CEO Spotlight: Georgios Filiopoulos, CEO, Enterprise Greece

Greece is an attractive investment destination. The CEO of Enterprise Greece, Georgios Filiopoulos, in an interview with CEOWORLD magazine, elaborates on how the company – under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – contributes to the influx of foreign investors and the displacement of Greek companies towards activities export-oriented to foreign markets.

Greece welcomed an impressive 72.3% increase in foreign direct investment in 2021. At the same time, new investment projects worth a total of nearly €8 billion are being reviewed for inclusion in the program Greek Strategic Investments. Also, the Hellenic International Business Angels Summit (Hellenic International Business Angel Summit), which will be held in Athens on June 23-24, will further develop the Greek startup ecosystem and present networking opportunities with angel investors.

What challenges did you face due to Covid-19 and lockdowns in providing your services to interested exporters and investors for Greece and how did you overcome them?

Georgios Filiopoulos: It was definitely a challenge, especially since so much of our pre-COVID support and outreach work was centered around in-person events like trade shows and roadshows. The immediate step was to have everyone working from home, with very little time to prepare. I have to say that I was impressed with how the whole team adapted and quickly developed new strategies to engage with our stakeholders.

We have developed a number of digital tools to continue our work, and these will remain in our toolkit going forward, even as we are able to resume in-person events. We found webinars to connect exporters to specific markets, digital B2B meetings, as well as digital investor outreach particularly effective.

We have also been helped by digital initiatives at the state level. The silver lining of a crisis is often that it forces us to be nimble and innovative. A good example of the debt crisis is the maturing startup ecosystem that has sprung up in Greece. In turn, the COVID crisis has worked as a catalyst for Greece’s rapid implementation of e-government services. The deployment of these services in a few months has greatly facilitated our efforts in various ways and will have a positive impact, both for companies and for citizens, for many years to come.

Which Greek export products have great potential for the coming years?

Georgios Filiopoulos: A wide range of Greek export sectors have great potential at the moment, among them beauty products, construction materials, maritime equipment, but I would say that three sectors are in the lead: food products, pharmaceuticals and technology.

Greece’s food exports have set successive records over the past decade. Even in 2020, when international trade contracted, our food exports increased. Greek food exports have benefited from a growing wave of consumer awareness of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, an awareness that has become even more acute during the pandemic. The success of Greek foods in turn attracts foreign investment in production facilities, which will continue to modernize and expand production to meet growing demand.

The Greek pharmaceutical sector has come under increased scrutiny during the COVID crisis. Already an established export sector, we have seen FDI in Greek pharmaceuticals triple in 2020. We have also made significant investments in pharmaceutical R&D, notably by Pfizer which has established research centers here. Several factors converge to position the Greek pharmaceutical industry well: a highly skilled workforce with particular strength in STEM fields; excellent logistics infrastructure; and an attractive cost structure.

And technology is emerging as a robust growth sector in Greece. Over the past decade, the Greek start-up ecosystem has become a thriving innovation hub, while we have also seen several successful tech spin-offs from Greek universities. Greek start-ups are active in various fields, including deeptech, fintech, agritech and, unsurprisingly, given the strength of the Greek life sciences sector, in health-related applications.

And we also see that innovation and technology solutions are becoming increasingly important in established companies. Greek Sunlight Systems, which manufactures batteries for storing green energy, has recently expanded into the United States, and advanced technologies are being developed in a number of areas, from defense products to marine products and construction materials. construction.

Tell us about the international forum you are organizing in Greece this summer? Which speakers will be welcomed?

Georgios Filiopoulos: On June 23-24we will host the Hellenic International Business Angels Summit in Athens, one of our most important initiatives this year and which highlights Greece’s emergence as a hub of technology and innovation.

Europe in general, and Greece in particular, represent the new frontier for tech startups. Last year, startup funding for European tech firms topped $100 billion for the first time, triple the amount raised in 2020. Here in Greece, Greece’s first unicorn, Vivawallet, emerged just recently , while leading tech multinationals such as Microsoft, Amazon, NTT Data – are all investing in the country.

Capitalizing on this momentum, the forum will be an opportunity to further develop the ecosystem of Greek startups. And we are honored to host world-class speakers, including Marcia Dawood, President of the Angel Capital Association in the United States; Simone Brummelhuis, Female Business Angel of the Year in Europe; and Janne Jormalainan, President of EBAN, the European umbrella association of angel investors.

At this stage, how many investment projects are underway with funding from foreign investors and what is the total budget? In which sectors do they concern?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Greece welcomed an impressive 72.3% increase in foreign direct investment last year, setting a new record and underscoring the country’s attractiveness to foreign investors. According to provisional data from the Bank of Greece, net FDI inflows into Greece amounted to €4.85 billion in 2021, compared to €2.81 billion in 2020. This is the the highest net inflow of FDI since 2002 and it was also 8.1% higher than that of 2019. − the year before the appearance of the coronavirus − which was also a record year.

Currently, Enterprise Greece is reviewing 20 major investment projects with a combined value of €7.92 billion for inclusion in Greece’s strategic investment program. Projects are concentrated in the areas of manufacturing, technology and innovation, renewable energy sources, real estate and tourism.

In recent years, from which countries has Greece mainly attracted investment? What about the US market?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Over the past 10 years, Switzerland, Cyprus and Germany have been the main sources of investment activity in Greece, followed by France and the Netherlands. In recent years, FDI inflows from China, including Hong Kong, have increased significantly, while Luxembourg, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom are also among the top 10 foreign countries. origin.

In recent years, US companies have significantly increased their investments in Greece. We have seen a clear upward trend of US companies investing in areas such as technology, hospitality, food and beverage, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and real estate. For commercial reasons, many American investments go through third countries, such as the United Kingdom or Luxembourg, so the ranking probably underestimates the level of American investments. However, it is clear that the United States is, and will remain, a key source of foreign investment in Greece.

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