Ioannina: The high-tech hub of Southern Europe

Epirus has been evolving into an international technology hub for the last five years, focusing on investments from leading German software and cutting-edge software companies and the huge interest of industry giants with a global reputation. Greek Startups, teams with innovative ideas and developers from all over the world move to Ioannina and dozens of Startups, with emphasis on research and digital and innovation, are developed in the Science and Technology Park of Ioannina. And this is just the beginning

STARTUPPER MAG continues its journey in Greece. The next stop of its trip is Epirus and the city of Ioannina. Through the following tribute we will discover the way in which the region has managed to face the challenges of the past and “build”, with slow and steady steps, a new profile.At the heart of this demanding and ambitious struggle are of course the local businesses, which support their country over time and consistently, as well as the attraction of foreign investments. Among them stands out the vote of confidence from two German “giants” in the field of information technology, such as TeamViewer and P&I.

The first has created an impressive hub for Research and Technology in Ioannina, while the second is hosted in the Science and Technology Park of Epirus, which has also played, in turn, a decisive role in shaping the “new image” of the region, since it actively supports the introduction of new and innovative technologies in both the private and the public sector. In fact, its success is so great that it led the Region of Epirus to proceed to the creation of a new park of High Technology and Research, in the area of Pedini, in order to meet the demand. But how a region that faced great economic difficulties (and in the lowest indices of the European Union), not only managed to reverse the situation, but went so far as to “force” the German channel ARD, in a relevant report, to call Ioannina as “the Silicon Valley of Europe” – not just of Greece – and the Prime Minister to call the region a “digital transformation hub?

A decisive role was played by the fact that 20 of the largest companies in Greece have their headquarters and productive activity in Epirus, with an export character and emphasis on modernization and investments in research and innovation. Among them, the Epirotic Bottling Industry VIKOS S.A., which is considered a pioneer in the bottled water industry, has identified its name with quality and has been investing in innovation for almost 30 years.In fact, the new production and bottling plant in Kalpaki, Ioannina, is now characterized as the top in the country. Also, PINDOS, which constantly invests in research, technology and innovation, having the only model research units in collaboration with universities in Greece, as well as EPIRUS SA, which has the most modern factory for the production of cheese products in our country.

Chitos S.A. – Zagori Natural Mineral Water S.A. is also making investments focusing on innovation in the “green” economy and the development of high quality products, with many international distinctions, as well as the DODONI dairy industry, which has won international awards for almost half a century.In addition, both the Region along with the local government – in cooperation with the University of Ioannina – and important entrepreneurs of Epirus were targeted at attracting foreign investments, pushing governments over time to establish incentives and decentralize investment plans by foreign schemes and companies.

The German “technological landing”

The prospects of Ioannina quickly attracted the interest of important high-tech companies which took the big step to invest in a small, but full of vitality, city of the Greek province.The start was made by P&I Hellas, a subsidiary of the German P&I Personal&Informatik AG, which began in July 2017 at the city’s technology park. The main activities of the company are the development and the improvement of software applications that are products of the parent company.

Of course, the big name in the business scene of Ioannina is the also German TeamViewer. Two years after P&I, the leading German technology company with a market capitalization of 6 billion dollars, chose Ioannina for its Greek section, while, among other things, it has put “in the works” the creation of an extensive hub in the area. TeamViewer currently employs 50 specialized employees in technology and software, while the company’s goal is for the human resources to reach 200 in the next few years.

It is worth mentioning that the majority of employees are related to the city, acting as an incentive for themselves and for other young people to return to their place of origin, reversing the braindrain towards the major urban centers of Greece and abroad. It is noted that both P&I and TeamViewer belong to the British fund Permira, which manages funds amounting to 44 billion euros.

The general manager of the Greek subsidiary, Philip Doycher, has in the past explained precisely the idea behind TeamViewer’s decision. “A number of factors are in favour of Greece, such as the remarkable and still untapped human resources and the good local conditions. The choice of Ioannina is mainly due to the city’s university, which, with 20,000 students, belongs to the most recognized educational institutions in the country.The competition in the local labour market is not particularly intense, so we have a good chance of hiring, but also keeping, the best that we find in the region. In Ioannina many partners are still new, but they quickly enter the spirit of the company and identify with TeamViewer.”

The potential of Ioannina, as a high-tech hub, has also been praised by the Ambassador of Germany to Greece, Ernst Reichel, speaking at an event of the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Some innovative German companies have discovered, for example, Ioannina as an attractive place due to the large number of very well-trained, creative young people, the dynamic ecosystem and other favorable conditions. Research and innovation are an increasingly important reason for German companies to do business in Greece.”

Through the German ambassador, another investment by a German company in the capital of Epirus was confirmed. BestSecret, the third company of the Permira fund, is expected to operate soon in Ioannina.The clothing and footwear resale company has reportedly already found the site, and is expected to create 20 new jobs.A big role in the business development of Ioannina has been played by the work of the Epirus Science and Technology Park, which for two decades has been actively supporting the technology companies based in the Region.

In particular, the main role of Science and Technology Park is the dissemination of the know-how produced in the academic community and research centers with the aim of creating a new pole of development in Epirus. Comitech, Dicon, FutureIntelligence, NOSIS and Q base are just a few of the technology companies hosted in the park. At the same time, in addition to the Science and Technology Park on the initiative of the General Secretariat for Research and Innovation, the creation of a new expanded technology park, financed by the resources of the European Recovery Fund program, is underway.

The Startup Tekmon, as well as Terracom, which offers IT services, and Natech, which provides a digital banking platform to banks in Greece and 40 other countries around the world, are headquartered in Ioannina.The course of business moves so far focusing on the region confirms that the example of Ioannina, as a regional center of technology and innovation, can serve as a model for the further strengthening of the Greek region, while the presence of important foreign companies is expected to give a big boost to the development of Greece in the post-covid era.

The identity and role of the Science and Technology Park of Epirus

The Epirus Science and Technology Park was founded in 1999 by the University of Ioannina and the Region of Epirus. The construction and equipment of the first building was financed by the Regional Operational Program of Epirus 2000-2006 of the Third Community Support Framework and the second building-expansion by the Operational Program of Thessaly-Central Greece-Epirus 2007-2013 of the NSRF.Since 2003 the operation of the Park has been undertaken by the company Management Science and Technology Park of Epirus S.A. Mission of the Science and Technology Park of Epirus is to be the main support body for the introduction of new and innovative technologies in both the private and the public sector.

The main role of the Science and Technology Park of Epirus is to disseminate the know-how produced in academia and research centres and institutes, with the aim of creating a new pole of development in Epirus. The Science and Technology Park of Epirus also aims to act as an incubator for new businesses for all four capitals of the Regional Units of Epirus, where small but powerful small and emerging enterprises aim to promote innovation in cooperation with research institutes to develop new products and services. At the moment in the Science and Technology Park of Epirus 27 companies are hosted, including: Dicon, Comitech, FutureIntelligence, GE Scientific, Infocape, MedicalStatistics, Mokaal, NeuronEnergySolutions, NIKKI, Nosis, P&I Hellas, Q base R &D, QualiaPharma, SenseWorks, Univeye, OmegaTechnology, SPECTRAtech and SymAgro.

The role of the University of Ioannina

The University of Ioannina was founded in 1970, while parts of it had begun to operate since 1964 as branches of the University of Thessaloniki. The first to be founded was the Department of Philosophy on May 8, 1964. It is based at the University Campus of Ioannina, located in the area of Dourouti Monastery, near the city of Ioannina, while it is considered one of the most remarkable academic institutions in Greece.Since 2018 it consists of 11 faculties and 26 departments, while its emblem is the eagle on the scepter. It has the largest in usable area (14,500 sq. m. distributed over six floors) single Library and Information Center of Greece (N.K.P.-P.I.), while it has won several distinctions, such as in 2018, when it was in place 501-600 in the global list published by TheTimesHigherEducation. It often undertakes actions such as MITEF Greece 2022, which aim at the dynamic development of start-ups and business groups that innovate in the field of technology and science.

Focusing on Startup entrepreneurship

Both the Municipality of Ioannina and the Region of Epirus in general have focused their attention in recent years to Startup entrepreneurship and foreign investments.It is worth noting that the Science and Technology Park of Ioannina, next to the university, has really evolved into a hub of new ideas but also into a place where companies that are not Startups are also hosted. Among them are the German P&I and some Startups of software development companies. Indicative of the peak observed is the fact that in 2016 800 sq. m. of the park was used by businesses, while at the moment it is in use 1,760 sq. m. With these actions, the Region of Epirus proves in practice the support and faith in modernity and cutting-edge technologies.

Statements by bodies of the Epirus ecosystem and representatives of the local government

“For the development in terms of technology, research and innovation”, Alexandros Kachrimanis, Regional Governor of Epirus.

Recently, the National Documentation Centre published the performance of the Greek Regions in 2012 in Research, Development and Innovation activities, with the Region of Epirus in terms of expenditure, in terms of the percentage of its GDP, being in 3rd place after the Regions of Attica and Crete. It is an element that shows the trend and the developmental orientation we have in Epirus.

The Region of Epirus in the last ten years has bravely supported through its operational programs both the University and private enterprises in the development of research and production of innovative products and services. But it has also taken initiatives in these areas as well.For example, we funded studies for the creation of Innovation Centers concerning aromatic-medicinal plants, meat and the genetic improvement of animals, which are combined with three productive activities of Epirus.

Our aim is for the knowledge that will result from the operation of these Centers to be disseminated to the producers, improving the quality of their products, while maintaining their quality characteristics.Given that for the operation of the Centers we have cooperation with the University, we achieve another of our goals: its direct connection with the productive structure of Epirus. We have a clear understanding that without the production of new innovative products the developmental leap we want cannot be made.The outlook is positive, as we are already having results. With the encouragement and funding of the Region, new dairy products are produced or planned, the aromatic plant sector is developing rapidly and not only.

The technology sector is another big chapter. Epirus has a high level of scientific potential. And this is proven by the graduates of the Departments of Informatics in Ioannina and Arta.The arrival of large high-tech companies in the capital of Epirus, combined with other local businesses that are successfully active in the sector, was a very strong stimulus to take the initiative to plan the creation of a Park of High Technology and Research. It will house the companies that are currently active in Epirus, but also those that have expressed similar interest.

This initiative is supported by the state, the project has already been proposed and has initially been included in the Recovery and Resilience Fund and we are optimistic that next year at this time the first companies will have already settled in the Park.As a regional authority, we are open to any new challenge, ready to support any development initiative, let alone research, innovation and new technologies, because we know very well that those who do not follow the pace of the times will lose the “train” of development once and for all.

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