Thursday, December 22, 2016

Exploring collaboration opportunities among Mediterranean countries: The WE MED Conference

The WE MED Conference took place in Athens, Greece on December 16th, 2016. It was an event of the ENI CBC Med programme, aiming at bringing together various types of stakeholders interested in joining forces towards addressing common issues in the Mediterranean countries. The programme itself provides both the framework and the funding needed for materializing collaboration among Med countries.

I was informed about the event a month ago; still, the registration was already closed due to high participation. My persistence along with kind responses from the organizing team granted me a place in the waiting list and then I was informed that I would be among the participants. And I was glad I would.

The event was organized in three themed sessions:
  1. Get Inspired: Consisted of successful use cases of collaboration among Mediterranean countries (presenting projects funded by the programme) as well as the views of key stakeholders. I found this session really appealing as it provided the human face of the collaboration; instead of having these typical slides including lists of deliverables of projects, there were real people (like farmers, researchers and entrepreneurs, to name a few) that explained how their lives were positively affected by the aforementioned collaborations.
  2. Learn: It consisted of a number of presentations about the ENI CBC Med programme, covering different aspects. The slides provided the necessary background to participants in order to understand the concept and opportunities that may be available for funding collaborations of innovative groups and ideas. Lots of useful information on the eligibility of countries and thematic areas, restrictions and guidelines.
  3. Connect: A purely networking session, allowing participants with common expectations to get in touch, exchange ideas and find common ground to work on projects that would address common challenges. The main Conference room was split into numerous smaller places with card boards used as whiteboards for brainstorming, matching profiles of participants with needs of organizations and discussing on issues of common interest.

The event provided me with the opportunity to get to know and talk to people from various countries, working on different topics and looking for partners in order to address common challenges. As I was participating on behalf of NEUROPUBLIC, I focused on sharing information about our smart farming services and see how they could meet the needs of potential stakeholders from other Med countries; the possibility of applying our approach in different contexts sounded appealing and I managed to identify at least a couple of cases which we could follow up after the Conference. Apart from that, I was well-informed about the possibilities provided by the programme in turning such collaborations into projects.

From an organizational perspective, I was happy to see that the organizers had already defined a Twitter hashtag (#WEMED) so that all tweets would be grouped and easily retrievable. During the Conference I was tweeting using both my personal Twitter account and the NEUROPUBLIC one, trying to cover different aspects of the event and boost the dissemination of its updates. There was also a Cooperation Wall; a huge whiteboard where participants could stick post-it notes with their ideas and contact details. I surely made use of that functionality as well and found the idea brilliant.

The Conference organizers had also engaged Alex Hughes from Drawnalism, who always does a great work in depicting ongoing discussions in the form of cartoons - a great visualization mean if you ask me! On top of that, everything was well-organized; something that must have been a challenge considering the relatively high number of participants.

If you are interested in learning more about the outcomes of the WE MED Conference, you can go through the summary provided by the programme team - you can also watch some of the Conference's video recordings via the ENI CBC Med Programme YouTube channel.

I can only thank the organizers of the event, not only for the kind invitation but also for hosting a successful meeting, engaging so many different stakeholders and doing their best in assisting them through networking and identifying funding opportunities for their innovative ideas.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

si-Cluster and the ecosystem of space technology in Greece

...and how a company like NEUROPUBLIC can be a core part of it.

It may sound strange to many people (including me some months ago), but there is space technology in Greece. In fact, there are various types of stakeholders, such as private companies and university labs, working on the design and development of innovative earth observation hardware and software, building drones and sensors, working with major customers and collaborators and sharing their expertise abroad through projects and contracts. The place to find most (if not all) of these stakeholders is si-Cluster, an initiative established in 2009 jointly between Corallia and the Hellenic Association of Space Industries, is a Gold Labeled, industry-led and user-driven innovation cluster focusing on Space Technologies and Applications in Greece. Currently, the si-Cluster consists of more than 50 members; including both large businesses and SMEs.

NEUROPUBLIC is a member of the si-Cluster and so I had the opportunity not only to attend part of the si-Cluster Partnering Meeting that took place on Friday, December 2nd but also to make a short 3x3 presentation (3 slides in 3 minutes) on how NEUROPUBLIC is making use of space/satellite technologies (like earth observation ones). It felt nice to see that a SME like NEUROPUBLIC is actually implementing such technologies and data in its workflows, on which its smart farming services are based.

The aim of the meeting was for all si-Cluster members to be informed about existing opportunities, at national and international level, both public and private sector ones, and discuss opportunities for collaboration and alignment of existing efforts. There was also time for networking and getting to know everyone better, as the space technology ecosystem in Greece is obviously limited.

During the meeting I had the pleasure to meet again Dr. Jorge-Andres Sanchez-Papaspiliou, Chief Strategy and Financial Officer at Corallia - an acquaintance from the CAPSELLA project times (I was partially involved in the project as a part of the Agroknow team, contributing to its open data strategy and activities, among others). I also made some interesting connections with both SME representatives and university researchers working on the same topics but from different fields.

I was glad to see many references to precision agriculture in the slides of various participants and surprised to see so many different applications; however, most of them are still in lab testing phase. In any case, this is surely a sign that agriculture is one of the fields where space technology (referring to earth observation / remote sensing) finds a high number of practical applications.