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Agri-food: “On the table” package of measures to support startups (charts)

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

Already a targeted grid of support policies for agri-food start-ups, outside urban centres, is being studied through Elevate Greece and regions, while, as underlined in a statement to APE-MPE by Deputy Minister of Development and Investment Christos Dimas, “there are many examples of Greek start-ups that achieve great investment results and agreements with international companies of great scope. Our goal is to create a better environment for more innovative ideas to evolve into viable businesses”.

According to the data, 39 agri-food start-ups have been registered in the register, employing more than 227 workers, the total funding they have received from investment funds exceeds €15.45 million and the dominant technology they choose is the Internet of Things (IoT).

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

The “profile” of the companies that have joined the Elevate Greece platform shows that the business model chosen by companies involved in agri-tech is B2B at a rate of over 49%, while on the opposite side, the B2G model is chosen by 6% of companies. B2C is chosen by 21% of companies and B2B2C by 23%.

Equity (self-financing) is the predominant source of financing for businesses, with grants being the next most common choice, while borrowing is the last choice.

The most common revenue model is service subscriptions along with charges per product sale.Regarding the penetration of new technologies in the agri-food sector, the main technologies used by enterprises are the Internet of Things, modern software, as well as large-scale data analysis. These are followed by robotics, cloud computing, drones, financial technologies, imaging, networks, etc.

On the occasion of the data, the Deputy Minister notes: “linking scientific research and specialised knowledge more effectively with agricultural production and the primary sector is a very big gamble, but also a challenge that will not only have an economic impact, but also a social and environmental footprint”.

Elevate Greece’s cooperation with the regions

According to the Deputy Minister, an important element that emerges from the mapping of the start-up ecosystem is the need to support businesses operating in the region.

In particular, Mr Dimas notes: “The distribution of 47% of start-ups in the agri-food sector in the Attica region is an element that concerns us, as the development of the Greek economy is not a matter that concerns only urban centres, but the entire territory. A targeted policy matrix is already being studied through Elevate Greece’s cooperation with the regions in order to support start-ups located outside urban centres and employed in the primary sector.

Moreover, as Mr Dimas underlines, the General Secretariat for Research and Innovation is planning important actions for the new NSRF, aimed at development in specific thematic areas. The agri-food sector remains one of the key pillars of the Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) and in the new NSRF 2021-2027, aiming to link the primary sector more effectively with research and innovation.

More effective linking of the agricultural economy with 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 in response to the question of RES-MPA whether Greece can innovate by exploiting new technology and research in agricultural production or just continue with the old-fashioned empirical agriculture, 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 agricultural economy and production. However, what has not been done to date to the extent that we could have done is to link the agricultural economy and production more effectively with research and entrepreneurship, together with the use of new innovative technologies. The aim is to improve the quality of products, to increase agricultural income and, of course, to increase the GDP of the primary sector.

Greece has the privilege of having excellent research and entrepreneurial talent which we need to equip with the right tools in order to make the domestic innovation ecosystem more competitive internationally. There are many examples of Greek start-ups achieving great investment results and agreements with international, large-scale companies. Our goal is to create a better environment for more innovative ideas to develop into viable businesses.

Linking scientific research and specialised knowledge more effectively with agricultural production and the primary sector is a very big gamble, 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, are achieving multiple yields per hectare by using innovation and new technologies in some varieties of products. If we want to be competitive at an international level, we need to make the most of the potential of our skilled human resources and the tools that now exist in research, technology and the innovation ecosystem.

We are designing the tools so that we can achieve an integrated approach to the management of agricultural activity, which, by exploiting new technologies and scientific-research knowledge, aims to improve production results and generate multiple benefits for the agricultural harvest and the environment. The development of this project can make the Greek primary sector one of the leading players in the European market and beyond.

Cooperation between start-ups and the research ecosystem

The NSRF call “Research-Create-Innovate”, which has216 projects under implementation, has the highest participation of projects under implementation (~21%) with a total public and private expenditure of €127.9 million. Of these, the following projects concern agri-food:

– 7 Innovation Clusters in the agri-food sector have been approved for implementation

– 2 Agri-food Competence Centres have been approved. The Competence Centres, with the necessary infrastructure and know-how, have as their main objective the support of innovation in key sectors of the Greek economy, through the provision of specialised/innovative services/products and technology transfer to enterprises, especially SMEs.

“There is a brilliant field of cooperation between start-ups and the country’s Research Ecosystem (Agricultural Universities, ELGO Dimitra, departments of Polytechnic Schools, etc.)” as the Deputy Minister comments.

Elevate Greece: 523 startups with over 4,800 employees

Finally, Mr Dimas recalls that, until recently, the Greek state did not have a clear definition of which businesses counted as startups, nor was there an evaluation and monitoring mechanism. “This gap was filled by the establishment of the National Register of Start-ups Elevate Greece. In the one year since its creation and operation, 523 start-ups have been registered, employing more than 4,800 people. For the first time in Greece, we have a clear and mapped picture of the innovation ecosystem at the level of start-ups and this enables the State 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 specific incentives to start-ups. In particular, tax deductions for angel investors, a favourable institutional framework for stock options, free promotion on the Elevate Greece platform and at the TIF, and even NSRF actions to boost their liquidity (“Support for start-ups of the National Register “Elevate Greece” to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic”) have been legislated. 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, specialised banking products, access to global innovation networks, free cloud services and professional mentoring and much more”.

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