers and numerous present guests, emphasised the central role of the Chamber in the consolidation and further development of cooperation between Italian and Cypriot companies, as well as the important cooperation with the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, co-organiser also this year for the Forum, and with the institutions of both countries.

The event was followed by a networking cocktail with numerous B2B meetings.

For information and insights on activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Dr. Haris Zacharatos, Member of the Board of CARIE – Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises, Guest of June Smart Talk.

The Smart Talk, organized by the Italian Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, on 28th June 2023, had as its guest speaker Mr. Haris Zacharatos, Board Member of Cyprus Association Research and Innovation Enterprises (CARIE).

The topic of the Smart Talk, “IT, Security and Defence. Industrial Research and Innovation in Cyprus”, is of extreme interest considering the importance of the sector , also in terms of enhancing the cooperation between Cypriot and Italian Operators.

After the usual opening with institutional greetings and thanks it was the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino who led the discussion that started with a general overview of Cyprus’s framework regarding research and innovation and some specific information about the eco-system continuing with the presentation of the Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises tha established in 2010 to promote the interests of Cypriot R&D technology companies (SMEs) now counts forty five innovative technology companies with more than 500 highly-skilled researchers and engineers that represent more than 500M€ in terms of contributions for the Cyprus Economy.

One of the area of major involvement is Defence Sector and in this regard within CARIE has been established in 2019 a specific interest group related to the Defence Industry Cluster where Cypriot companies are particular active also in terms of participation to European Calls like EDIDP and EDF.

It is essential to join the European calls to be part of consortia with other EU operators but first of all to have an extensive international network of collaborations and in this regard Mr. Zacharatos explained that CARIE is really active in terms of participation but also organization co-organization of the sectorial events.

Of particular interest was also a detailed description of the areas of presence of the member companies and particularly: electronic & sensors robotics & autonomous systems, space & communications, materials & biotechnology, artificial intelligence and big data, sustainable energy.

The Smart Talk was also the occasion to discuss about collaborations already in place and upcoming activities and initiatives to further improve and extend the international cooperation.

In this regard Mr. Zacharatos showed the existing numbers related to the cooperation with Italy currently amounting to 149.8 Milion Euro in terms of Research and Innovations Projects between CARIE Members and Italian companies a number that CARIE also through the collaboration with the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce planned to increase starting with the coming months.

For further insights on this article and other information on the activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, please write to: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Dr. Haris Zacharatos, Member of the Board of CARIE – Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises, Guest of June Smart Talk.

The Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that the guest of the June 2023 Smart Talk will be Dr. Haris Zacharatos, Member of the Board of CARIE – Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises, and will focus on “IT, Security and Defence, Industrial Research and Innovation in Cyprus”.

The event will be held online on 28th June 2023 at 14:30 ITA / 15:30 CY and registration are already opened at the email address: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Antonis Christodoulides, Partner of PwC Cyprus, Guest of May Smart Talk.

The Smart Talk, organised by the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, on 25th May 2023, had as its guest speaker Mr. Antonis Christodoulides, tax expert, Partner at PWC Cyprus, with a degree in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics and member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and of the Tax Planning and Policy Committee of the Institute of Certified Accountants of Cyprus, former consultant for the Cypriot Ministry of Finance on tax reform.

The topic of the Smart Talk, “Innovation and Tech. Business Cooperation and Opportunities for Italian Companies in the Region”, is of extreme interest for the members of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, as it concerns a sector in full development and fertile ground for fruitful cooperation between the two countries.

After the usual opening with institutional greetings and thanks from the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino, the discussion, led by Vice-President, Federico Franchina, started with a description by Mr. Christodoulides of the services provided by PWC in Cyprus.

It is the leading professional services consultancy firm in Cyprus, offering tax and legal services to local and international companies, from SMEs to large multinational corporations in various market sectors.

According to the latest European Commission forecasts and IMF report, the Cypriot economy has shown strong resilience in the face of the challenges of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Christodoulides provided some significant figures: GDP at 6.6% in 2021, 5.6% in 2022, growing at 2.3% in 2023 and 2.7% in 2024. The economy achieved a fiscal surplus of 2.1% of GDP in 2022, and a surplus of 1.8% is expected in 2023. Inflation is expected to be 3.8% and unemployment below 7% in 2023, while public debt will fall to 73% by 2024.

The good performance of the Cypriot economy is due to the strict fiscal policy adopted over the past decade, which has allowed loans to be obtained at reasonable rates, and also to foreign investments in technology, health, transport, energy and tourism. However, long-term challenges remain, because in order not to undermine economic growth, the currently high GDP/debt ratio of households, determined by the adjustment of wages to the cost of living, must be carefully monitored.

The current government, with a view to increasing investments in line with the European legal framework, is adopting some reforms centred on five pillars: 1) Green Transition; 2) Digital Transformation; 3) Public Health System; 4) Economic Competitiveness; 5) Education.

Added to this is investment in Infrastructure in order to find economically viable and sustainable solutions for public transport, and to eliminate pollution from fossil fuel-powered cars. Another challenge is the Digitalisation of public administration, so as to offer citizens faster and more efficient services. One of the most interesting reforms relates to the Public Sector and the Judiciary, in order to ensure a productive and reliable service; finally, the reform of education in the IT sector will bring future generations in line with the labour market demands of foreign companies based in Cyprus.

Expanding sectors of the Cypriot economy include Private Education, at all levels, as there are many requests for the transfer of students or sons of foreign entrepreneurs to Cyprus, as well as the establishment of branches abroad (e.g.: American University of Beirut in Cyprus); Real Estate is another big business opportunity, driven by the growing need for private and commercial housing; Transport and Infrastructure, to cope with the Green Transition; Healthcare, with investments in new facilities, mainly from Israel and Greece; the IT sector, which tends to turn Cyprus into a technology hub. Last year alone, more than 50,000 IT workers arrived in Cyprus, creating an ecosystem for a technology infrastructure of software development and telecommunications services.

Cyprus is a pleasant place to live and work, it allows for the development of ‘incubators’ for technological innovation with low set-up and immediate operational costs, and it also offers an intellectual property regime with monetisation returns taxed at 2.5 per cent (a relatively low rate for the EU). For all this, Italian IT companies, whether in technology development, project management or marketing, can find in Cyprus the ideal place to develop their business and that of their customers in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

The added value of Cyprus as a headquarters in the Mediterranean region is first and foremost determined by its strategic geographic location, it has a regulatory legal framework in line with the EU, it allows access to common law principles and instruments (inherited from having been a British colony), it offers entry to international markets, it welcomes foreign investment, the costs of setting up a business are relatively low, the local staff is welcoming and knowledgeable, it has efficient immigration policies and a low tax regime.

Over the years, Cyprus and Italy have already cooperated in various sectors, trade, infrastructure, energy, exports, and in the future, an increase in trade and investment is hoped for. Furthermore, Cyprus is attractive for the possibility of reaching other territories in the area such as Egypt, Israel, the Black Sea and Caspian Sea countries.

In order to support Italian companies to further develop their business in the East-Med region, PWC can offer consultancy in all areas, from identifying the best investment opportunities to carrying out feasibility studies, guidance on the regulatory framework, relocation of qualified personnel, corporate and tax compliance, also working alongside Italian consultants.

Lastly, the contribution of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce to the strategy of strengthening trade relations between the two countries and to cooperation between the countries of the East-Mediterranean Area takes the form of being a forum that is always open to the exchange of ideas and communication, promoting joint events, and keeping the attention of business associations on the opportunities that arise over time.

The Chamber plays a key role in providing support to companies or entrepreneurs wishing to invest in the two countries, offering the basic requirements for doing business and acting as a liaison point with local institutions and organisations.

The Chamber’s commitment will materialise in the 6th Cypriot-Italian Business Forum, which will take place in Rome on 21 June at the UnionCamere and will be entitled “Economic Development and Opportunities in the Mediterranean. Strengthening the Business Relations between Italy and Cyprus”.

For further insights on this article and other information on the activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, please write to: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Constantina Constantinidou, Head of Economic Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Guest of April Smart Talk.

The April Smart Talk of the Chamber took place on 27th April and hosted Constantina Constantidou, Head of Economic Diplomacy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, focusing on action’s guidelines and main areas of interest of the Economic Diplomacy Department of Cyprus MFA.

After the introductory greetings by the President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce Giuseppe Marino, the Smart Talk was moderated by Federico Franchina, Vice President of the Chamber who had a really interesting talk with Constantina Constantinidou focusing on areas of particular interest for the business community

Mrs. Constantinidou referred to the implementation of the strategy for Attracting Businesses and Talent to Cyprus focuses on two important upgrades. The first one is the transformation of the fast track business activation mechanism into a full-fledged Business Facilitation Unit.

This upgrade aims to streamline and improve the process of starting and operating businesses in the country. The second upgrade involves the implementation of tax incentives to attract highly skilled personnel from third countries. Alongside this, the strategy also emphasizes the optimization and simplification of residence and employment permit processes to facilitate the entry and stay of skilled professionals.

The mission is to promote the prosperity of Cyprus’ economic growth using diplomatic resources starting with the identification of several key priority areas, firstly the tourism industry which obviously is a key driver of the island’s economy, secondly attract foreign investment in key sectors such as Energy, Shipping, Research and Development, third work to strengthen economic ties with neighboring countries and emerging markets in order to create new opportunities for trade investment and collaboration, finally work to support Innovation and Entrepreneurship working to create an ecosystem that supports startups.

As regards of geographical areas, the Department aim is to utilize the full network of Cyprus’s Embassies abroad, however, there is a focus on the European Union, the UK, countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf, as well as the U.S., India and Japan. This list is not exhaustive, as Cyprus is trying to develop the economic diplomacy with all the countries where the embassies are present abroad.

In regard to the local economy, Cyprus economy is dominated by services, which account for about 82% of Gross Value Added. In the past, the most prominent sectors that contributed to growth included Tourism, Shipping, Business and Financial Services, and Real Estate.

However, in the recent years, also due to the Government Policy, there was a broadening of the productive base of the economy.

New sectors with significant future potential include ICT and High Tech companies, Higher Education, Renewable Energy (funded by theResilience and Recovery Plan and National Funds). Furthermore, Innovation is also a very promising sector, as investment for start-ups, Investment Funds, Health and Biotechnology among others. Almost all sectors experienced increased value-added, with noteworthy growth observed in Information and Communication, Accommodation and Food Services, Wholesale and Retail Trade, and Transportation and Storage.

The only sector that saw negative growth was Construction, primarily due to rising construction costs caused by the ongoing global energy crisis, resulting in higher energy prices and disruptions in the supply chain.

Cyprus’s growing significance in the energy sector, particularly with the discovery of natural gas reserves in its exclusive economic zone. This discovery holds importance not only for Cyprus but also for the European Union as it offers an opportunity to diversify the supply of natural gas and enhance energy security.

Cyprus has made several natural gas discoveries in its exclusive economic zone, and ENI in 2022. While initial findings are encouraging, the full potential of the exploration program is yet to be determined, and further discoveries may occur. Cyprus values its close collaboration with ENI and looks forward to future plans in implementing the exploration program.

Italy plays a significant role in Cyprus’s energy sector, with ENI’s presence in most licensed blocks and other Italian companies participating or expressing interest in the broader energy spectrum. The cooperation between Cyprus and Italy is appreciated, as demonstrated by Italy’s support for regional initiatives like the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF).

The government of Cyprus sees natural gas as a transitional bridge towards cleaner energy sources and is committed to the European Green Deal. Gas is considered less polluting compared to other fossil fuels like petroleum, which Cyprus heavily relies on.

The country’s Integrated Energy and Climate Plan for 2021-2030 is being revised to adopt more ambitious targets in line with the EU’s “Fit for 55” package and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Mrs. Constantinidou complemented with the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce for its excellent contribution in strengthening business ties between Italy and Cyprus and for the high commitment and activities promoted, including the Smart Talk, the Newsletter and the Tender Bulletin.

The conclusions of Vice President Costas Katsaros who thanked, underlining the importance of the topics covered and confirming the commitment of the Chamber to continue to strengthen and further develop relations between the two countries, mentioning also in this regard the Business Forum to be held in Rome on 21 June (prev. May 25).

For further insights on this article and other information on the activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, please write to: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Important Institutional Meeting of the President of the Chamber with the Minister of Transport, Communications and Works of Cyprus.

An important institutional meeting was held on Wednesday 19 April between the President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce Giuseppe Marino and the Minister of Transport, Communications and Works of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E. Alexis Vafeades.

The meeting was an important opportunity to explore different topics of interest to relevant industry associates and also to start a path of institutional cooperation aimed at facilitating and increasing the presence of Italian companies in Cyprus.

For information and insights on the activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Claudio Pasqualucci, Director of Italian Trade Agency – Beirut Office, Guest of March Smart Talk.

The Smart Talk, organised by the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce on 23th March, focused on “Business Development Opportunities in Cyprus and in the Med Area. The Italian Trade Agency Perspective’.

Guest speaker was Claudio Pasqualucci, Director of the ICE (Italian Trade Agency) Office in Beirut, responsible for Lebanon, Cyprus and Syria, with experience in various countries including China and Mexico, who offered a different perspective on opportunities and interests in the Med Area.

After the customary opening with institutional greetings and thanks from the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino, the discussion got to the heart of the matter, led by Vice-President, Federico Franchina, with Dr. Pasqualucci’s description of the strategic role played by the Italian Trade Agency, creating a systematic approach of Italy abroad, together with institutions and business associations.

ITA is an agency, created in 1926, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAE), which is responsible for supporting Italian companies, making them more competitive on the market, and encouraging foreign companies to invest in Italy.

The work of internationalisation and promotion, however, is the result of the related strategies and activities of the various Ministries, such as Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, Tourism, Chambers of Commerce, Industry Associations, and all those actors that strengthen the supply chain for common interests.

The work of strengthening the Italian brand and its competitiveness abroad starts from within the companies, boosting the sectors of Digitalisation, Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies; once prepared, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ITA place them on foreign markets.

Furthermore, great attention is paid to innovative startups by MIMIT (Ministry of Enterprise and Made in Italy), with which the ITA collaborates; and it is important to work together as a Country, using regional differences as a strength of the Italian identity. We need to strengthen the base of Italian companies in order to be competitive in an ever-changing scenario.

Another way for the MFA to convey Italian excellence is through the creation of the ‘Italian Weeks’, which consist of ‘integrated promotional activities’, in the sense that they involve companies, culture, territories, food, tourism, art, encompassing everything that is Italy. An example is the Italian Food Week, during which promotion is done, but also protection: trade missions, photographic exhibitions, artistic events, cooking classes are organised, providing an inclusive and exhaustive picture of Italian food culture, from seed to consumer, protecting know-how, territory, environment, traditions. These activities are distributed in different countries, according to need.

Another example is the Italian Design Day, an iconic industrial branch, which is found in several commercial sectors, including in the packaging of companies producing different goods. By promoting Italian design, we promote our care in the manufacture and durability of goods, combined with respect for society and the environment. In fact, this year’s theme was ‘Enlightening Quality. The energy of design for people and the environment’.

The main purpose of celebratory events is to involve consumers, companies, institutions and the media, to convey Sistema Italia at all levels.

As far as the strengths of trade relations between Italy and Cyprus are concerned, one of them is the fact that Cyprus is part of the European Union, which means that trade, investments, benefits, opportunities, funds are extremely facilitated.

Relations between the two countries, which date back many centuries, are growing steadily. Cyprus has a deep interest in Italy: traditional sectors remain constant, such as food, machinery, and design, but are joined by infrastructure, the digital economy, and insurance banking services. Although a small country, Cyprus has a strong base in infrastructure and digital.

One area that could be improved is that of flight connectivity between Italy and Cyprus, prompting investors to implement efforts to create direct connections between the two countries; tourism is another important area, which could be strengthened with initiatives by Italian tourism companies, because it is a sector that is definitely developing. The PNRR also provides business opportunities, with funds dedicated to infrastructure and the health system; digital services play a decisive role as a new way of connecting and doing business between companies.

Finally, the key to the future is based on the development of Renewable Energy, the production and use of which needs to be strengthened, and in this sense, Cyprus is a possible platform to invest and produce this new type of energy.

Therefore, the main key assets on which Italian companies can approach the Med Area are: the geographical position of Cyprus, which facilitates logistics; the EU membership, which promote trade; the strong digital infrastructure of Cyprus, which allows connections between companies, and the excellent preparation of the new generations in this sector.

Cyprus constitutes an important hub for Italian companies to implement their activities in the Med Area, maintaining the vision of a wide market full of opportunities.

In conclusion, it was said that the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, in order to further support the activities of the Italian System carried out by the ITA Office, will continue to focus on innovative sectors (Health System, Infrastructure, Energy) that are the basis for the growth of the local economy, helping companies to enter the market.

The President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino, closed the Smart Talk by confirming the Chamber’s commitment to work for the integration of Italian companies in the Mediterranean region, and in this sense, he recalled the following appointments: at the end of May, in Rome, the VI Business Forum; in October, in Cyprus, the IV Cyprus-Italy Health Forum; in November, in Limassol, the EMC (Eastern Mediterranean Conference & Exhibition).

For further insights on this article and other information on the activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, please write to: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Institutional Meeting with Italian Industry & Commerce Chamber in UAE.

A brief institutional meeting was held on Tuesday 28th February between the President  Giuseppe Marino and the President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the UAE Stefano Campagna.

The meeting held in Dubai at the headquarter of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the UAE was an opportunity to discuss the activities planned for the current year by both chambers as well as to ratify an institutional collaboration between the two bodies aimed at optimal support for the members of the two Chambers in their respective areas of interest.

The Italian Chamber of Commerce in the United Arab Emirates was established in 2004 and is an Italian Chamber Abroad.

The Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, established in 2016 is instead an Italian-Foreign Chamber with headquarters in Rome and a Representative office in Cyprus and   precisely   this   status,  as  stated   in  a recent Smart Talk, which was also attended by the General Secretaries of the Italian Chambers of Commerce in Israel and Egypt, by the General Secretary of Assocamerestero Domenico Mauriello can represent an optimal access channel to the Foreign Chamber System of the area as point of contact in Italy.

For information on the content of this article: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it

Panayiotis Zaphiris, Rector of Cyprus University of Technology and President of the Cyprus Rectors Conference, Guest of February Smart Talk.

The Smart Talk, organised by the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce on 23th February, focused on ‘Scientific Cooperation and Technology Transfer in the Med Area’.

The guest speaker was Panayiotis Zaphiris, Rector of the Cyprus University of Technology since 2020 and President of the Cyprus Rectors’ Conference, with a PhD in Human Computer Interaction from the University of Wayne, USA. He holds a PhD in Engineering Systems and Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA; he was Reader at the Human Computer Interaction Design Centre of the City University of London, has participated in over 16 subsidised research projects, totalling EUR 5 million, and has published over 250 academic articles.

The Smart Talk opened with greetings and thanks from the President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino, who emphasised how “the promotion of scientific cooperation is one of the Chamber’s objectives, especially for the creation of links between industry and academia, not only with regard to research projects, but more generally for the future of our countries, where the Chamber is committed to the development of relations between Italy and Cyprus, with a special focus on the countries of the Mediterranean area as well”.

The Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce, with a PhD on Maritime, Air and Transport Law, Federico Franchina, after the institutional greetings to the distinguished guest, introduced the talk by asking Zaphiris to give an overview of the objectives of the Rectors’ Conference within Cyprus and the EU.

Mr. Zaphiris, thanking for the invitation, explained that university education in Cyprus is something relatively recent, in fact Nicosia is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, while Limassol opened only 15 years ago; all 10 universities in Cyprus have been active for no more than 30 years. When compared to European universities, which have been in existence for over 100 years, obviously the Cyprus Rectors’ Conference plays an additional role to the classic role of the universities; there is a great interest in creating awareness about the high degree of university education in a country that had no history in this field, to increase the involvement of academics and to put pressure on policy makers to listen to the opinion of the insiders.

When asked what are the current and future challenges related to higher education and how are they related to technology transfer from academia to industry, Zaphiris said that although these universities are recent, they have achieved a lot in just 30 years. First of all, the country invested in the establishment of the first 3 state universities (the University of Cyprus, the Cyprus University of Technology and the Open University), which obtained funds to recruit young academics from abroad, who settled in Cyprus; this resulted in a change in the educational level, and it is no coincidence that the first 3 Cypriot universities are in the top 1000 of the Times Higher Education, and the first 2 in the ranking of the top 300 in the world. As far as knowledge transfer is concerned, there is a challenge in two directions: the first is that there is the potential, but, on the other hand, there are no manufacturing industries, nor factories (where university knowledge could be involved), so the Cypriot economy is essentially based on tourism and services. In this context, the transfer of technological knowledge is difficult, which is also limited by the legal framework, which imposes a number of restrictions on the establishment of startups and other ways of knowledge transfer within universities. However, it should be mentioned that the transfer takes place through European projects, with which one does not necessarily have to be an industrial partner, and this is where Cyprus has been successful in collaborations, for example, with Italy, in the transfer of technological knowledge, but also focused on basic research for training.

Mr. Franchina pointed out the similarities with Sicily, where there is a lack of industry but there is knowledge, and asked to describe the areas in which Cypriot universities are engaged in technology transfer abroad.

Mr. Zaphiris argues that technological knowledge is applied in engineering, medical faculties and in ‘teaming projects’ (EU-funded projects), which aim to create centres of excellence in specific areas, such as Satellite Data, Analysyses of Problems in Satellite Data, New Media, Blue Economy, Cancer Research, and other areas. Universities that are not involved in lengthy bureaucratic processes move more quickly towards collaboration with industry.

Regarding the ways in which businesses and startups are encouraged to develop ideas into productions that create jobs and improve the quality of life both in Cyprus and in the EU, Mr. Zaphiris replied that the Government has set up a specific Ministry for Research and Knowledge Transfer, in addition to the National Funding Agency. Concerning the legal framework, the universities have sent their comments to the institutions on a number of obstacles that, according to them, prevent an agreement between universities and industry; at present, the Government has brought in experts to advise on how to improve. Furthermore, there is an expectation that the new regulatory framework will be approved in Parliament; and a great opportunity for collaborations will come from the foundation of shared startups between universities. The previous system left a larger percentage in the hands of the universities, which prevented private industry from joining in, as well as the fear that the state university, with its bureaucratic procedures, would delay the process rather than move it forward. This has now improved and it is hoped that this will encourage academics to commercialise their ideas, with benefits for the university and industry.

According to Mr. Zaphiris, some of the current challengs (such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence and the energy transition) have led to a number of attempts to bring the Mediterranean countries together, but there has been no official forum where these issues have been discussed, nor is there one where these countries could join forces, including Israel, which is very successful in these areas, and North Africa, which could have great potential to collaborate. But if such cooperation were to take place, Cyprus, because of its collaboration with former Soviet countries, has been put at the centre of the discussion for various reasons, and this has brought many companies with expertise in IT and AI to the island. “For example,” Zaphiris added, “last year, our universities decided to double the recruitment of undergraduate students in IT because there is a large demand, which we will not be able to fill among public and private Cypriot universities. In conclusion, there is room to bring in more human resources and continue the initiatives already underway.

Mr. Franchina agreed with the strategy of attracting talent, which transforms Cyprus into a knowledge hub, and, with a view to the scientific cooperation between Member States encouraged by the EU through the various incentives (Horizon Programme, ERC;..), he asked what other collaborations could be, in addition to those already in place, between Italy and Cyprus, and how they could be opened up to non-EU countries.

Mr. Zaphiris mentioned that disciplines have changed; for example, in the historical field, there is now a lot of technology in how to preserve cultural heritage (3D models), especially in Italy, and this is an opportunity to access European funds. In Cyprus recently in the new Shipping Department, marine archaeology was mentioned as an important sector, so one has to keep an open mind to meet new areas of interest. One possible collaboration for all Mediterranean countries is in the area of Shipping. Among universities there are opportunities in various fields: Finance, Data Analytics, and many others.

In light of the difficulties that exist in connecting universities with the world of industry, Mr. Franchina raised the question of the contribution that the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce can make to support scientific cooperation between Italy and Cyprus in order to achieve a fruitful transfer of technology.

Mr. Zaphiris believes that the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce is open to work with the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce to create collaborations between industry and academia in both countries and in both directions; it is an axis of opportunity that can be implemented without the need for a lot of funds, but by combining skills and professionalism to create business and networks.

Finally, Vice President Franchina concluded the Smart Talk by thanking Mr. Zaphiris for his participation and valuable suggestions regarding scientific cooperation, implementation methods and areas.

The Chamber’s next appointment regarding the focus of the talk will be at the end of May, in Italy, with the Italian-Cypriot Business Forum.

For further insights on this article and other information on the activities of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, please write to: segreteria@camcomitacipro.it