Elevate Greece: The new innovative program to support agri-food startup

Agri-food startups occupy the fourth place, in terms of population, in the National Register – Elevate Greece and the aim of the Ministry of Development and Investments is to connect, more effectively, the agricultural economy and production with research and entrepreneurship, in combination with the use of new innovative technologies.

A targeted network of support policies for agri-food startups outside urban centers, through Elevate Greece and regions, is already being studied, while as the Deputy Minister of Development and Investments, Christos Dimas, underlines in his statements, “there are many examples of greek startups that achieve great investment results and agreements with international firms of great scope. Our goal is to create a better environment so that more innovative ideas in sustainable businesses can be created.”

According to the data, 39 agri-food startups have been registered, employing more than 227 people, and the total funding they have received from investment funds exceeds 15.45 million euros and the dominant technology they choose is the Internet of Things

“The primary sector in Greece has all the prerequisites to become one of the main drivers of economic growth”, notes Dimas and adds: “the climate crisis, precision agriculture and smart farming are challenges that will concern us in the coming decades and in order not to be overtaken by developments we should invest in research and innovation.

The “profile” of the companies that have joined the Elevate Greece platform, shows that the business model chosen by the companies involved in agrotechnology, is B2B at a rate of more than 49%, while on the other hand the B2G model chooses 6% of businesses. In between B2C chooses 21% of companies and B2B2C 23%

The dominant source of funding for businesses is Equity (self-financing), with grants being the next option, while lending is a last option.

The most common revenue model is service subscriptions along with charges per product sale and regarding the penetration of new technologies in the field of agri-food, the main technologies used by businesses are the Internet of Things, modern software, as well as large-scale data analysis. Next are robotics, cloud computing, drones, fintechs, imaging, networks, etc.

The Deputy Minister notes: “the more effective connection of scientific research and specialized knowledge with agricultural production and the primary sector is a very big challenge, but also a challenge that will not only have an economic impact, but also a social and environmental footprint.

Elevate’s cooperation with the regions

From the mapping of the ecosystem of startups, as mentioned by the Deputy Minister, an important element that emerges from the mapping of the ecosystem is the need to strengthen the businesses operating in the region

Specifically, Christos Dimas notes: “The distribution of 47% of startups in the agri-food sector in the Attica region is an element that concerns us, as the development of the greek economy is not only a matter that only concerns urban centers, but the entire territory. A targeted network of policies is already being studied, through the cooperation of Elevate Greece with the regions in order to support startups, located outside urban centers and employing in the primary sector’.

Moreover, as Christos Dimas underlines, the General Secretariat for Research and Innovation, plans for the new NSRF important actions aimed at development in specific thematic areas. The agri-food sector remains one of the main pillars of the Smart Specialization Strategy (RIS3) and in the new NSRF 2021-2027 aiming at a more effective connection of the primary sector with research and innovation.

More effective link between the agricultural economy and research and the use of new innovative technologies

On the occasion of the data on the participation of agri-food in the Elevate Greece platform, and the question whether Greece can innovate by utilizing new technology and research in agricultural production or simply the traditional empirical agriculture continues, the Deputy Minister states:”Undoubtedly, our country has fertile land, rich sunshine, ideal climatic conditions with rare flora and fauna, in order to develop its rural economy and production. What has not been done so far, however, to the extent that we could, is to link the agricultural economy and production more effectively with research and entrepreneurship, combined with the use of new innovative technologies. The aim is to upgrade the quality of products, the increase of agricultural income and of course the increase of the GDP of the primary sector.

Greece has the privilege of having excellent research and business talent which we need to equip with the right tools in order for the domestic innovation ecosystem to become more competitive internationally. There are many examples of greek startups that achieve great investment results and agreements with international firms, of great scope. Our goal is to to create a better environment for more innovative ideas to develop into sustainable businesses.

The more effective connection of scientific research and specialized knowledge with agricultural production and the primary sector is a very big challenge, but also a challenge that will not only have an economic impact, but also a social and environmental footprint. It is a fact that some of our competitors in the agri-food sector, such as Israel, the Netherlands and other EU countries achieve multiple yield with the use of innovation and new technologies in some product varieties.

If we want to be competitive at international level, we must make the best use of the potential of our skilled human resources and the tools that now exist in research, technology and the innovation ecosystem.

We design the tools so that we can achieve an integrated approach to the management of agricultural activity, which, utilizing new technologies and scientific-research knowledge, aims at improving production results and causes multiple benefits to the agricultural harvest, but also to the environment. The development of this project can make the greek primary sector one of the leaders in the European market and not only.

Collaboration between startups and the research ecosystem

The NSRF call “Research-Create-Innovate” in which 216 projects are implemented, has the largest participation of projects in implementation (~21%) of total expenditure, public and private, of 127.9 million euros. Of these, agri-food concerns the following: 

7 Innovation Clusters of the agri-food sector have been approved for implementation.

2 Competence Centres of the agri-food sector have been approved. The Competence Centres, having the necessary infrastructure and know-how, have as their main purpose the support of innovation in key sectors of the greek economy, through the provision of specialized / innovative services / products and the transfer of technology to businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

“There is a brilliant field of cooperation between startups and the research ecosystem of the country (Agricultural Universities, ELGO Dimitra, departments of Polytechnic Schools, etc.)” as the Deputy Minister comments.

Elevate Greece: 523 startups with over 4,800 employees 

Finally, Christos Dimas recalls that, until recently, the greek state did not have a clear definition of which businesses are considered as startups, nor was there a mechanism for evaluation and monitoring. “This gap was filled by the establishment of the National Startup Register Elevate Greece. Within one year of its creation and operation, 523 startups have registered, employing more than 4,800 people. In other words, we have, for the first time in Greece, a clear and mapped picture of the innovation ecosystem at the level of start-ups and thus the State has the ability to design policies tailored to the needs of the ecosystem.

He adds: “the state has in its hands an essential tool through which it provides specialized incentives to startups. More specifically, tax deductions for angel investors have been legislated, a favorable institutional framework for stock options, their free promotion on the Elevate Greece platform at the Thessaloniki International Fair, even NSRF actions to enhance their liquidity (“Support of Startups of the National Registry “Elevate Greece” for the combat of the Covid-19 pandemic”). At the same time, through Elevate Greece there is access to a wide network of official supporters from banks and multinational companies that provide cash prizes, specialized banking products, access to global innovation networks, free cloud services as well as mentoring and much more. 

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