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20-05-2019 19:51

Speech by the Chief Scientist for Research and Innovation, Mr Kyriakos Kokkinos, on behalf of the President of the Republic, at the Cyprus IT Forum

It is a great pleasure and privilege to address today, on behalf of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, the distinguished audience of the Cyprus IT Forum 2019.

At the outset, I wish to congratulate the organizers of the Forum and to convey my appreciation for their determination and efforts to promote the potential and the value of the ICT sector in Cyprus, which is a main contributor and a key enabler to economic activity and a foundational facilitator across the whole of the economy.

Furthermore, I would like to welcome and thank you all, for your presence and active participation at the thought-provoking discussion panels of the forum. A presence which aptly demonstrates strong commitment, as well as the possibilities and business opportunities offered through collaboration among stakeholders in the particular sector.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is ahead of us, fueling a worldwide shift on how we produce, consume, relate and communicate to one another. A disruptive change which is driven by the convergence of the physical and the digital worlds -with the human being at the center, and with a profound impact on our economies and social fabric.

Undoubtedly, we live in times of great promise, but also of great challenges.

The world has the potential to connect billions of people to digital networks, to dramatically improve the efficiency of organizations but also redefine the way societies and people interact. This, however, comes with significant challenges – I dare to say, concerns-, relating, among others, with:

  • the ability of societies and organizations to adapt to the fast pace of developments;
  • the ability of Governments to employ and regulate new technologies;
  • this shift of power, creating new and important security concerns;
  • the possibility of inequality to grow and societies to be further fragmented.

Addressing these challenges, requires a focused and dedicated effort in setting up effective and extrovert innovation ecosystems; ecosystems which are built on the foundations of a modernized information society and operating in a collaborative mode with wider regional and global technology players.

What is more, in order to capture this opportunity, countries and organisations need to build the right talent and skills and to address the skills gap already identified, constraining Europe’s (but also leading countries’ such as the US) performance and digital potential.

The countries that will be successful will be the ones that will prepare sufficiently the workforce of the 20th century, concentrating on today’s “skills battleground” highlighting the importance of skills such as leadership, problem-solving, agility, creativity and innovation.

Evidence suggests that Cyprus has the ability to address this gap, capitalizing on the significant investments made for education in the STE(A)M fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and arts), as well as on the high-quality scientific knowledge generated by our research community.

What is more, the favourable environment – including sun, sea and framework conditions for establishing and operating business activity in the island – has contributed significantly in attracting high level expertise and workforce from abroad, and enhancing activity of the ICT sector companies and organisations.

This is a situation which the Government wishes to maintain and further enhance, through a coordinated effort, supported by the new governance system for research and innovation, as well as a new relevant Strategy Framework, developed with the contribution of the National Board for Research and Innovation.

In fact, the new Strategy for Research and Innovation for the period 2019-2023, presented before the President of the Republic just last Thursday, places particular attention, among others, on the following areas:

-       Setting bold and ambitious targets in the fields of research, technological development and innovation;

-       Increasing the number of researchers and engineers, and further attracting highly qualified and professional workforce, particularly important for the Cyprus IT industry;

-       Interlinking our workforce and ecosystem with the international scene and regional strategic partners, to take advantage from knowledge sharing and activities of mutual benefit. To this end, having local interns working in international companies, as well as establishing joint collaboration projects with companies in strategic, targeted geographies, are considered of significant value.

-       Encouraging investment of local companies in research, technological development and innovation;

-       And last but not least, attracting foreign investment and high-tech companies to establish operations in Cyprus, through tax incentives for investment in research and innovation activity and start-ups, such as the current IP regime.

Strongly aligned and interlinked with the field of research and innovation, Digital Transformation is another fundamental reform promoted by the Cyprus government. To this end:

-       eGovernment reform is promoted through the national eGovernment strategy and in cooperation with Estonia through a program of €250 million value, aiming to tackle bureaucracy, to increase effectiveness and to improve citizens’ experience in transactions with the public sector.

-       A renewed national Digital Strategy, currently under development, aiming at optimal effectiveness in implementation and impact.

-       At the same time, the expected implementation of “e-Justice" and electronic case management in national courts are crucial steps to improve and speed-up court proceedings.

-       Finally, recognizing the effect and potential of rapid developments in modern technologies and applications, the Council of Ministers decided, last year, to set up a joint working group under the supervision of the Government to address national planning for the adoption and development of Blockchain technology in Cyprus.

The reform of the governance system for the interdependent fields of research, innovation and digital transformation is expected to be concluded with the creation of a new Deputy Ministry for Innovation and Digital Policy, bringing these fundamental components of a contemporary, competitive economy under one roof. The relevant Bill is expected to be submitted within the next few months to the Council of Ministers and then to the House of Representatives for approval.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are delighted to see Cyprus evolving into a European fast-growing IT hub. The challenge is to keep up the momentum and ensure that we remain on this path of sustainable growth for the IT sector.

For that reason, the Government is determined to continue to provide the legal and institutional framework to support the IT industry and technology transactions, including tax schemes and incentives to further boost technological development and entrepreneurship and to attract new investments, placing strong emphasis on ICT, innovation and start-ups.

In this demanding endeavor of gradually transforming Cyprus and reinforcing our position as a reliable, investment-friendly and competitive IT hub, we are grateful to have devoted and equally strong-willed partners, such as the organisations supporting this Forum, as well as the wider public and private sector companies and institutions.

I am confident that all of you, during the presentations and workshops to be held during these two days, will identify a number of new joint business initiatives, as well as new areas for future co-operation for advancing our technological, investment and commercial partnerships. 

Concluding, I would like once again to thank you for trusting our country, thank you for your presence here today and reconfirm our state commitment to support you in every way possible for making your entrepreneurial investments in our country most successful. I wish every success in your deliberations and a successful conclusion of the Forum.