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HIAS: An Important Step for the Networking of the Scientific Diaspora with Greece

ATHENS – The inaugural symposium of the Hellenic Institute of Advanced Studies(HIAS) was held on Friday July 7, at the Eugenides Foundation. The audience included distinguished scientists and engineers from Greece and the Greek diaspora, as well as entrepreneurs, university rectors and policy makers.

In a written statement, the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou stressed the importance of Greece becoming outward-looking in science and innovation to achieve brain gain.

The newly appointed US Ambassador to Greece, George Tsunis, greeted the audience and highlighted the growing scientific and innovation ties between the United States and Greece, and the new Science and Technology Agreements between the two countries.

HIAS President Petros Koumoutsakos (Harvard), concluded the opening session by presenting the HIAS activities and strategic goals. He highlighted the HIAS efforts for establishing a physical “home” in Greece for the scientists of the diaspora in the near future.

The symposium was structured around four themes: Engineering and Science Education, Energy and Climate, Artificial Intelligence and Computing, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Greece. Several actionable ideas were presented to strengthen bridges among researchers in Greece and the diaspora with an emphasis on the younger generations.

The Engineering and Science Education keynote speaker Dean Yiannis Yortsos (USC) articulated a vision for addressing Grand Challenges which can drive reforms in research and education in Greece and inspire the younger generations. Pericles Mitkas (Hellenic Authority for Higher Education) pointed out challenges in bridging education and industry while Apostolis Dimitropoulos (General Secretary, Ministry of Education) presented recent programs for internationalization of Greek universities. Margarita Chli (ETHZ) stressed the need for rebranding Greece as a top destination for research, education and innovation and Provost Sotiropoulos (Virginia Commonwealth University) , emphasized the need for project-oriented education addressing social issues.

In the Energy and Climate panel, keynote speaker Anna Stephanopoulou (University of Michigan), presented a vision on electrification of the automotive sector and advancing battery technology. She highlighted that Greece has the oldest transportation fleet in the EU and suggested the electrification of public transport. The panel of Michael Caramanis (Boston University), Efi Fofoula-Georgiou (UC Irvine), Alexander MItsos (TU Aachen), and Athanasios Nenes (EPFL) stressed issues ranging from electric ferries connecting Greek islands, renewable energies, science based responses to fire, as well as the need to address health hazards of smoke from fires and wood burning in Greece.

The keynote speaker in Artificial Intelligence and Computing Joseph Sifakis (CNRS) discussed the need to rethink AI in the context of infrastructures and engineering systems. Timos Sellis (Archimedes Research Unit) presented the new Archimedes research institute while Petros Maragos (NTUA), presented HERON, a new robotics research institute which was initiated by a HIAS study. Constantia Alexandrou (Cyprus University) advocated the area of Computational science as an opportunity for interdisciplinary education and research in Greece and the role of computing for AI. Christos Kozyrakis (Stanford University) discussed new trends in hardware for AI towards specialized but focused architectures which may lead to unique tech opportunities for Greece.

Albert Bourla (CEO, Pfizer) greeted the innovation panel and discussed the major R&D investments by Pfizer in Greece which have catalyzed broader engagements with the academic and research ecosystems.

The keynote by Nektarios Tavernarakis (U. of Crete, FORTH) highlighted challenges in translating research to innovation in EU and Greece and . outlined the structure of Horizon Europe which has specific mechanisms for addressing them. Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas (Harvard) highlighted the importance of fundamental research and the need for better coordination in research funding as cornerstones for entrepreneurship and innovation. Yannis Ioannidis (U of Athens) stressed the need for educating students in innovation early in their studies to address cultural issues of risk-aversion. Nikos Paragios (Paris Saclay and TheraPanacea ) highlighted how France, thrugh few strategic government interventions, empowered academics to translate basic science to startup ventures. The resulting innovation ecosystem has produced more than 30 unicorns in a period of 5 years.

Vassilis Papakonstantinou (MIT Enterprise Forum) presented ideas on how to improve networking among innovators across the world. The Symposium was summarized by Andreas Boudouvis (NTUA Rector) who discussed future actions for HIAS.

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