Athens, 19 May 2008
President of the EEDE,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I should like to start by thanking you for honoring me with an invitation to attend the proceedings of the 53rd general meeting of the Hellenic Management Association. Recognizing the important and substantial work done by yourselves, the Ministry of Development has entered into a strategic collaboration with the Association to promote the implementation of numerous in-service training seminars under the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’.
The Ministry of Development continues to take a keen interest in stimulating entrepreneurship. The increased funds in the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’, known for short as EPAN, have offered concrete evidence of our interest – supporting ideas, businesses and special population groups, focusing on the promotion of innovation and the dissemination of new technologies in pursuit of the objective of economic growth and greater competitiveness.
- We have laid emphasis on the generation of new knowledge in priority areas vital to the country’s production sector and which serve policies being implemented in various areas, such as conversion of knowledge into innovative products and services, and assisting the transfer of technology to businesses.
- We have made improvements to the law to provide tax incentives to businesses engaged in research and development activities.
- We have offered incentives for business start-ups.
- We have contributed to the creation of new, contemporary and viable businesses in manufacturing and processing, service provision and e-commerce.
- We have promoted entrepreneurship among young people, women, the disabled and persons with large families.
- We have improved the quality of tourist infrastructures.
- We have financed projects in the areas of energy-saving, heat and power co-generation and use of renewable energy sources.
- We have invested in the country’s human resources, financing training, further training and skills schemes for the unemployed, employees, researchers and individuals taking their first steps in business careers.
- We have set up a unified system of structures for effective and reliable provision of services to businessmen and investors, using the one-stop-shop model. Aware of the defects of Greek businesses in the area of support, the OP ‘Competitiveness’ has created a virtual network of support structures, consisting of the Centres for Business and Technological Development (KETA), the Investor Reception Centres (KYE) and the SME Observatory – all engaged in providing up-to-date information, cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit and monitoring the competitiveness of SMEs.
To tell the story in figures, no fewer than 31.000 business investment plans all over Greece have been approved for grants under the OP ‘Competitiveness’ – in the sectors of commerce, services, R&T, tourism and energy.
Training, mainly in SMEs and for employees, has been a basic element in our attempts to provide support and plan an integrated business development strategy. To date more than 82.200 persons have taken part in schemes to upgrade their professional qualifications and skills, thereby improving their position and prospects.
If we look at data from each sector in which the OP ‘Competitiveness’ has engaged, we see that 45% of funds were directed to industry, 29% to energy, 11.5% to tourism, 8.6% to research, 5% to commerce and 1.3% to technical assistance.
For the new programme period 2007-2013 the new EPAN, which is to be known as the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ – and I cannot stress too highly the importance of that added term ‘entrepreneurship’ – will once again, we believe, act as a driving force for the promotion of development and competitiveness.
The central development objective for the OP ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ is to improve the competitiveness and outward orientation of businesses – and of Greek industry as a whole – with the emphasis on innovativeness. Innovation is the nucleus of the new economy we are engaged in building.
Our strategic objectives include speeding up transition to the knowledge economy, developing healthy, viable and outward-oriented entrepreneurship. We shall continue to make Greece more attractive as a place for businesses to grow, with respect for the environment and for sustainability. We shall be including in the new OP ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ new actions of strategic cooperation with R&T agencies, bringing them together to create knowledge-intensive clusters.
Our goal is to assist in raising business competitiveness while laying the foundations to attract new investments, both Greek and foreign, which are directly related to the use of new technologies. This will allow dynamic rates of growth bringing with it new and better jobs.
The central focus in the planning of the OP ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ has been development in the country’s regions. I recently had the opportunity, together with my colleagues, to visit all thirteen of the country’s regions, to meet the regional authorities, to see their problems at first hand, to assess their potential and, after lively debate with all the various agencies, to draw up plans which will bring the greatest possible development benefits to each individual region.
The new OP ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ is an instrument focusing on innovation and the promotion of entrepreneurship.
Today’s battles can no longer be fought with the weapon of low labour costs; they must be fought wielding the weapons of quality, standards, innovation and increased productivity.
I thank you for your attention.