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Two Greeks bridge the gap between Greece and Australia

"Our goal is to make Greece the bridge which will connect Australia with the rest of Europe," environmentalist Spyros Kouvelis tells Neos Kosmos

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(L-R) Chief Operations Officer for Innovyz Pty Ltd John Dagas with SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, Spyros Kouvelis, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senior Advisor for the United Nations Environment Programme and Christina Deligianni-Kouveli, Business Development Director for Truenique Ltd. Photos: Supplied

23 November 2017

Last month marked the beginning of a new era for the advancement of stronger ties between Greece and Australia when Greek environmentalist and expert on renewable energy, sustainable development and international business partnerships, Spyros Kouvelis, visited Adelaide with his business partner Christina Deligianni-Kouveli, to participate in a range of mentoring programs run bynew Australian business Innovyz.

Adelaide-based Innovyz provides end-to-end support to help innovators build and grow companies that bring their innovations to market through a nine-month program. Their Innovyz Special Projects initiative additionally assists organisations who develop industry, create policy, and have major commercialistaion projects.

"I was invited to participate as a mentor in their program, funded by Green Industries SA to support and promote new entrepreneurship programs," the Greek former Shadow Minister on Environment, Energy and Planning and former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs told Neos Kosmos.

"We conducted a series of meetings with leaders of companies who are currently at a beginner's stage and are looking to expand their activity to global markets. We worked closely together and explored the possibility for their products to be attractive and a viable proposition for global and European markets and our aim was to guide their activity and technology in the direction that will allow them to have a more targeted development," explains Mr Kouvelis, who is also Senior Advisor for the United Nations Environment Program and has previously served as Program Director of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

"The program that Innovyz administers is excellent because the ideas and projects on offer are both solid and functional.
"I feel that both parties gained invaluable knowledge from those meetings and that the chemistry in the room was extremely productive.
"At the same time, we found that there is mutual interest and benefits for both Greece and Australia to implement those programs and we hope that in return we gave back to those eight businesses the tools and strategies they needed to take their ideas to the next level.
"The possibility of future cooperation between Greece and Australia could also translate into an open forum, where companies can enter partnerships between Australia, Greece and the rest of the European region," explains Kouvelis.

Mentoring one of the start-ups, (L-R) Christina Deligianni-Kouveli, John Dagas, and Spyros Kouvelis talk with Dr Franziska Doerflinger and Dr Vinay Pagay from Athena Irrigation Technologies (Adelaide University viticulture research).

Chief Operations Officer of Innovyz, John Dagas said it was an honour to have Mr Kouvelis and his team "share with us their knowledge and experience that correlates with innovation, development, and the circular economy and their contribution was certainly invaluable in terms of assisting those businesses that wish to take their idea to the next level."

During their five-day stay in Australia, Mr Kouvelis and Ms Deligianni-Kouveli held a series of meetings with senior political and business leaders, such as the three founders of Innovyz - Stuart Douglas, Philip Vafiadis, and Brett Jackson, as well as Shobaz Kandola, Advisor to the Minister for the Environment, Vaughan Levitzke, CEO for Green Industries SA, and South Australian Treasurer, Minister for Finance, State Development, and Mineral Resources and Energy Tom Koutsantonis.

"The executives with whom we made the initial contact displayed an understanding of the overall need for sustainable development, a project which we are already running in Greece in collaboration with Cambridge," says Kouvelis.

"We were also pleasantly surprised by the Treasurer's willingness to discuss and explore further cooperation between Greece and Australia."

The two parties also discussed the possibility of open discussions between Greece, Australia, and organisations with whom Kouvelis' team is already collaborating with on issues regarding sustainable development and the implementation of United Nations strategies and objectives.

In fact, what seems to have made a particular impression on the former minister and specialist in environmental issues is the fact that South Australia is staking a large proportion of the state's economic development on green technologies.

"In my opinion, we can all work together towards forming and developing a closer relationship and bond between the two countries, which would result in an increase of employment for people here as well as in Greece, where companies are already producing exceptional work on sustainable development issues and green economy. Nevertheless, they don't receive the support required to take the next step.
"Greece is innovative to the extent that it is required to comply with the relevant European legislation and its restrictions, but lacks implementation and results, whilst South Australia appears to have developed to a greater extent, therefore the two countries have potentially a lot to learn from each other.
"On the other hand, developing a relationship between South Australia and a European country such as Greece will bring to the fore the best features of both worlds; the already developed European environmental legislation and the high level and demand of entrepreneurship in Australia.
The possibility of cooperation between Greece and South Australia seemingly has a green light from Australia.
"Australia is very advanced and on par with Europe's requirements in terms of quality and legislation, therefore there is high potential for Europe to open its markets to Australia," says Dagas.

"The companies which we work with may have their headquarters in South Australia, but the innovations could come from anywhere in the world as there are no local restrictions.
"Our goal is to connect with innovative companies across the globe and our next program on circular economy will include Europe, Asia, and the United States," continues Dagas, who believes that the shift in South Australia towards innovations on sustainable development, entrepreneurship, innovative technologies, and international business partnerships, is the result of the dramatic closure of local manufacturing industries in recent years.
"Our goal is to form a strong bond between the two countries and tap into a competitive business environment within the European markets, in order to initiate partnerships with companies in Europe and expand to the entire planet commencing with Australia and Greece.
"If the place of our ancestors can act as the strong link between the two places, then that would be a win-win for both sides," says Dagas.

According to Mr Kouvelis, increased entrepreneurship translates to more jobs for Greek citizens, both within and outside of Greece.

"Australia has a geographical advantage because, whilst it is a considerable distance from Europe and America, it is very close to China. With China's large market and not being able to produce everything, Australian businesses and their ideas could very easily be applied and absorbed rapidly and effortlessly in the manufacturing industry of China."

Spyros Kouvelis and Christina Deligianni-Kouveli will be returning to Adelaide next week to participate in a conference held on circular economy.

"We look forward to returning, and our aim on this occasion will be to assess the progress made on the issues and suggestions that were put on the table, and to investigate further the development of green industries, which in South Australia appear particularly developed," says Ms Deligianni-Kouveli.

"Our objective is to link the two countries and make Greece the bridge which will connect Australia with the rest of Europe."

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