The Smart Talk “Smart and Innovative SMEs. Opportunities of the Cypriot Hub in the East Med Area” which took place on 19th December 2022 opened with institutional greetings by the President of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, Giuseppe Marino, who expressed his great pleasure to have as a guest Vasilis Polemitis, CEO of Polemitis Ventures, a distinguished figure who has held in his 20-year career relevant roles in institutions, both as Ambassador of Cyprus to the Republic to the United Arab Emirates, as Diplomatic Advisor to the Minister of Defence, worked in Moscow and Brussels, as political advisor in Washington and as Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi.
The President Marino recalled how the importance of Cyprus in the development of the Mediterranean area was recently highlighted at the 5th Business Forum, held in Palermo on 14th December, with the focus on “Internationalization in the Mediterranean economy. Development Models and Opportunities for Transnational Cooperation’.
Firstly, Vasilis Polemitis congratulated the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce for the great commitment to the advancement of trade and business relations between Italy and Cyprus, in view of the historical connection between the two Mediterranean countries.
“It is interesting to talk about the development and innovation of SMEs at the same time as the announcement by the Research and Innovation Foundation of Cyprus,” said Polemitis, “of a new set of funds amounting to € 34 million dedicated to strengthening the initiatives and challenges of opportunities in the ecosystem.
Most start-ups are interested in research and innovation, which is very important at a scientific level, but one of the biggest challenges is the connection between industry and the market in various ways.
It is important to note that during the period 2021-2027, Cyprus has allocated 150 million euro through the Research and Innovation Foundation, financed by the new Programme of Funds and the National Resilience and Recovery Plan (NRRP), and these funds are directed to research, innovation, knowledge transfer, capacity of developing, internationalization of companies, which of course is of particular interest for the Chamber.
These funds are in addition to the hundreds of millions of Euros to be spent on Government Digital Innovation and companies operating in the market, and this is very important for the launch of the digital economy in Cyprus in the 21st century.
To better describe the ecosystem in terms of numbers, in a short period of time between 400 and 500 start-ups have been created in Cyprus, which are at different stages of development and operate in different sectors. Furthermore, we have more than 2000 professional researchers, 4000 scientists who are likely to join the entrepreneurial system, and a proliferation of university programmes, conferences, events. In essence, every activity is concerned with creating the structure of the Cypriot economic system of the 21st century’.
Creating synergies is of paramount importance and, to do that, we have to understand what we can do for each other. Whoever invests in a start-up, first of all invests in the person who created it, before investing in his idea, especially when it comes from SMEs.
Investors want to know what risk the initiator of the new idea is taking, or who his local contacts are. Having a strategy means knowing who is involved, how the investment strategy works, what you are offering.
The most important support to be given is mentorship. The more developed Italian companies that might be interested in what is happening in a different business sector such as start-ups, or Smart and Innovative SMEs, but also in larger companies (because innovation does not stop and does not only concern SMEs), need to be directed towards new start-ups and SMEs. In this the role of the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce is crucial: it is necessary to bring in experience, to direct cosmopolitan elements of Italian institutional business towards promising small Cypriot companies.
In many cases, Cypriot companies have ‘development incubators’ but under institutional or bank guidance, not entrepreneurial guidance. There is a lack of mentorship, of entrepreneurs guiding Cypriot companies to market. This is what the Italian-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce can do, Italy being a more developed country in this respect.
Based on my experience in Foreign Affairs, I can add that the demands from many countries in our region currently go beyond the local operation of small businesses, because the local Cypriot market is tiny, while the connection between the Cypriot market and the Italian, Jordanian, Egyptian or Arab Emirates market is what will drive the interest.
Last point: when we talk about internationalizing businesses, we have to understand it as conducting all these connections and expanding to West Europe, United States, Asia, because globalization is a challenge; therefore, we have to do our best to overcome this challenge and strengthen the network to be a real global player”
The Chamber of Commerce President, Giuseppe Marino, closed the Smart Talk by emphazising Vasilis Poletimis interesting statements on the Chamber’s contribution to start-ups and SMEs through mentorship and networking.
“The Chamber has a wide and global network,” said President Marino, “and following also the guidelines provided today, we will be able to guide companies in the right way from their first steps. The year 2023 will see us taking up the challenge to realise the projects already underway and other new ones”.
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Last modified: December 31, 2022