Opening Address at the 5th Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (online), 18 December 2020

Honorable Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry,

Dear Chief Scientist of the Republic of Cyprus,

Distinguished Guests,

Dear Friends:

We are truly excited to welcome you to the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum and we sincerely thank you for joining us in this online event, from Cyprus and abroad. We are truly honored by your presence!

I would like to open the event and this session with a few observations about the Forum and its purpose.

This is the fifth annual Forum, organized by the Centre for Entrepreneurship (C4E) of the University of Cyprus. The goal of the forum is to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, academics and policy makers, in order to:

· Discuss topics of relevance to Innovation and Entrepreneurship, featuring prominent speakers who deliver the annual PwC Distinguished Lecture.

· Raise the awareness regarding ongoing innovation activities at the University and beyond.

· Showcase entrepreneurial efforts as well as research results with a commercialization potential.

· Celebrate successful entrepreneurs and their ventures, and

· deepen collaboration links between the research community, innovative entrepreneurs and potential investors.

Each year, the Forum focused on a different theme: in 2015, we asked how to bootstrap our ecosystem; in 2016, we discussed relations between Universities and Venture Capital; in 2017, the focus was on Research Commercialization and Innovative Startups, and in 2019 we explored the 4th Industrial Revolution and its technological, societal and education implications. Invited speakers came from all over the world and brought experiences and practices in the most dynamic innovation ecosystems: Boston, Beijing, Tel Aviv, London, as well as Washington DC, Athens and Nicosia, and various sectors: venture capital, research commercialization, startups, technology transfer, biotechnology, and IT, and policy making.

This year, the theme of the Forum is Artificial Intelligence and the challenges & opportunities it presents for societies, economies and governments.

The Covid-19 epidemic overturned our original planning for the 2020 Forum, and although we were hoping to organize this as an in-situ event, the onslaught of the epidemic dictated us to take this event, as most of our other activities, online. We know that spontaneous exchanges and impromptu discussions cannot be replaced as a means for establishing links and encouraging collaborations, but still, we hope that online presentations, which will be taped and made available in our YouTube channel, and our web site, which will live beyond the event, will offer opportunities for future exchanges that do not happen online.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year, our Center was extremely happy and proud to organize the return of CyEC, the Cyprus Entrepreneurship Competition, for the 12th year. CyEC was an initiative by the University of Cyprus, launched in 2003 by professor Skevos Evripidou, Mr Giorgos Zaharia, Ms. Leda Mardapitta-Hadjipanteli, and other prominent individuals, with continuous support by the Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry. CyEC aims to nurture the entrepreneurial culture among young scientists, challenging them to transform their ideas into business opportunities, and offering them ongoing mentoring and access to funding. Since its launch in 2003, over 200 teams have participated in this annual competition while 25 start-up companies were launched, some with significant investments and revenue.

This year, CyEC attracted a total of 34 applications, 10 of which were selected and invited to participate in the CyEC acceleration program ran by C4E. Yesterday, the selected teams pitched their business plans in front of the panel of CyEC judges. In the first session of today’s Forum, the teams will present short pitches of their companies, and the panel will announce the winners.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate participants for the efforts, to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of you for your trust and commitment and wish you every success in the competition and in your future endeavors. We hope that this has been a transformative experience for you.

Surely, the competition is one small step in a long journey that involves mishaps and failures before reaching milestones and achieving set goals. After all, as many successful entrepreneurs say, entrepreneurship, is about tenacity and survival in the face of setbacks.

I think I am allowed to share what the CyEC 2020 Jury told me: submissions to CyEC 2020 demonstrated strong elements of quality and maturity. We hope that this is due, in part, to the common efforts and commitment of all stakeholders of the Cyprus entrepreneurial ecosystem, to mature and compete in a global arena, serving the Cypriot economy and society. I hope that this effort continues in the future, as innovative entrepreneurship is a long-term effort.

Dear friends, CyEC has been a collaborative effort of so many individuals who dedicated time and resources for this to happen. My heartful thanks to all members of the Organizing Committee who worked diligently these past year to prepare the procedures, the documents, the operations, the communications for the Competition and the Forum, and to coordinate this effort.

Also, on behalf of the Organizing Committee, I would like to deeply thank the CyEC judges — all prominent and experienced entrepreneurs and innovators — the volunteers Mentors, and the acceleration program trainers, for their dedication, commitment and passion.

Many thanks to the sponsors of the event and the awards: the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry, Navigator Consulting Group, the Idea Innovation Center, KAYAK, RISE — Research Centre on Interactive Media, Smart Systems

and Emerging Technologies, and CYBAN — Cyprus Business Angels. Many thanks to CyEC supporters, the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CYTA), the MBA Program of the University of Cyprus, MoV Management, our communication sponsor IN Business and Black Lemon for making things digitally/virtually possible today.

Last, but not least, many thanks PwC Cyprus, the main sponsor of the Forum, and strategic partner of the C4E!

Without further ado, I would like to invite the Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry, Ms Natasa Pilides, to give her welcoming address.

Professor of Computer Science, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship; University of Cyprus. Ph.D. Princeton, 1994. http://www.cs.ucy.ac.cy/mdd/

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