Athens: Silicon Valley of the Balkans

IndustrySouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 6/2006

Greece has launched a national technology initiative focused on semiconductors, microelectronics and embedded electronics

Considering that industrial clustering is a powerful framework for regional economic development for SME-dominated countries like Greece, in April 2005 the Hellenic Ministry of Development started to push forward a framework in order to take advantage of the aforementioned local competitive characteristics and help fuel national growth and innovation. This framework consisted of implementing targeted clusters on a few technology market areas where there is substantial industry potential in knowledge-intensive and exports-oriented segments that can yield world-class marketable results. The outcome of this effort was the formation of the Hellenic Technology Clusters Initiative (HTCI).

HTCI targets the formation and/or fostering of clusters that can compete at international level, be knowledge-intensive and able to attract Foreign Direct Investment, and that can aid Greece to become a value-added services market. As such, HTCI is implementing specific actions in order to support its potential clusters to:

• Develop a knowledge-driven attitude, focusing on Research & Development of innovative products

• Grow their exports strategy in order to penetrate regional and global markets

• Possess success stories of international caliber in order to credibly “lead-by-example” emerging companies as well as to convince investors of the world-class potential in Greece (“can-do” philosophy)

• Increase participation of SMEs, including start-ups and spin-offs, that have the capacity to become pioneers in their relevant fields

• Strengthen and capitalize on the already strong local community of scientists/engineers and hi-tech academic R&D

Next cluster initiatives (except the first HTCI pilot program targeted to Semiconductors & Embedded Systems) which will be developed in future include the following: The culture & language technology cluster to address advanced software and services, researching the international Cultural markets; Renewable Energy Sources and The Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Research cluster to cover the areas of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices and R&D in the life sciences.

First step - Electronics

Greece has launched a national technology initiative focused on semiconductors, microelectronics and embedded electronics. The first HTCI pilot programme has just kicked off and targets the area of Semiconductors & Embedded Systems, comprising of a group of more than twenty organizations, including multinationals, SMEs, Research Institutes, and University Microelectronics labs, including the National Tecnical University of Athens and Patras University.

Recent success stories of U.S. investment in the Hellenic semiconductor sector indicate that leading investors who are willing to venture into emerging and highly-rewarding market environments, would be ideal business allies and contributors to the HTCI endeavor, and, ultimately, to the evolving Hellenic business landscape.

The window of opportunity for HTCI is now open and will be used to support Centers of Excellence of world-class R&D and product-development, as well as transform Greece into a highly-rewarding, pole-of-attraction for foreign investors.

For pilot phase the initiative has received 9.5 million EUR (about $12 million) for two years, with 3.75 million EUR (about $4.9 million) from the Ministry of Development’s funds, 2.75 million EUR (about $3.5 million) from the European Union’s 3rd Community Support Framework (regional development funds) and 3 million EUR ($3.75 million) in private matching funds from companies taking part in the cluster.

The cluster center in a renovated office complex in the municipality in Maroussi – on the outskirts of Athens, near the new International Airport of Athens – will accommodate starting and ongoing business in semiconductor and microelectronics area.

HTCI Participants

The Semiconductors and Embedded Systems Cluster Initiative constitutes an eco-system of microelectronic companies-members of the Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association. While global companies like Atmel, Photonics and Broadcom have a major presence in Greece, local entrepreneurs have established a viable electronics ecosystem based on the fabless semiconductor/design house model. The HTCI hopes to fuel national growth and technology innovation through a more Silicon Valley-like approach that puts a greater reliance on home-grown development and venture capital-backed entrepreneurship.

The Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association (www.hellenic-SIA.org) is a nonprofit association of High-Technology companies with the mission to enhance and improve the semiconductor business climate in Greece by promoting the Industry worldwide, and assisting member companies to achieve further growth. Currently the Hellenic-SIA comprises of more than 15 industrial partners, 2 Research Institutes and 6 University microelectronics research groups.

HSIA and its participating members have applied for and joined the HTCI programme for cluster development. Within the clustering programme, HTCI will provide financial support and a wide range of services to Hellenic-SIA and its members, in order to substantially fuel the growth of the Semiconductors and Embedded Systems sector in Greece.

The future

The industry cluster will support the pilot initiative primarily by providing infrastructure and services, including operations involved in innovative activities, for 2006 to 2008. Than the plans ahead are to expand and sustain Phase-1 activities and results. Vertical development in Pilot Cluster Microelectronics Area will include replication of Microelectronic Innovation Collocation Hubs in other Hellenic cities (e.g. Patras), within the period 2007-2009; and feedback results of Phase-1 Pilot and implement a “Phase-1b” mature clustering program in Athens (2008-2010). The horizontal development, as earlier said, will cover other thematic areas – will start pilot deployment in Language, Biotech, Energy, etc. The other plans include deployment a large-scale Cluster Ecosystem, development of dedicated “Cluster Innovation Area” (2008-2013), sustainable operation and growth and self-financed development and activities (2013-20xx).

What is a Cluster?

“A geographically proximate group of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementarities, where enough resources and competences amass and reach a critical threshold, giving it a key position in a given economic branch or activity, with a decisive sustainable competitive advantage over other places, or even a world supremacy in that field” -by Michael E. Porter.

What is a Cluster Initiative?

An organised effort to increase growth and competitiveness of clusters within a region, involving cluster firms, government and/or the research community. Cluster initiatives have become a central feature in improving growth and competitiveness of clusters.




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