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Google is leading small and medium-sized enterprises based in Thessaloniki to the digital world

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More than 14,000 people over the past four years have been trained in Central Macedonia under Google’s initiative, Grow Greek Tourism Online, which aims to train tourism entrepreneurs in digital tools. In 2019 alone, 4,000 people have been trained in Central Macedonia and have met personally with the specialized team of Grow Greek Tourism Online. Overall in Greece, over the five years of operation of this particular Google programme, a total of 120,000 people were trained, 67% of whom saw a difference in their businesses, which sometimes translates to more clicks to their websites or more phone calls and social media interaction.

Google’s next step in supporting Thessaloniki’s small and medium-sized enterprises to grow internationally is Market Finder. This tool provides free guides, videos and information so as to help businesses get into international and export markets.

Market Finder operates as follows:

Step One: It identifies the best markets for each business. Once the entrepreneur registers his website in the Market Finder tool, he will be able to see which export markets are most appropriate for his product or service. It will also show him the number of monthly Google searches for his company’s products as well as the gross domestic product of potential markets. Market Finder analyses consumers’ use of the internet, their demographics and disposable income, providing clear indicators and valuable information on the growth potential of a market.

Step Two: It prepares the business for the world market. Market Finder prepares small and medium-sized enterprises for international success by making them ready for export. This is done with market tracking tools as well as guides and tips that indicate the most effective ways of communicating with new markets, regardless of the language, customs or desired payment methods. In addition, logistics experts describe the rules of international freight shipping services for each selected market. Finally, payment guides present a variety of alternatives available worldwide and point out the most suitable for each market.

Step Three: It brings customers to your business. Market Finder provides digital marketing training to ensure that users who are looking for your business will be able to find it. For example, it shows how to create Google Ads campaigns that, through case presentations, guides and videos, are effective and oriented towards the selected markets.

Thessaloniki’s innovative drone to be put on the market in 2020

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A new innovative multipurpose drone, code-named RX-4, which is in the process of being developed, was presented by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki at the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). It is an innovative drone that can be utilised effectively in many different missions, such as mapping, research and rescue, patrol, espionage and 3D urban mapping.

What distinguishes the new drone from the rest on the market is its two innovations:

Firstly, it has a great energy autonomy, which lasts up to two hours, while in the corresponding models the energy autonomy is only half an hour.

Secondly, it has the potential for vertical take-off and landing, which means it doesn’t need much space on the ground. The example cited by AUTh researchers is characteristic: ‘‘We’re on a mountain, like Mount Olympus, for rescue missions. In the case of other drones, we would need a runway of up to 50 meters long and a treeless area. Now we just need a glade’’.

The RX-4’s innovation is based on the drone’s geometry. It does not look like the conventional ones because it has no tail and thus the surface area needed is minimized.

It carries a camera of about half a kilo, which changes depending on the mission the drone will carry out. It is lightweight, weighing just 4 kilos, and can be easily assembled and disassembled to fit in the boot of a conventional car. It even flies autonomously without being piloted by the user and is controlled via a tablet.

The project involves and collaborates with the Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics & Turbomachinery (LFMT) of the School of Mechanical Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Automation and Robotics Laboratory (ARL) of the Department of Production and Management Engineering of the Democritus University of Thrace, GeoSense and MLS company. The team started in the summer of 2018 and is expected to deliver a highly competitive product that will be available on the market by the end of 2020.

 

Computer Systems: Exports from Thessaloniki to 90 countries with ‘‘innovation’’ as its most powerful weapon

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Innovation and extroversion is the dipole that has been guiding the steps of Computer Systems for over ten years, exporting from Thessaloniki to dozens of countries around the world. Since its inception, the company has been aiming to provide services to clients in the international market, utilizing popular online e-commerce platforms.

Computer Systems was launched in 2008, at the initiative of electrical engineer Panagiotis Karidopoulos, who wanted to get involved in IT services. The launch coincided with the problems that started to appear on the laptops graphics cards. Through the well-known e-bay platform and having found the method to remedy these problems, he acquired his first customers, who were sending him their graphics cards and he was fixing them. The first customer, outside Greek borders, was from France, and in the summer of 2009 the first partnerships started with small companies from Italy and the Netherlands.

In the following years the company put its own stamp on the innovative environment of Thessaloniki. In 2012, the IT company implements research projects with the co-financing of Greece and the EU on cutting-edge technology, such as data recovery and BGA component repairing methods (used on all high-tech devices and a significant number of malfunctions result from design failures). Shortly afterwards, Computer Systems introduced its most competitive product, the K4-PRO thermal paste, and then the K5-PRO, which protects technology products from overheating. The paste is presented at international conferences, while at the same time the company obtains a patent from the Industrial Property Organization. The product is in high demand and is being exported to 90 countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and all European countries.

Exports make up 50% of Computer Systems’ sales, while its products will be available through the Chinese newegg e-commerce platform in the near future, and its partnership with Walmart’s U.S. online store is to be launched.

At a product level, the company from Thessaloniki is already in the midst of a new high-performance thermal paste for gamers, a field that is currently at the forefront of the market.

First prize in Munich for SmartClass team from Thessaloniki

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The ‘‘SmartClass’’ team has returned to Thessaloniki from the final of the European competition ‘‘EESTech Challenge’’ held in Munich after having won the first prize.

The winning student team, composed of two members from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and one from the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, was set up in March 2019 in order to participate in the competition. It consists of Dimitrios Stoupis, an undergraduate student at the Department of Physics of AUTh, Stavros Filosidis, an undergraduate student at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of AUTh, and Georgios Amponis, an undergraduate student at the Department of Electrical Engineering of ATEITH.

The ‘‘EESTech Challenge’’ is a European student technology competition organized by EESTEC (Electrical Engineering Students’ European Association) over the last three years. The theme of this year’s competition was ‘‘Internet of Things’’.

The members of ‘‘SmartClass’’ received the first prize for conceiving, presenting and implementing an innovative idea, whose primary goal is to create the ideal environmental conditions in a classroom in order to ensure the maximum effectiveness of the educational process.

Specifically, an automated system determines the environmental parameters of the classroom (humidity, temperature, lighting, air quality, etc.), the external environmental conditions as well as the number of people in the classroom. At the same time, through an application developed by the team, the conditions in the room are recorded, according to the personal feeling of the people that are present. All of this data is sent to a central server, where it is processed through machine learning models in order to improve conditions in real time.

This innovative system can be applied in university lecture halls, school classrooms and halls of other educational institutions, but also in workplaces in Greece and abroad, ensuring the ideal conditions in spaces where dedication and concentration are required, while helping to save energy.

More information on the EESTech Challenge Competition can be found at the following link: https://eestechchallenge.eestec.net

ThPA S.A.’s startup incubators in Thessaloniki port

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The creation of an Innovation Centre within the port of Thessaloniki is promoted by ThPA S.A. (Thessaloniki Port Authority). Planning studies are at an advanced stage and final decisions will be made in the summer. The budget is expected to be around € 5 million, which will most likely result from community programmes and self-financing with an estimated project completion date of 3 years from now.

According to the planning of ThPA S.A.’s chairman, Mr. Sotiris Theofanis, who is making use of his academic profession in this case, the Innovation Centre will enable the experimental development and implementation of new ideas in three sectors that are tested daily in a port: port operation, logistics and freight transport. The goal is to create an innovative ecosystem, centered on an incubator, hosting startups that will deal with affairs linked to the operation of the three sectors.

What remains to be proved from the ongoing study is whether there is market and research interest and also to what extent. The first data and the estimates of the people of the port of Thessaloniki show that many forces will coordinate on the occasion of this initiative. From young scientists to mature and established businesses which are systematically looking for next day solutions. Issues like blockchain technology, namely the chain of integrated digital transactions, the reduction of ecological footprint and automation, are expected to have a significant impact on port operations, the shipping industry and freight both in terms of cost and quality of work. In addition, once the decisions have been finalized and the timetable is set, Mr. Theofanis intends to address the Alexander Innovation  Zone S.A. as the public body responsible for setting up the innovation system of Thessaloniki, in which ThPA S.A.’s initiative will obviously be included.

Spatially the project will be developed in the area of ‘’stables’’, a building complex that exists in the interior of the port between the 2nd and 3rd pier. It is about installations that have not been used since the 1980s and consist of buildings that have been preserved. This means that in any of their regeneration, the façade will remain as it is, so that their profile is not altered, while it is certain that other modern buildings will need to be constructed.

Mr. Theofanis considers PORTXL, the Innovation Centre set up in Rotterdam, one of the largest European trading ports, as a model for the Innovation Centre of ThPA S.A. The specific action has been developing for eight years and the results have been impressive, especially in terms of collaborations. Hundreds of private-sector businesses as well as public bodies involved in the port industry collaborate at PORTXL.

Thessaloniki: The Greek city Of ‘‘Living Labs’’

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Want to be a high tech product creator in your 70s? ‘‘Why not!’’, answer the members of the ‘‘Captain’’ programme of the Sports Medicine Laboratory of AUTh, which applies the ‘‘living lab’’ method. The goal is to create a smart consultant, an innovative technology product aimed at the elderly, which displays information in different parts of the house to help them make decisions and solve problems. ‘‘The old man stands in front of the refrigerator. Then the smart consultant realises it and displays suggestions on the fridge for a healthy snack’’, mentions as an example Evdokimos Konstantinidis, a postdoctoral researcher and technical coordinator of the ‘‘Captain’’ programme.

As Mr. Konstantinidis explains, around 70 seniors are actively involved in the product design and meet with the researchers on a regular basis. Through exercises and discussions they express what their real needs are in the meetings and critically assess each step of the smart consultant’s design. This co-creation is basically at the heart of the method called ‘‘living lab’’.

As Mr. Konstantinidis points out, the team has managed to gain the trust of the elderly by constantly demonstrating to them that their contribution is essential for the creation of the product. ‘‘In this environment, the elderly open up and become very creative’’, he mentions, adding that they have contributed such good ideas to the process that the team is now looking for ways to provide them with the corresponding copyright.

The programme, under which AUTh collaborates with another 14 bodies, including research centres, universities and companies, is expected to be completed in 18 months.

 

Rooms – living labs

AUTh’s Living Lab, Thessaloniki Active & Healthy Ageing Living Lab (Thess-a-hall) has also created other innovative living labs in its five years of operation.

For the needs of the ‘‘Captain’’ programme, the lab has created within its site a simulation of a normal home with a kitchen and a living room inviting seniors to spend one to two hours of their day there, three times a week. During this time, the house, which had hidden sensors, was collecting data on the behaviour of the tenants. In fact, four of the participants agreed to have the sensors placed in their home for the next two years. At the same time, a corresponding specially designed living space for the purposes of experimentation has also been placed in the Chariseio Nursing Home.

 

Only in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is the only part in Greece that has ‘‘Living Labs’’, which is fully compatible with the fact that the Alexander Innovation Zone is located in the city and is the one that systematically promotes development for innovations. It is therefore not accidental that some 400 living labers will gather in Thessaloniki in September to participate in the 10th Living Labs International Conference, entitled Open Living Lab Days. The creation of another living lab, which will be implemented in the city, will also be announced during the gathering.

The conference takes place every year in a different city and this year will be the first to host the event at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall from September 3 to 5 organised by the Thessaloniki Active & Healthy Ageing Living Lab of the Sports Medicine Laboratory of AUTh and the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL).

Its goal is to co-create today’s and tomorrow’s social innovation while addressing each and every one, including public officials, social agencies, academics, innovative start-uppers and ordinary citizens.

During the conference, representatives of more than 30 ‘‘Living Labs’’ will work for three whole days with bodies from the European and the International Social Innovation Community to highlight the local problems and turn them into global opportunities as well as invite anyone interested in participating in developing new products, innovative services and solutions to everyday issues, in a real-time social environment, promoting the principles of responsible development and social innovation.

Taking part in the event practically translates into knowledge and experience offered through 40 workshops, in areas such as: the future of urban mobility, the ‘’Living Labs’’ as a learning environment for entrepreneurship in universities, agricultural practices and rural development, the development of ‘‘Living Labs’’ in the energy sector, co-created health and wellbeing products for vulnerable population groups.

Those interested in setting up their own ‘‘Living Lab’’ can attend a one-day training seminar before the official launch of the Open Living Lab Days (OLLDs).

Supporters of this year’s institution are the URENIO Research Unit of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki as well as the Open Knowledge Foundation Greece (OKFN Greece), while the conference is under the auspices of the Faculty of Health Sciences of AUTh.

More information at https://openlivinglabdays.com/

Which global cities Want to be Silicon Valley

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Many major cities, such as London and New York, have seen their technology sectors grow rapidly, while others, such as Sydney, are moving ahead with central government plans to obtain their own Silicon Valley. Many of the world’s largest cities are becoming technology hubs, but in fact only few could be described as … the next Silicon Valley. Given that the Alexander Innovation Zone S.A. operates in Thessaloniki systematically to promote innovation within the region, all the good examples and well-formed practices are always under its … microscope. Business Insider has identified six cities around the world that are heading in this direction, as not only do they manage to attract new employees, but they also create the necessary lifestyle – e.g. in the luxury real estate market – which characterizes this transformation.

Tel Aviv

Israel, what many call the ‘‘next Silicon Valley’’ or the ‘‘Nation of Start-ups’’, has revolutionized the technology industry, as it has become a world leader in biotechnology, cyber technology, artificial intelligence, online games and high-tech agriculture. Israel hosts more startups per capita than any other country on the planet and it also attracts a lot of investment funds for this purpose. With respect to the technology hubs, Tel Aviv ranks second after Silicon Valley. Multinational technology giants, such as Google, Oracle and Facebook, have already set up research centres in or near the city of Tel Aviv, while Amazon opened its Tel Aviv office last October.

Berlin

Berlin is also experiencing tremendous technological development; a city which houses hackers, security experts, scientists and video companies, while technology giants like Apple and Facebook have offices in the German capital. After Brexit, many British tech startups moved to the relatively cheap city of Berlin, which at the same time gives them access to the European market. From 2015 to 2017, startups in Berlin grew by 9% – the highest growth among all European cities – with 70% of these companies headquartered there. And although technological advances usually lead to rising real estate prices, Berlin’s real estate prices are affordable, so both employees and businesses are given the opportunity to own spacious houses and offices. Given all these, the city is attracting talents from all over the world.

Shenzhen

With more than 14,000 technology companies, 3,000 of which were created in 2018, the tech industry represents 40% of the economic activity of the Chinese city. Five technology giants are at the heart of the economic activity, with two of them – Tencent Holdings and Huawei Technologies – employing a total of 234,000 employees. The city is part of China’s government plan to create the US Silicon Valley rival. The advance of the technology sector has greatly improved the living standards of the residents which has led to the boom of the country’s construction sector, especially the luxury real estate, changing Shenzhen’s profile. The Chinese city is now among the five most expensive in the world in the real estate field.

Lisbon

The growth of startups started in Lisbon ten years ago and nowadays the Portuguese capital has become an important technology hub in Europe. In 2016 the Portuguese government set up a national network of technology hubs and startups thanks to the StartUP Voucher initiative which provides subsidies and facilities to such businesses. 700 high-tech companies settled in Lisbon from 2014 to 2016, while a former camp is expected to become a huge startup campus. Tech industry workers have revitalized the Portuguese capital’s real estate market at the same time.

Bangalore

Experts regard Bangalore as the “Silicon Valley of India” thanks to the variety of tech companies based there that deal with artificial intelligence, food technology and robotics. Over 400 multinational tech companies, such as Microsoft and Samsung, have offices there, while there are several local companies, such as Infosys and Wipro. Many consider Bangalore to be the most dynamic city in the world, while its technological boom began 25 years ago. The city’s GDP is expected to grow by 60% over the next five years.

Stockholm

‘‘The Tech Superstar from the North’’ hosts a number of software development companies, while its economic prosperity began in 2009. Within just five years, technology investments have tripled to $ 377 million, while more than 22,000 companies are headquartered in Stockholm, including giants like Spotify and video game company, King. The sector has also benefited from public investment in high-speed internet, with Stockholm now having its own identity just like San Francisco has Silicon Valley.

 

 

European prize for a Start Up from Thessaloniki with activity in the health sector

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An important distinction for start-up companies active in the health sector was given by the European Commission to BookingClinic, based in Thessaloniki and a member of the innovation ecosystem with the support of the Alexander Innovation Zone. The Commission rewarded the direct and easy access to high quality health services provided by the company through its platform to patients.

The award ceremony was held by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT Health) in the framework of the Innostars Awards, where the evaluation criteria were technology, innovation as well as the quality of services provided to citizens.

According to the company, this distinction strengthens the company’s goal of being the easy and reliable “bridge” between the patient and the clinic. Through the BookingClinic platform, which already has a significant presence abroad, the patient can easily and directly make an online reservation at a clinic seeing which ones provide a treatment, what doctors are available and what is their experience and expertise, what innovative methods they use, what hosting services are available, what are the evaluations and, above all, what is the total cost.

It is also important that the clinics and the medical centres benefit from this since they have a place on the e-market and can easily without cost attract patients inside and outside the borders while receiving patient satisfaction data. At the same time, they promote their services and competitive advantages internationally and increase the proportion of private patients while accessing the huge workforce of medical tourism without cost. In fact, the company, and as a member of Elitour (Greek Medical Tourism Council), will focus especially on the ever-growing field of medical tourism providing complete services to visitors in our country. It is noted that BookingClinic has already begun to create a strong partner network consisting of 17 Medical Centres, including the largest Association of Greek Clinics in number of beds and units, while expanding dynamically abroad through collaborations with 4 specialized clinics. At the same time, it also proceeds with collaborations with insurance companies with the common aim of improving the quality of health services provided to citizens.

 

Investments of 3 million euros in Start Ups of OK!Thess of the municipality of Thessaloniki are expected in 2019

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The OK!Thess pre-incubation programme of the municipality of Thessaloniki offers once again the opportunity to people who wish to develop their businesses by using their innovative ideas.

Submissions for the 7th cycle of the acceleration programme will be made electronically via the official website of OK! Thess until December 31. The lessons will begin in the middle of January at the premises of OK!Thess after the evaluation and selection phase of the final participants. It is noteworthy that the Alexander Innovation Zone, the most important promoter of innovative entrepreneurship in Northern Greece, is actively involved in the operation of Ok!Thess. In the previous six acceleration cycles, over the past two years, about 150 applications have been submitted, of which 47 were selected to follow the programme. Out of these, seven groups are already on the market while one of them has managed to make more than 100,000 euros in sales.

Optimism for 2019

Only in the second half of 2018, more than EUR 1 million was invested in start-up businesses that ‘‘graduated’’ from OK!Thess. The head of the pre-incubator, commissioned municipal councillor for entrepreneurship in the municipality of Thessaloniki, Simon Bensasson, estimates that by 2019 the funds to be invested in startups will exceed € 2 million and may reach € 3 million.  According to him, about 80% of startups have a life cycle of three years. Out of the funds invested in startups hosted at OK!Thess, three start-ups received the largest amounts, about 300,000 each, while another six were funded with about 50,000 each.

The top three start-ups

 

The three top-funded start-ups are:

 

  • Loceye, founded by students from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The company has developed a platform that allows companies and professionals to perform online eye tracking analyses in order to understand where and when the user focuses on elements on the screen while browsing the website. It was funded with EUR 300,000 by the Velocity Partners investment scheme.
  • K-INVENT, founded in France in 2017, consists of four Greek scientists and a Frenchman with experience in engineering, biokinetics, electronics and programming. It was funded by Uni.Fund so as to speed up the creation of its sales network and to establish itself in the field of rehabilitation, the industrialization of production, and the creation of additional professional web services through K-force.
  • PLN Nanotechnology, which is a spin-out of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) and has received funding of 350,000 euros from Uni.Fund. The company, founded in 2015 by professors and postdoctoral researchers of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, specializes in the production and characterization of metal nanoparticles and their oxides for applications in Cosmetics and Parapharmaceutical products, Building Chemistry, Agrobiotechnology and other fields. From 2015 until today, it has developed a broad portfolio of products, including nanoparticles for use in the above areas, as well as pet care products.

A dialogue between Greek and German journalists

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This year dialoggers are examining the next day for Greece after debt crisis. Thessaloniki as an entrepreneurship hub and its role in the Balkans. A productive dialogue between young journalists from Greece and Germany.  Aristotelous Square. The Ancient Greek philosophy and the common European history unite Greek and German journalists. The Greek crisis had caused an anti-German frenzy on the one hand and the mischaracterization of Greeks as “lazy” on the other, which are now replaced by a partnership between both parts. Seven Greek and seven German young journalists explored the next day’s opportunities for Greece and Thessaloniki at the 7th Greek-German Journalists’ Workshop of dialoggers of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Thessaloniki.  Young entrepreneurship and start-ups The start-up community in Thessaloniki is making its first steps. The emergence of incubators for start-up businesses, such as the Alexander Innovation Zone or the OK!Thess ecosystem, provide opportunities for their development. ‘‘Twenty-three start-up groups in Thessaloniki are in the process of looking for funding, four are negotiating with buyers and five are already members of the Greek market. In total, they have received €300,000 in funding, which at the moment is very satisfactory for Thessaloniki’’, mentions Marinos Tzotzis from the Greek side.  Young people’s modern businesses that focus on electrification, job placement, cultural guided tours are trying to spark a new sense of optimism against the misery caused by the financial crisis. ‘‘In Greece things are changing at a very slow pace and failure has only a negative imprint, while it can be a springboard to something successful in the future. Operating costs are high for businesses and that is why some people do not even take the first step’’, points out the young Greek journalist. His opinion is also shared by his research associate, Vera Lohner: ‘‘It is inconceivable that there is no change in tax policy in Greece. The advance tax is in fact preventing young people from creating their own businesses’’, she says adding that ‘‘something else needs to be done, there are solutions.’’  The role of Thessaloniki in the Balkans A city that is not looking towards the South but towards the Balkans is perhaps an opportunity for Thessaloniki. Much has been written in the past as well as nowadays about its transformation into the metropolis of the Balkans. The lower tax rates in the neighbouring Balkan countries are relocating Greek businesses there and are hindering the growth potential. ‘‘There are comparative advantages in the city that can help it regain its role in the Balkans. To achieve this, all areas need to help: politics, education, entrepreneurship as well as citizens’’, stresses Sophocles Geroulis, one of the participants in the workshop of dialoggers. ‘‘I realized that the target was there. However, does its shift towards the Balkans mean turning its back on Europe?’’, wonders Marlene Brey speaking to Deutsche Welle. More Europe and deepening The work of young journalists took place in groups of two people. The sources they used were the same, but the final result is different and will be presented in detail in Greek as well as in German containing text and video in the next few days on the dialoggers blog. ‘‘You cannot explain what is really going on with the crisis through shortened and simplified news, it takes time and analysis is needed. This is not what was happening in the media in the past few years and this has exacerbated the relations between Greece and Germany’’, says Jochen Markett, editor-in-chief of the workshop on the German side. The collaboration of journalists is perhaps more necessary than ever. ‘‘We need cooperation, especially on complex issues that are about to separate Europe. In my opinion, we need to establish a European newsroom’’, thinks Elina Makri, who was the editor-in-chief on the Greek side. Dialogue, research and collaborations are therefore what is required by us to better inform the citizens.  Diogenis Dimitrakopoulos, Thessaloniki