January is a month full of challenges. The new year finds Europe (at least its South) still in a deep crisis. Not only an economic crisis, but also a political one. Unfortunately, despite some good news, one swallow does not make a spring. But instead of moaning we can focus on new ideas and opportunities.
Horizon2020 will be the biggest R&D programme for Europe so far. It’s a chance to reach and even surpass the US in areas where we still fall behind and to retain Europe’s competitive advantage in sectors where it excels. It’s a chance to invest in what we are good at, maximise its value, create new markets and maybe (hopefully) develop a new model for really sustainable growth. Organisations, researchers, industry and SMEs are ready to collaborate on bright and innovative ideas in every aspect of technology and society.
For all of us working in this industry, the following months will be both challenging and exciting. More than 60 calls for proposals are published and I cannot even count the really interesting topics among them. And at the same time current projects are still running and new ones are starting.
I had the good fortune to be involved in this process for about 7 exciting years. I have the privilege of constantly meeting and working with extremely interesting and many times fascinating people from all over the world, although mostly located and operating in Europe and the Mediterranean. If I had to summarise what we learned the last few years (both as an individual and as a company) I would say the following, not necessarily in order of importance:
- Be open: to suggestions, to new proposals, to new opportunities. Never underestimate a potential partner and never turn down a proposal before you give it a good thought.
- Be selective: at the same time you need to focus on what you can do best. Exploit your biggest strengths and try to complement your weak points. You cannot say yes to everything and if you want to put your best effort in a project then you really need to pick the best one. (nobody actually knows which the best one is, so use your experience and follow your instincts)
- Be an over performer: We never refused extra work in a project. Although in the short-term this may always not seem a wise choice, in the long-term it always proved to be the right one.
- Communicate: almost every problem (at least in the R&D projects) can be solved through better communication. We obviously cannot find the cure for cancer or the perpetual energy source just by talking more but it is a good and necessary start in every project.
- Choose your partners wisely: forming a consortium of great companies is not easy. If you get successful (and lucky) enough to get funded then you have to be sure that all the partners in the consortium have the same level of commitment and interest on the project, and this applies not only to the companies but also to the people who are directly involved. As a wise and much more experienced colleague told me recently, at the end of the day it’s all about people.
Experience has proved that by following the above you can build a strong and reliable network of potential partners and eventually successful alliances.
Now, in the beginning of Horizon 2020, with the experience of enough projects (more than 10 the last 3 years), a wide portfolio of technologies and solutions we are ready to take the next step. We want to work in new exciting projects, we want to form stronger winning teams, we want to create services and products that will provide solutions to the public. We want to prove that there are companies and teams in Greece that rise above the stereotypes and can be rock-solid champions of quality. Maybe this way we’ll manage to continue living in Greece instead of leaving Greece.