From algae fuel to hunter tourism, Greeks make innovation work

For some in Greece, the ongoing financial crisis has not stopped them from thinking, and moving forward. Since winning the Make Innovation Work contest this spring, John Sporidis-Antoniadis and Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos have put their proposal to produce algae biomass with a high calorific value for use as alternative fuel to work.

The competition, sponsored by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, awarded the pair more than 80,000 euros for their idea.

“The competition was important for us. It was a good amount of money but the chamber put us in touch with a number of people locally and internationally to expand out of the country,” Sporidis-Antoniadis told SETimes.

The contest was borne from a similar idea in Ireland, said the chamber’s executive director, Elias Spirtounias.

“We were looking to do something different, to recognise people who produced some good ideas,” he told SETimes. But, he said, contestants had to produce something that could work right away. “We didn’t want to have only ideas, we wanted feasible business plans for Greece.”

“This competition is an initiative of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce to stimulate entrepreneurship and transition from the gloom of today to optimism of the future of Greece,” Yanos Gramatidis, chamber president, told SETimes.

Sporidis-Antoniadis said his company has already lined up factories and industries that want to use the algae biomass to replace wood and coal because it burns more efficiently.

Christofyllis Douralis’ proposal to use a so-called multi-tank to replace barrels for transporting commodities, allowing multiple reuses, won in the green energy category.

“We are talking now to some prospective investors because of the opportunity the chamber gave us,” he told SETimes.    He said the competition has also enabled Greek companies and entrepreneurs to dispel the image of Greeks as lazy and a country rife with corruption and incompetence.

“There’s a lot of interesting minds that are working in various sectors … and most of them are trying to find ways to realise their ideas or projects outside Greece, because inside Greece there weren’t institutions to help them,” he added.

“It’s not a problem of the Greek mentality but the financial system, which depends on banks and not on venture capital to fund start-up businesses.” His multi-tank proposal, he said, has drawn interest from transport companies because they are reusable, reduce storage space, oil consumption and pollution.

The transport-shipping proposal from Inasco Hellas was for the use of high-performance carbon fibre to reduce weight, while the tourism winner put forth a hotel, hunting area in northern Greece and a farm.

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Spirtounias said the chamber will hold the competition every two years now and that the winner is required to produce a weekly report on the progress of the venture.

“We had some very good ideas but people didn’t know how to present them,” he said, adding that the competition, which required only electronic application, provided business plans and advice.

“The Greek private sector is willing to move ahead. There are good ideas out there, with well-educated people, ready to move ahead … in any recession, there are always opportunities. The issue is to be strong enough to find them” Sporidis-Antoniadis told SETimes.

1st page photo: John Sporidis-Antoniadis (third from left) with the award from the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Make Innovation Work contest. [Andy Dabilis/SETimes]

From AHEPA e-News.