6 days in March: Technology & Geostrategy
By Charles J. Mouratides, Exec. Director
Two special events over six days in March, both unprecedented, showcase CHI’s pioneering efforts in the blossoming relationship between Greece and Israel. These events are examples of the way the historic Alliance creates a unique bridge between the Asiatic and European coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
One of the two events aims to support Greece in creating the foundation for an economy that reaps the benefits of technologically innovative products brought to the agora. It is a field where miniscule Israel has become a global giant within the span of one generation.
The Roundtable Tech Transfer 2013, a private initiative facilitated by CHI (Circle for Hellas and Israel), will be held March 10 to 13 in Thessaloniki. Its goal is for a Greek model inspired by the Israeli accomplishments in technology. The “Roundtable” brings together Israeli and Greek scientists-researchers and seeks to bridge the gap faced by High Tech products of university research and their transfer to the agora.
Five Israeli researchers from Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, will discuss collaboration with a number of researchers from Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, and other institutions such as EKETA (National Research/Technology Center) and ITSAK (Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering). Bar-Ilan operates an advanced Nanotechnology Institute. Aristotle operates one of the most acclaimed European Nanotechnology Laboratories.
Israel, now called Middle East’s Silicon Valley, has more than 4,000 start-up companies – 500 new ones established annually — and has attracted the world’s leading technology and venture capital companies in the span of a generation.
What is Missing
Greece has the fundamentals. Universities in Thessaloniki, Athens, Patras and Irakleon have science schools staffed with excellent professors-researchers from around the world, many from universities focusing on high tech research. Greek scientists thrive in, among other hotbeds of technology, Silicon Valley, California, and at MIT.
Yet, it is generally recognized that there is a gap in Greece in transferring the products of research to the marketplace which is greatly accomplished though start-up companies.
What seems to be missing in Greece is the appropriate culture. A culture that seeks — and thrives in — risk-taking at all levels. A culture of collaboration between state encouragement and private investment – not a culture where individuals suck the state for personal enrichment, or where the state controls the activities and the vision of entrepreneurs. Appropriate means a culture that provides a comfortable legal framework inspired by an ethos for success, and not one dictated by political ideology.
Greece is a small country that can learn from its affiliation with Israel. The “Roundtable,” a project organized and funded privately, was initiated with the aspiration that aspects of that culture will be infused through personal communication and scientific collaboration. (More about the event at http://chiTechTransfer.org )
When the appropriate culture develops, domestic and international investment will follow. It is historically proven that capital, venture capital in this case, is drawn by opportunity and travels beyond borders. And the jobs created are part of an advanced economy.
The other event, March 7 through 9, is a panel presentation by leading Israeli political scientists on the impact of the Greece-Israel Alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean. The presentations are part of the Defense Conference by Strategy International, an affiliate of CHI which is the facilitator.
The director of the Communications School of Bar-Ilan University (BIU) and the director of its Begin-Sadat Strategic Studies Center are the main panelists. The center has been recognized internationally as one of three leading think tanks in the Middle East and the top think tank in Israel.
This conference is open to the public by reservation at Porto Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki. For reservations go to StrategyInternational.org/conference2013 .
In the past two years, many missions boosting trade and tourism between Greece and Israel have been organized. But the discussion at this panel will focus on the geopolitical importance of the Alliance between Greece and Israel.
Ever since Israel struck huge natural gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean, this basin has become the latest international center of intense interest. The prospects for a new source of energy have energized every big power. Besides the natural interest of the eight countries forming the basin, outside powers have taken actions to demonstrate that they want to be part of the anticipated resource.
In Greece and Cyprus, European Union countries which are heavily dependent on Russia, see a new energy source developing within EU’s own borders. The U.S. and Russia have their own geostrategic plans and an active presence in the area. Iran developed its own proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza strip.
However, the Alliance with Israel provides Greece some unique advantages: A partner that has the technology credentials to support drilling platforms which would be new for Greece and Cyprus. Even if one can make a case that all of that can be purchased from anxiously awaiting other parties, Israel is the neighbor with the experience and the ability to dig 22,000 feet into the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
But the major benefit that other parties cannot provide for Greece and Cyprus is security. Security in the face of rogue states that have their own political designs. Security in the face of terrorists seeking to fulfill goals unrelated to production of energy. Israel, on the other hand, has already demonstrated its ability to provide advanced security.
Such a frank panel discussion is worth having.
(For more on the Alliance between Hellas and Israel, and Iran’s area role go to CHI’s website www.chicircle.org and click the section on Perspectives at the top.)