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Altair’s example answers why Greece has never manufactured cars. What was it that the Americans saw and… landed in Thessaloniki.

If someone was looking for answers and was constantly expressing his discontent over Greece’s failure to develop heavy industry and manufacture cars, a company based in both Thessaloniki and 49 other countries in the world is the most convincing answer. The reason is that this company proves that when a country does not have a heavy industry, it can develop research and staff to become indispensable in heavy industry on a global scale.

The arrival of Altair, which is of American interests, a few years ago in Thessaloniki and the Balkan Center, was accompanied by a number of critical remarks, which, among other things, were questioning this choice. Typical is the example of one of the company executives from America, who was afraid that he was in danger of being kidnapped upon his arrival in Thessaloniki. The reality, however, was completely different to his first impression for the city of Thessaloniki as well as for Greece more broadly.

‘‘We decided to choose a specialist to come to Greece for a year and train our staff. Once he arrived in Greece, he believed that he was in danger of being kidnapped or mugged.The defamation that Greece was receiving was similar to Cambodia or Mexico according to him. He had a change of mind when he saw that everything was rumours told by people that had never visited our country. Within six months he decided to settle permanently in Greece, selling his house in America. He now intends to invest in real estate as well as in other sectors’’

‘‘Everyone thought we were mad when we said that we would settle in Thessaloniki’’

As the Altair’s Chief of Technology, Lazaros Tsioraklidis, has told, ‘‘when Altair announced that it was investing in Thessaloniki six years ago, the US businesses considered us to be crazy for investing in this particular city. Today, US companies with a turnover of more than $ 1 billion annually have directed their attention here, realising that they have lost six years of opportunities and investment in Greece’’.

‘‘As executives of Altair, we have been noticing for many years that a number of Greek engineers and computer programmers are employed by our customers in key positions. We have visited automotive industries and seen many Greek employees. When you see highly skilled people coming from a non-industrial country like Greece, it means that not only do the Greeks emigrate but also have a way to become indispensable in the countries where they are settled. They are well-trained because of Greece’s system. A Greek is examined in all classes of high school to obtain his diploma, thus is constantly tested. Altair has observed that Greece’s workforce had considerable specialization. Given that I also had business experience in the country by already having another company in Thessaloniki, we made the decision to start a business here. All the advisers that we turned to, were arguing that we are heading towards destruction for sure. However, amid the financial crisis, in 2011, we chose to take the first step and disprove everyone’’.

The decision to settle in Thessaloniki, which has shown significant activity in recent years, was a right choice. It is the city where the Alexander Innovation Zone is being developed, hosting innovative businesses, each in its field.

Special software production for large industries

Its scope is related to the production of special software. What the executives of the parent company perceived and chose to come to Greece was the fact that our country has scientific personnel of recognized value and training so that it can expand its research activity. Altair found in Greece the cradle of scientists who take the decision to go abroad to work having completed their studies.

‘‘They once asked the founder and CEO of Altair what it is exactly that we are doing. I also found out myself that when I was assigned to give a presentation on the activities of the company, it would take a lot of time to explain what it is exactly that we are doing, since we are a company with a multidimensional strategy and occupational areas. Our main field of activity is computational engineering, based on cloud or on fluid engineering. Moreover, we deal with cloud computing, optimization engines as well as optimisation through which we hold a leading position in the technology market. Our solutions are chosen by companies that can be found on the Map of Global 500+’’, says Mr. Tsioraklidis. For instance, Altair cooperates with most of the major automotive industries that design and seek to optimise the chassis of their cars and the strain they receive.  Altair is also present in medical technology, providing software, but is also present in companies that calculate electromagnetic radiation as well as in agricultural technology companies.  Listed on Nasdaq Since October, Altair has been listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market.  The acquisition of Solid Iris Apart from Thessaloniki, it is also based in Athens through the former Solid Iris Technologies, which produces photorealistic software. ‘‘It was a very small company, when we spotted it. We liked a lot what it did, while it consists of highly skilled scientists. Now its software is available all over the world via Altair’’.  Networking Start-up Companies Altair’s vision, which is particularly gratifying for Lazaros Tsioraklidis personally, as he admits himself, is the cooperation with innovative start-up companies. ‘‘In this context, we are implementing a programme called Startup program. Small start-up companies can be integrated in this programme to network through Altair globally and sell their software. Fieldscale has already joined the programme, from Thessaloniki, distributing its products all over the world. Our goal is to give the opportunity to young people that were considering migrating abroad, to globalise their ideas and stay in Greece’’. As he says himself, Altair is discussing possible partnerships with several businesses through the Startup program. ‘‘Our goal is not to overshadow these businesses. Our philosophy is based on American standards. Therefore, we believe that it is preferable to work with a small company than to overshadow it. Do not forget that Google is currently working with more than 200 innovative companies without demanding to acquire them. On the contrary, the common belief that prevails in Greece is that someone needs to be trapped in a large enterprise, otherwise he is not accepted’’.  The role of the state in Greece Regarding the role of statism in Greece, he mentions that Altair was confronted with it several times during its presence in Greece. ‘‘I had proposed to Greek universities to cooperate with us in the field of research and technology. The only department that accepted the proposal belongs to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and its professor is of American standards and ideologies, having a lot in common with us. At the moment, the development of one of the major solvers belonging to Altair’s portfolio is being created in the Dynamics Laboratory of the Aristotle University headed by Sotiris Natsiavas. At the same time, we run three research programmes and we intend to increase them in the future’’. Targeting new acquisitions and funding With regard to Altair’s next steps in Greece, the company is also considering new acquisitions and the financing of small companies. ‘‘We are in discussions with businesses wishing to join Altair. We are also constantly testing new technologies aiming at our further development in the country’’. Why Greece does not need to manufacture cars Finally, commenting on the fact that Greece has never developed heavy industry, Mr Tsioraklidis is clear: ‘‘One of my teachers used to tell me that we would not all become scientists in Greece. This is the truth. Greece has no reason to manufacture cars. And indeed, the number one company in car manufacturing per capita is not Germany, as you may think, but Slovakia. The reason is not related to intelligence, but to the lack of infrastructure, including logistics. One cannot transfer a car from Greece to England. Transport costs may, in many cases, exceed the profit earned by the manufacturing plant from each car. Moreover, the reasons are also environmental, but they are related to the existence of suppliers as well. All suppliers should be at a reasonable mileage from the manufacturing plant. For example, the supplier of tires, plastic, seats cannot be at a distance of hundreds of miles from the factory. Thus, I repeat that we really do not have to manufacture cars in Greece. Our country could export technology like Estonia and Israel, creating technology parks. Greece has the scientists, who are now part of some of the largest automotive industries. It could as well make good use of the workforce by creating infrastructure for research and development and by selling know-how and innovation globally’’. Altair in numbers Over 5,000 customers worldwide Turnover: EUR 400 million Personnel internationally: around 3,000 people 2,000 scientists 500 people administrative staff 500 people for support services Presence in 50 states with 70 offices Personnel in Greece 20 people in Greece 9 in Thessaloniki Its main customers AirbusVolkswagen Porsche Opel Ford Toyota Honda Nissan.

A hidden engine of recovery

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In the midst of crisis, the tourism industry has done well, as we all know, as well as some export-oriented manufacturers, which are known to those who follow the financial press. Yet few people know that information technology products and services have also grown a lot. Statistical data shows an increase in employment in software and electronic equipment from 18,000 workers in 2013 to 28,000 in 2017 (+ 55%). The increase is much higher than that of total employment in Greece (+6%) as well as much higher than that of total employment in corresponding sectors across the EU (+13%).

Growth was not mainly driven by local companies that create their own products, produce on their premises and sell with their own salesforce, as is the case in other industries. New employment in information technology is more as part of international production chains for businesses based elsewhere. I have noticed six models for the expansion of the sector.

First, businesses that are founded here and grow on the basis of innovation or the quality of their product. These are the better known cases. Some are startups, i.e. they have a fast-growth business model with an innovative and standardized product that can be made available internationally. Others have grown gradually but steadily, starting before the crisis, and continuing afterwards.

Second, local companies of the first category, acquired by large international companies, whose new owners increase employment in the Greek unit because they believe that it has a good quality of technical know-how with a competitive cost. Third, multinationals or smaller foreign companies that have decided to establish a product development or customer service center in Greece for the international market. In some cases, these centers employ hundreds of highly qualified workers. Fourth, local companies that provide product development services for foreign customers from developed countries, with comparatively low cost and good quality (outsourcing). Fifth, spin-offs of the local companies of the previous category, with a specialized offering, that are sold by the parent company to leading global players.

Finally, there are many engineers that work from home for clients in the US or Europe. Many work full-time for one employer. Some of them manage teams that are scattered across three continents. Others are freelancers who serve two or three customers in parallel. Hours are flexible for some, while for others hours are defined by the customer, which means that they work at night.

The sector is booming because of it is outward-looking and not dependent on domestic consumption. Because it does not need special facilities that require permits, it only needs office buildings, and and in some cases not even that. Because it does not require a large initial investment in equipment and infrastructure, but invests only in people, who are recruited gradually. Because Greek tax on profits does not matter if your headquarters and sales are out of the country. Because there are still quite a few young people who have strived hard to get educated more than what the ordinary degree of a public university requires them to do, and want to stay here. Because of the good quality of life in beautiful Greece if one has a decent salary and does not have a big family.

This model of light investment with good salaries could become a major pillar of the economy if three things change: the excessive taxation on incomes exceeding 30,000 per year, which drives away the most skilled employees. The situation in schools, which drives away those who want good education for their children. And the situation in universities, which drives away professors and researchers.

Two ministries, three laws and five years of persistent implementation can make a big difference.

*Mr. Aristos Doxiadis is partner in Big Pi Ventures, a fund for technology startups in Greece.


Interview of the president of Alexander Innovation Zone

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In recent years, Thessaloniki’s imprint on the global innovation map is becoming stronger and stronger. We estimate –along with the precariousness due to the lack of systematic reliable recording of relevant official indicators – that over the last three years about 1000 jobs have been created in innovative enterprises from foreign direct investment in the city.If one combines this fact with the parallel development of domestic start-up companies as well as scale up companies, comes to the conclusion that there is an undergoing peaceful revolution in Thessaloniki quietly and away from the spotlight that is creating a new working reality and unprecedented dynamics in its economy. This is first perceived by the entrepreneurs and the human resources managers of the technology companies in the city who are increasingly complaining lately that they cannot find available personnel. In other words, we are noticing a sector with negative unemployment when the total unemployment rates,both nationally and in Central Macedonia,have remained above 20% over ten years now. There are of course two other factors that contribute to this; many young scientists choose to work freelance or move to another country.

Even so, what is a given is that there is an atmosphere of optimism and creativity that is directly perceived by those who move to specific parts of the city where innovative enterprises are concentrated, mainly on the eastern side of the city, where the Thessaloniki Innovation Zone has been delimited. This is not incidental at all along with the fact that the boom in foreign direct investment in innovation businesses began to appear a year after the city’s branding initiative under the general title “Thessaloniki Innovation Friendly Destination”, which the Alexander Innovation Zone in cooperation with the Municipality and business and research institutions undertook. How do we convince them all to come here? Yes, we have a very good quality of human resources, but it is not enough, since it can be found elsewhere as well. Labor costs are indeed still competitive compared to other Western European and North American countries, but they are more competitive elsewhere.

What is there that cannot be found elsewhere? First of all, there is a wonderful environment to experience and I refer to both the climate and the community.The city is as big as it should be so you do not get bored and as small as it needs to be so as not to get lost, as much international as you need to be able to integrate, and as much as Greek to have colour. Secondly, our fellow citizens have a very good knowledge of foreign languages. This may sound insubstantial or self-evident, but it is extremely important, because it is scarce on an international scope. Thirdly, we have been successful in business innovations that impress when showcased especially in the niche market where we are world leaders, such as simulation software for the automotive industry or building materials. Finally, very important is the fact that there are Greeks everywhere, Greeks who grew up and / or studied in Thessaloniki,who are in positions of responsibility or co-decide development initiatives for the corporations they work for and who do not have to be convinced of our worth because they already know. This is the most direct and practical example I know of BrainDrain’s famous transformation into BrainGain. What do we have to do from now on to reinforce this trend of foreign and domestic investment already recorded? I think the answer is easy and obvious.

The first thing we need to do is to further strengthen our comparative advantages. For example, regarding the affair of the environment, we have worked out a plan in cooperation with the Municipalities of Thermi and Pylea – Chortiatis for the regeneration of the Thessaloniki Innovation Zone, which will make it comparable to the top international examples we have studied (mainly referred to BostonInnovationDistrict and Barcelona@22 which have been analysed in the strategic development of the Innovation Zone presented by AIZ last spring) and which we are expecting the Region of Central Macedonia to adopt. Another example is the initiative we have taken to develop the Agri-food Digital Innovation Hub in the first Pocket of Innovation of the Alexander Innovation Zone. The primary sector and its processing besides being the first priority in the region’s smart specialization strategy can be another area that we will excel at, since it has a tremendous potential for improvement by introducing innovation in its processes, productivity per acre, product quality and the selling price, among others.

The second thing we need to do is to build on the initial success and to continue with greater intensity and confidence. For this reason, the next initiative of the Alexander Innovation Zone will be called ‘‘Move toThessaloniki’’ through which we will invite the creative people of innovation to move to Thessaloniki where they will find work that will inspire them in an environment that encourages them. It is a point of reference that innovation is for the first time a central theme in the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) and that the honoured country is the US. All the available data show that with elementary moves to encourage entrepreneurship, as for example some of the main motives of the list we have processed and presented, we will witness an investment boom focusing on innovation in Thessaloniki in the coming years. I am convinced that we will be talking about this with enthusiasm in the next International Fairs of Thessaloniki to come.



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Great interest in medical services with the use of artificial intelligence technologies, block chain and the Internet of Things.

Health services, transport and urban travel, transaction security, are some of the services developed by innovative companies in Thessaloniki are at the heart of new technologies and are already expanding successfully outside Greece.

Eight innovative businesses in Thessaloniki were presented by their creators at an event organized by the Alexander Innovation Zone (AIZ) in the framework of the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) and the strong presence of start-ups at the Digital Greece Pavilion.

The delivery of the presentation and discussion to the entrepreneurs and the audience was coordinated by the president of AIZ, Dr. Pantelis Angelidis, pointing out that a lot of important work is being done by innovative companies in Thessaloniki, which the public is now beginning to get to know despite already using products and services of some of these companies.

Mr. Thomas Hatzistergiou has spoken about the already well-known Booking Clinic, a platform that brings users of medical services close to clinics, diagnostic centers and is very close to the philosophy of medical tourism, mentioning that 17 clinics, 4 in Romania, 1 in Croatia have contracted with Booking Clinic, while contacts are ongoing with India as well.

Vassilis Keramaris, founder of the iQ Taxi company, has spoken about a B2B company that is ‘‘the only hope for taxi cooperatives to survive against taxibeat services’’. IQTaxi serves taxi cooperatives in Greece as well as in the US, Bulgaria and Saudi Arabia, and is profitable even though it is only in its third year of operation.

Mrs. Iphigenia Paparoussi explained that Leaders Lab, making use of e-learning, specializes in the development of leadership skills and is designed to help with the development of businesses.

Mr. Kostas Votis presented Mind Med, a platform for self-management of chronic diseases, that started with asthma and continues with diabetes making use of artificial intelligence technologies, Block Chain, for data security as well as IOT (Internet of Things) since the user of the service uses wearables as well.

StοneWave was presented by Mr. George Chatzopoulos. The company produces horizontal software, has designed the technological part in 17 start-ups, and through these collaborations, in which it operates as a CTO (Chief Technology Officer), is in some cases a shareholder.

Blockachain, as Mrs. Maria Matthaiou said, is a company that specialises in data analytics and transaction security. Blockachain is a joint venture of ATC, a software company, and Vidavo, a telemedicine company.

Miss Anna Chlioura has said that the already known company in Thessaloniki, EleKtronio, which manufactures electric three-wheeled bicycles, is preparing to expand its product range through outsourcing.

Finally, Mrs. Mara Tsoumari said that SentiGeek combines hybrid technologies that allow the analysis of a text in depth to draw on the personality of the person who wrote it.


Do you have a business idea on Circular Economy?

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Bring your idea to the Competition organized by Alexander Innovation Zone, in the context of the ECOCITY FORUM 2018 International Conference, that takes place on October 3-5, at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall.


Please, fill in the application form until September 28, 2018 and you can claim a place among the winners!

The top 5 ideas that will be evaluated by the Competition Evaluation Committee, will be presented at an open event on Friday, October 5, 2018 while winners’ awards will take place during the closing ceremony of the Conference on the afternoon of the same day.

Grand prize for the winner: Participation (incl. travel and accommodation expenses) in a Conference, depending on the subject of interest + free fast track acceleration 3month program offered byOK!Thess.

Prize for the second and third winner: Free fast track acceleration 3month program offered by OK!Thess.

Information to fill in the application:

  • Be brief and inclusive.
  • It’s not mandatory to answer all the fields. Though for the evaluation of your idea the committee needs to have enough info to form a clear picture of your idea.
  • Alexander Innovation Zone will use the application form and personal data exclusively for the evaluation of your idea.


Greece finances innovation with 4 programmes

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The amount of 300 million euros is currently available to businesses in Greece as a form of direct support for the implementation of innovative investment plans for growth and modernization or to boost their export activity. These aids come from NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) resources and in particular through the Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (EPAnEK), managed by the Ministry of Economy and Development. The ‘‘emblematic’’ programmes of EPAnEK that are currently in progress, are the ‘‘twin’’ actions ‘‘Digital Step’’ and ‘‘Digital Leap’’, ‘‘Quality Modernization’’ and ‘‘We Do Business Outside’’.

The first and third programmes are focused on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, while the second concerns only medium-sized enterprises,in accordance with the definition of community. That is, enterprises that employ from 50 and in each case fewer than 250 employees and the annual turnover does not exceed € 50 million or the total annual balance sheet does not exceed € 43 million.

The ‘‘twin’’ actions

The “Digital Step” and the “Digital Leap” actions,with a total public spending of € 100 million (from € 50 million each), have been designed to boost the beneficiary businesses either to make their first digital steps or be upgraded even more.

The percentage of the subsidy is set at 50% of the investment plan which will be submitted and the interested parties will be able to acquire new equipment, software and Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The amount of the grant may be up to 200,000 euros.Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that have completed at least two full accounting periods and keep B and C category accounting books until 31.12.2017 are entitled to participate in the actions. The closing date for applications is October 2 2018. It is to be noted that the expiration day of the initial deadline was September 17, but a slight extension was given.

‘‘The Digital Step’’ refers to digitally immature businesses (low or middle digital rank), which can submit an investment budget plan of between € 5,000 and € 50,000.

The ‘‘Digital Leap’’ refers to digitally mature businesses respectively (higher or highest digital rank), which will be able to submit an investment budget plan of between € 55,000 and € 400,000.


Subsidized expenditure

Under the two actions, the following costs are subsidized:

  1. Supply, transport, installation and operation of new machinery and other ICT equipment necessary for the operation of the business and the security of the provided services.
  2. Software supply and parameterization.
  3. Online shop necessarily with features:

-At least two languages

-Μobile responsive

-Ordering, storage and electronic payments software

  1. Services related to:
  • hospitality (hosting, collocation)
  • internet connection
  • digital advertising (google ads, facebook ads)
  • development of digital advertising material
  • development and / or certification of digital security policy,
  • data transfer or software parameterization
  1. Employee cost (new staff).



Quality modernization

The said programme concerns the boosting of existing medium-sized enterprises, and as a matter of priority, those active in the nine strategic areas of EPAnEK in order for them to upgrade and improve their competitive position in the internal and external market by investing in their modernization and quality upgrading.

With a budget (public spending) of 150 million euros and a subsidy rate of 50%, the programme subsidizes investment plans ranging from 50,000 to 400,000 euros, including the acquisition of new modern machines and equipment in general, necessary for the operation of the enterprise and the pursuing of its economic activity, the introduction of quality management systems, the designing, the standardization and certification of products.

Additionally,costs of transport procurement, consultancy services for the monitoring of the investment plan as well as full wage costs for newly recruited staff are being boosted.

The submission of applications has begun since June 27 and will remain open until the available budget is exhausted and 18 months after the initial publication of the call at the latest.


Eligible areas of activity

As already mentioned,the submitted investment plans concern – as a matter of priority – the following strategic areas of the Operational Programme ‘‘Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation’’ (EPAnEK):

  • Agri-Food / Food Industry
  • Energy
  • Supply chain
  • Cultural and creative industries (CCIs)
  • Environment
  • Tourism
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
  • Health
  • Materials – Constructions.

It is noted that companies with even one of the following ineligible NACE (Activity Code Number) are excluded from the action:

  1. Plant and animal production, hunting and relevant activities
  2. Forestry and logging
  3. Fishery and aquaculture

It is underlined that investment projects with a budget of less than € 50,000 are considered ineligible and cannot be submitted. If the investment plan has a budget of more than € 400,000, the excess amount will be considered a 100% private contribution to the project.

In this case, although the excess costs are not subsidized, the subject of evaluation and monitoring – control is the entire investment plan including the extra cost. In any case, the deadline for the completion of the funded investments may not exceed 24 months from the date the decision of inclusion has been adopted.

The categories of eligible programme costs are briefly as follows:

  1. Machinery – Equipment
  2. Quality Management System Certification,
  3. Design, standardization and product certification
  4. Transport
  5. Drafting and monitoring of the investment plan
  6. Employee cost (new staff) supported by the ECB (European Central Bank) (use of a flexibility clause).




We Do Business Outside

With a budget of € 50 million, the “We Do Business Outside” programme aims at boosting small and medium-sized businesses, so they can participate in international trade fairs. In particular, through the “We Do Business Outside” programme, small exporters will be able to take up to € 50,000 in total within 30 months to strengthen their extraversion.

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which have completed at least one accounting period of 12 months before the date of the electronic submission of the application for funding, have eligible Activity Code Numbers

(NACE) for products they wish to promote through their participation in trade fairs, they already produce / process these products, are already engaged in export activity and at least 2% of the annual turnover comes from exports of products they produce / process.

Applications may be submitted until June 2018, unless the available budget is exhausted.





Terms and conditions

Every business can apply for funding up to € 100,000.

The budget per trade fair amounts to the following figures:

  • up to 20,000 euros per fair in the case of participation with a booth of up to 20 square metres, with a maximum public grant of 10,000 euros
  • up to € 35,000 per fair in the case of participation with a booth of up to 50 square metres, with a maximum public grant of € 17,500
  • up to € 50,000 per fair in the case of participation with a booth of more than 50 square metres, with a maximum public grant of 25,000 euros.


What is funded

The eligible costs under the programme are as follows:

  • Cost of participation and registration costs in the Fair catalog
  • Travel and accommodation costs for up to 4 representatives of the company participating in each trade fair, such as air tickets and individual transportation to and from the trade fair area
  • Accommodation in the country where the fair takes place.
  • Stand rent, construction / modulation costs and equipment rental (e.g. audiovisual equipment).
  • Cost of sending and returning exhibits, including the cost of insuring them
  • Remuneration of specialized external partners necessary for the management / operation of the stand (e.g. interpreter, stand guard, etc.)
  • Cost of leaflet design and translation

Expenditure is eligible from the date on which the application for funding is submitted electronically for up to 30 months from the date of the decision to put the investment projects into action.






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Lufthansa’s General Sales Manager in Greece and Cyprus speaks to about Thessaloniki as a destination and the plans of the company.

With increased expectations for the success of the Thessaloniki-Frankfurt flight, the German airline, Lufthansa, returns to the city this October following an absence of 17 years. Speaking to, Lufthansa’s General Sales Manager in Greece and Cyprus, Konstantinos Tzevelekos stresses that in recent years Thessaloniki has taken its place on the map as an important tourist destination for the whole year. At the same time, he estimates that the continuing investments in both the port and the airport will show the geostrategic importance of its location and this will have a direct positive impact on attracting businesses and hence on the demand for business trips.

According to Mr. Tzevelekos, Lufthansa is considering the possibility of direct connection between Thessaloniki and Munich, while discussions on the inclusion of new destinations on the routes of the Lufthansa’s Group airlines, Austrian Airlines and Eurowings from Makedonia airport are in progress.


The interview of Lufthansa’s General Sales Manager in Greece and Cyprus, Konstantinos Tzevelekos, at


  • The business community as well as the municipality of Thessaloniki have been calling in recent years for Lufthansa to restore the Frankfurt-Thessaloniki flight. Why did the company leave Thessaloniki in 2001 and what is it that changed and led the company to the decision to return to the city?


The decision of the Lufthansa Group to reestablish the Thessaloniki-Frankfurt route was based both on Northern Greece’s travel market and on the tourist perspective of the city. In recent years, Thessaloniki has taken its place on the map as an important tourist destination for the whole year. Its special features, capabilities and culture are being utilized more effectively today and the city has regained the momentum of attracting even more tourists, tourist investments and businesses. Indicative factors of this growth are the increase in the number of overnight stays in hotels as well as the expansion of business relations with Germany.

Lufthansa had been present in Thessaloniki for many years. It left in 2001, a year when air transport suffered a major blow after the events of the twin towers in New York and the forced adaptation of the flight network. At the same time, the signs of falling demand and purchasing power in the region were intense resulting in this air link being unsustainable.


  • What are the company’s goals and expectations for this flight since it is part of the winter programme, which is less of a tourist interest?


I am optimistic about the movement and completeness of the positions during the winter season. Thessaloniki can also attract German tourists in the winter, as it is an excellent suggestion for short excursions – since there are areas of natural, historical, archaeological and cultural interest in a very short distance – as well as a city break destination. Let us not forget that it is the largest urban centre of Northern Greece. It is a vibrant city all day long, it has its own special ‘‘colour’’, and has become widely known for its gastronomy and quality entertainment options.

In addition, we believe that the continuing investments in both the port and the airport will show the geostrategic importance of its location and this will have a direct positive impact on attracting businesses and hence on the demand for business trips.


  • At a recent meeting organized by the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Thessaloniki, the Lufthansa Group’s Flight Management Team reported that the possibility of linking with Munich is explored. How mature is this plan?


Greece is a key market for the Lufthansa Group. Our interest remains firmly focused on the domestic developments and competition in the country’s aviation market. In this context, the discussion of additional Lufthansa Group investments in our country is ongoing. The possibility of direct connection between Thessaloniki and Munich has not been rejected, but for our part there is no specific information about the timing of the implementation of the plan.


– What is the presence of the Lufthansa Group in Thessaloniki? Is there a plan for linking Makedonia airport to new destinations?

Two more airlines of the Lufthansa Group, Austian Airlines and Eurowings, will offer flights this winter from Thessaloniki to popular destinations in Germany and Austria. Eurowings – the low-cost and high-quality Lufthansa’s subsidiary – will connect Thessaloniki with Cologne-Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Stuttgart, while Austrian Airlines will offer direct flights to Vienna.

Discussions on new destinations are in progress, but there is no decision that we can announce at this time.


– How does the growing presence of low-cost airlines but also companies outside Europe affect the firm and the airline map of Europe?

The presence of low-cost airlines as well as companies outside Europe clearly causes increased competition in our industry. Increasing competition in its turn leads airlines to seek ways to improve the competitiveness of their aviation product. New destinations, more routes, frequent flyer rewards, offers, specialised services and in-flight entertainment are the main features that airlines are focusing on to distinguish themselves in the competition arena.

The frequency of routes, the easy and fast airport transfers, the state-of-the-art modern aircrafts, the cabin spaces, the lounges, the in-flight services, the attractive frequent flyer programmes – as much for those travelling for personal reasons or for pleasure, and for those who travel for business – and of course the overall value for money, are Lufthansa’s top quality features that maintain high competitive strengths in its products and services.

At the same time, the Lufthansa Group is continuously improving the quality of its services and the passenger’s overall travel experience – from the moment he buys the ticket to the moment of the arrival at the destination – investing in the digitisation and personalisation of air services in order to be able to understand and meet the need of each of our passengers separately.

The ‘‘kingdom’’ of street, track, sky and space simulation is in Thessaloniki

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The world’s largest carmakers, from Mercedes to Toyota and from Peugeot to Honda, have been using Greek emission simulation and antifouling engine technology for a few years now, developed by researchers based in Thessaloniki. The Formula 1 teams have also been using this technology. At the same time, the Commission, 22 out of the 28 EU member states and the government of Hong Kong also rely on Greek ‘‘lights’’ for the census of pollutant emissions from road transport. Also, scientists in Thessaloniki are working on technologies that have raised NASA’s interest, while laboratories where Greek researchers are employed invent technologies in Northern Greece that reach the Airbus aircrafts.

Some decades ago, the phrase ‘‘Technology Made in Greece’’, especially for the automotive industry, would probably cause question if not smirks in the foreign markets, but now, companies such as ‘‘BETA CAE’’ based in K. Scholari of Thessaloniki and spin-offs such as ‘‘EXOTHERMIA’’ and ‘‘EMISIA’’, created in 2007 and 2008 respectively, within the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, have begun to change the image by creating important islets of innovation in the field of simulation and in general CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering). At the same time, the high level of the Greek research force has drawn in Northern Greece foreign companies from cutting-edge industries, such as the US ‘‘ALTAIR’’, which through Thessaloniki produces research work exploited even by Airbus. In any case, it is now clear that the environment that is formed in the area, where the Alexander Innovation Zone is active, is absolutely appropriate for the development of business activities characterized by innovation and high specialization.

Large room for investments in next generation access networks in Northern Greece

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The implementation of the ‘‘Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB)’’ project by the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media aims at mapping private investment projects related to Next Generation Access (NGA). This particular project, which has to do particularly with Northern Greece, aims at creating the necessary infrastructure for the provision of high-speed broadband internet services in areas of the country which are not covered by such networks.

With the detailed listing of private investments, which are scheduled by the end of 2023, the General Secretariat for Telecommunications and Post of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media will be given the opportunity to plan in the best possible way the new action, which forms part of an intervention grid for the full coverage of the country by fiber-optic networks. This is expected to change the image and broaden the growth potential of the domestic digital economy, which will decisively facilitate the promotion of innovative projects, solutions and proposals.

The ‘‘Ultra-Fast Broadband’ project will be implemented through Public-Private Partnerships with a budget of 350 million euros. The financial size of the project itself shows the needs that exist and the perspectives that are being created, while the public involvement funds come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – Operational Programme ‘‘Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship, Innovation’’ (EPAnEK) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP).

Two stores of digital transformation operate in Thessaloniki

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The Nanotechnology Laboratory and the nZEB  Smart House function as ‘‘one stop stores’’ with the aim of digital business transformation.

Five centers that support businesses with their digital transformation, Digital Innovation Hub, are already operating in Greece as ‘‘one stop stores’’, where companies, mainly small and medium enterprises, start ups and small cap businesses are being helped to improve their business models, offered services, production lines and products through Digital Technology.

This is a pan-European goal set in 2016 in the framework of the European Union Strategy for a Single Digital Market, so that any business in Europe in any sector, regardless of its location and size, can take advantage of the benefits that stem from the digital innovations.

There are five DIHs in Greece, two of which are in Thessaloniki. Something quite normal and expected for the Greek standards, since the Alexander Innovation Zone SA is active in the city, which aims at promoting innovation as a business practice and a comparative advantage in the wider region.

Analytically these are:

The LTFN Nanotechnology Laboratory, with its facilities at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Center for Organic and Printed Electrical Engineering (COPE-H) in the area of Thermi in Thessaloniki.

The ‘‘Athena’’ Research Center in Athens

The nZEB Smart House – Smart Energy House, in Thessaloniki.

The Center for Digital Innovation in Blue Growth

According to the Nanotechnology Laboratory announcement, coordinated by the Research Institutions of Excellence, DIHs offer: 1) access to digital technologies, tools and know-how, 2) infrastructures for testing new technologies, 3) educational activities for the development of digital skills, 4) consulting services for finding funding schemes, 5) market analyses, 6) networking opportunities. Practices that offer practical business solutions.

”In the European Union the fully functioning DIHs are 174, and another 500 are in a preparatory phase. The outcome of the New Digital Age and at the same time one of the ten European Union’s political priorities for the next decade is the achievement of the Digital Single Market (DSM). The EU objective is the integrated Single Digital Market that will bring

€ 415 billion per year to its economy, creating new jobs, new businesses and enabling existing businesses to be aimed at a market of 500 million people, developing public services and establishing an open government system”, explains the person responsible for issues of extroversion and exploitation of innovation at the LTFN Nanotechnology Laboratory of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the HOPE-A Hellenic Organic and Printed Electronics Association, Phoebe Logothetidis.

European Platform of National Initiatives, but not for us…

60% of large enterprises and 90% of small businesses lag behind the integration of digital innovations with wide variations being recorded between different sectors of the industry. Great emphasis is put on the preparation of the Europeans for the New Digital Age so as to take advantage of the benefits of Digital Transformation. The education system will be adapted and the workforce will be trained in similar skills. The Digital Innovation Hubs will play a key role in assessing the skills needs of the workforce of businesses and providing appropriate educational services.

”Appropriate policies and the appropriate channeling of funds are needed to effectively adapt to the new era. The European Platform of National Initiatives launched in March 2017 with the commitment of the member states and the attraction of investments and various cooperative actions. There are already 15 national initiatives, in which however Greece is not included, and this shows that we have not acted promptly.

A source of funding for the DEI initiative and, more specifically, the DIHs project would be the proper capitalisation of funds from the ”European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). However, this is determined by the National and Regional Strategies for Digital Development and Research and Technology Strategies for Smart Specialization (RIS3), which need to emphasize or even integrate such initiatives into their plans”, as noted in the relevant announcement.