Eco-innovation projects dominated a biennial Greek innovation competition to promote products and services which improve daily life, drive sustainable development and grow the economy.
“The challenge of the times is to dare to change now, and then change again and again,” said Dimitris Daskalopoulos, chairman of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) at the award ceremony of the ‘Greece innovates!’ innovation competition in mid 2011.
SEV and Eurobank EFG Group, one of Greece’s largest banks, took the initiative in May 2010 of organising the first ever Panhellenic Competition for Applied Research and Innovation. The objective was to link innovation with the overall need to promote a spirit of change in the country. More specifically, the competition aimed to reward people working in research and innovation, and develop partnerships among the business and research communities.
The competition was split into two categories – ‘innovation’ and ‘applied research’ – and attracted some 300 applications from environmental technologies to medicine. But both the winner and runner-up in the innovation category were eco-innovations.
The innovation winner was AquAsZero, an FP7-funded project which has developed a low-cost granular solid adsorbent to remove arsenic from drinking water. “Concentrations of arsenic exceed acceptable limits in drinking water in many areas of Greece and elsewhere,” said the winning team’s representative Manassis Mitrakas. “AquAsZero’s innovation, which was awarded a patent in October, also reduces the cost of water treatment and is particularly interesting to small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Runner-up in the innovation category was a project by the National Centre for Research and Technological Development (ΕΚΕΤΑ) to recycle waste cooking oil by turning it into second-generation biodiesel. This LIFE+ co-funded project is currently being piloted in rubbish lorries in Thessaloniki.
All the entries were judged by a panel of prominent scientists for their international originality, commercial viability and potential contribution to Greece’s competitiveness and exports.
Many other environment-related projects featured among the 21 finalists across both categories, including: flexible organic photovoltaics which can be stuck onto any surface; transparent solar cells which can be used in windows; nanotechnology products to improve indoor air quality; and a bio-filter made of living micro-organisms to purify water.
As well as the award ceremony, SEV and Eurobank organised a series of regional events to showcase the finalists and to bring businesses and researchers closer together. Given the success of the competition, the organisers announced they would host it every two years.
“These types of initiatives assist the research community in bypassing the so-called Valley of Death... that separates the conception of an idea... and its implementation,” said Giannis Kalogirou from the National Technical University of Athens on behalf of the scientific judges. This competition “puts innovation into public discourse and highlights its critical role for economic growth”.