The Hellenic Institute of Advanced Studies held its inaugural meeting at the Eugenides Foundation in Athens. The audience included several distinguished scientists and engineers from Greece and the Greek diaspora as well as entrepreneurs, academics, and policy makers.
The inaugural symposium was structured around four main themes: Engineering and Science Education, Energy and Climate, Artificial Intelligence and Computing, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Greece. A number of lively discussions outlined societal challenges that could be addressed by science and engineering. Several actionable ideas were presented to strengthen bridges among researchers across Greece and the Greece diaspora with an emphasis on the younger generations.
The symposium was opened on Friday with the delivery of a written statement by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou. The president stressed the importance of Greece becoming outward-looking in science and innovation while also addressing the issue of brain gain.
The newly appointed US Ambassador to Greece, Mr. George Tsunis, also greeted the audience and highlighted the growing scientific and innovation ties between the United States and Greece, as well as the Science and Technology Agreements between the two countries. He also mentioned that recent US companies are setting up successful innovation hubs in Greece.
HIAS President, Petros Koumoutsakos, concluded the opening session by presenting the HIAS initiative and its initial efforts. He presented the strategic goals of HIAS and its efforts for establishing a physical home for the scientists of the diaspora in the near future.
In the Engineering and Science Education, keynote speaker Dean Yiannis Yortsos (USC) articulated a vision for developing Grand Challenges for Greece, similar to the National Academy of Engineering, which can drive reforms in research and education while inspiring students to address societally relevant challenges. He also challenged the audience to embrace ethical and societal considerations in engineering. During the panel, Pericles Mitkas (Hellenic Authority for Higher Education) pointed out challenges in bridging education to industry while Mr. Dimitropoulos (General Secretary, Ministry of Education) presented recent programs for internationalization of Greek universities through visiting faculty appointments. Prof. Chli (ETHZ) asked the community to think about a rebranding of Greece as a top destination for research, education and innovation. This could be achieved by providing its diaspora scientists a more welcoming and nourishing environment in terms of tenure position openings, higher salaries, and lower teaching load. Provost Sotiropoulo (Virginia Commonwealth University) , emphasized the need for project-oriented education while also addressing societal considerations.
In the Energy and Climate panel, keynote speaker Anna Stephanopoulou (U of Michigan), presented her research vision on electrification of the automotive sector and the challenges that are involved in advancing battery technology. She highlighted the fact that Greece has the oldest transportation fleet in the EU and suggested the electrification of public transport as an immediate next step. The panel of Michael Caramanis (Boston University), Efi Fofoula-Georgiou (UC Irvine), Alexander MItsos (Aachen), and Athanasios Nenes (EPFL) raised a variety of issues ranging from connecting Greek islands, renewable integration, climate adaptation and mitigation which should proactively inform fire responses, as well as the enormous but not wellknown health impact of smoke due to frequent fires and wood burning in Greece.
The panel on Artificial Intelligence and Computing started with Prof. Joseph Sifakis (CNRS) who discussed the need to rethink AI in the context of broader systems, in autonomous systems or infrastructure systems paving the way towards a symbiosis of modern AI and model-based approaches. The panel discussed mechanisms that may lead to collaborations across researchers. Prof. Timos Sellis (Archimedes Research Unit) presented the new Archimedes research institute whose mission is to address brain gain by providing opportunities for researchers from abroad to supervise graduate students from Greece in AI. Prof. Maragos (NTUA), presented HERON, a new robotics research institute which was initiated by a HIAS study for the future of robotics in Greece. Prof. Alexandrou (Cyprus University) advocated the area of Computational science as an opportunity for interdisciplinary education and research in Greece. She also discussed how she started a program in AI for Science in Cyprus and the role of computing for AI. Prof. Kozyrakis (Stanford) discussed new trends in hardware for AI towards specialized but focused architectures which may lead to unique tech opportunities for Greece.
The last panel focused on innovation which started with a greeting by Albert Bourla (CEO, Pfizer), who discussed the major R&D investments by Pfizer in Greece which have catalyzed broader engagements with the academic and research ecosystems. This was followed by a keynote by Prof. Tavernarakis (U. of Crete, FORTH) who presented various challenges in translating research to innovation both at the European and national level. He then outlined the structure of Horizon Europe 2021-2027 which has specific mechanisms for addressing these structural issues. Prof. Artavanis-Tsakonas (Harvard) highlighted the importance of improving science quality as a precondition for improving innovation. Prof. Ioannidis (U of Athens) highlighted the importance of educating students in innovation early in order to address cultural issues of risk-aversion among researchers. Prof. Paragios (Paris Saclay and TheraPanacea ) presented the case of France as a model for initiating academic based startups. France had zero unicorn startups until recently but thanks to some specific mechanisms, such as leave of absence from academia, early seed funding, and tax and benefit incentives, the innovation ecosystem has produced more than 30 unicorns in a short amount of time. Vassilis Papakonstantinou (MIT Enterprise Forum) presented ideas on how to improve networking among innovators across the world.
The Symposium was concluded by Andreas Boudouvis (NTUA Rector) who summarized actionable ideas and future actions for HIAS.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the National Technical University of Athens, the Latsis Foundation and the Eugenides Foundation.