Athens, 28 May 2008
I should like to thank you for doing me the honour of inviting me to attend your proceedings here this evening, at the conference organized by the Marine Transport Laboratory of the School of Marine Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens.
The shipbuilding industry is a vital sector in our country’s economy, supporting as it does our nation’s maritime activities, assisting economic growth and boosting our competitiveness.
At the Competitiveness Council meeting on 29th May Greece lent its active support to the communication by the European Commission on the competitiveness of the metal industries (CΟΜ/ 2008 108 of 22/02/2008), since the European metal industry plays a vital part in the chain of added value of many other sectors, including the shipbuilding industry.
Competitiveness is not just an abstract idea, it is the key to survival in the contemporary age of new knowledge and open markets. If we wish to be competitive, to raise our standard of living, we must create an environment in which important ideas can bear fruit, bringing wealth not only to the originators of those ideas but to the country as a whole.
Through the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’, also known as EPAN, the Ministry of Development has supported ideas, businesses and special population groups, focusing on the promotion of innovation and the dissemination of new technologies, in order to produce high-value economic and social benefits. Under the OP ‘Competitiveness’ major research and technological development projects have been funded, designed to promote industrial competitiveness and to encourage cooperation among agencies of different forms engaged in different activities, in areas of high priority for the national or regional economy. The results of these projects are viewed as highly significant, for the following reasons:
- They have promoted cooperation among the academic, research and industrial communities.
- They have given a boost to applied research for business and to the creation of innovative products and services.
- They have generated research results leading to the creation of new products or services, or the application of innovative processes.
One of the activities funded under the OP ‘Competitiveness’, which has been singled out as an example and good practice worthy of emulation not only on the national but also on the European and global levels, is the project to construct the world’s first floating, eco-friendly desalination unit. This is an innovative project combining on a floating platform a desalination plant and wind turbine, providing all the energy required to convert sea water into drinking water of high quality, and thereby offering a solution to the problem of drought faced by the Greek islands –especially in the summer months.
The ecological aspects of the project are extremely important, since the plant uses only wind power to generate the energy required, while the water undergoing desalination is taken entirely from the sea without reducing underwater tables and the process does not involve any chemical processing. Pollution of the environment by the operation of the desalination unit is non-existent.
The floating desalination unit was funded by the OP ‘Competitiveness’, the main contractor being the University of the Aegean. The inclusion of the project in the OP ‘Competitiveness’ allowed the setting up of a joint venture consisting of public sector research agencies, shipbuilders and specialist companies with wide experience in automation, reverse osmosis and marine construction. The involvement of scientists from different disciplines, as well as the bringing together of experienced experts with many years in their fields and young scientists with special knowledge of the latest technological advances, created a mix of talents which generated all sorts of new ideas. The collaboration on the project of researchers, industrial engineers and technicians was a highly successful example of the benefits of linking the research sector and industry – a collaboration which has been entirely vindicated by the results achieved.
For the new programme period 2007- 2013 the new ΕPΑΝ, to be known as the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ (and I cannot overestimate the significance of the term ‘Entrepreneurship’ now added to the title) will prove, once again, a driving force for promotion of growth and competitiveness.
The central development objective of the ΕPΑΝ ΙΙ is to improve the competitiveness and outward orientation of businesses, and of Greek industry as a whole, with the emphasis on the dimension of innovativeness.Innovation lies at the very heart of the new economy we are constructing.
Our strategic targets include acceleration of the transition to the knowledge economy, by developing healthy, viable and outward-oriented entrepreneurship. We are committed to making Greece more attractive as a location for developing entrepreneurial activity, with respect for the environment and for sustainability. We have designed the OP ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’ to promote new strategic collaboration actions with research and technology agencies, creating knowledge-intensive clusters and other activities which will help businesses to capitalize on knowledge.
Our objective is to contribute to improving the competitiveness of businesses and to the creation of the right conditions to attract new investment, Greek and foreign, related directly to the application of new technologies. This is the way to achieve dynamic growth. The sure route to the creation of new and more rewarding jobs.
Thank you very much.