Opening Remarks to the Research Exhibition of the 3rd Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, 28/11/2017

Dear guests welcome!

The University of Cyprus Research Exhibition is held in the context of the “3rd Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum” which was established in 2015 by the Centre for Entrepreneurship with the generous support of PwC Cyprus. This year, 2017, the Forum is co-organised with “The Hellenic Initiative” and the support of the MIT Enterprise Forum Greece and the American Embassy in Cyprus. Along with our distinguished speakers, judges, researchers and policy makers, you represent both breadth and excellence in all sectors of relevance to research commercialization: entrepreneurship and innovation, investment and banking, business, government policy, and University research.

I would like to open the day and this session with a few observations about today’s event and its purpose.

The growth of technology, today, is on an ‘exponential curve’. This is often hard to realize as we, humans, live in a world where our perception of distance, time and velocity is linear. Because of exponential progress in knowledge, now, most new technologies become obsolete after four to five years. The cycle of innovation — experimenting, learning, applying knowledge, and then assessing success or failure — is becoming even shorter. This creates unprecedented challenges, not only to Universities, which are required to update their curricula much faster and more often to keep up with the pace of change, but also to businesses and policy making. Take, for instance, the example of patents: when it takes four to five years to get a patent issued, and when the patent gives a company exclusive rights for twenty years, what is the real value of this when the technology has come and gone in five to seven years?

In addition to and as a result of exponential progress, we are witnessing an unprecedented acceleration of globalization. As the author Thomas Friedman observed, the acceleration of global flows of information and knowledge, but also of people, commerce and finance, are weaving markets, businesses, governments and individuals more tightly together than ever, making the world hyper-connected and interdependent. Everyone everywhere is now more vulnerable to the actions of anyone anywhere, and this is particularly true for businesses striving to survive an increasingly competitive, global market.

What is the response to this pace of change and to hyper-connectivity, if not the ability of businesses, investment, governments, Universities, and individuals to adapt to change? And how can we not adapt, when the survival of our institutions (private and public) and even of societies, depends on addressing big problems arising in the physical world, in the cyberspace, and in human society, for which only scientific progress seems to be our best chance for finding solutions.

So, it is clear that businesses, which want to survive and thrive in the 21st century, need to come closer to institutions that create new knowledge and provide education to new generations. It is also clear that ideas and knowledge produced inside Universities, urgently need to address current problems in times of deep and rapid change, and that implementations bringing those ideas to the public are equally if not more important.

This is easier said than done. Building bridges requires trust, and trust is not a matter of words, but of shared values, common priorities and converging aspirations leading to practical and sustained synergies. This is, therefore, the main goal of this Forum — not research, not commercialization, but the establishment of trust between different stakeholders — research, investment, business, government — wishing to work together for a better future.

Professor of Computer Science, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship; University of Cyprus. Ph.D. Princeton, 1994.

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