The government agreed with Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates yesterday to set up a research and development center in Athens aimed at helping Greece shed its image as one of the European Union’s information technology laggards. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Gates decided during a two-day Internet technology forum in Portugal to establish a Greek Microsoft Innovation Center. The center will coordinate initiatives from the university community and software developers in order to implement test programs using the most recent technologies. It will be part of a worldwide Microsoft network and will help the government improve its electronic services. Greece is among the EU countries which invest the least in innovations and in developing new technologies. «By developing synergies with the state, education institutions and Greek software companies, Microsoft is committed to contribute to Greece’s efforts to build a dynamic economy of knowledge,» said Gates, the world’s richest man. Alogoskoufis came out from the meeting with another bonus as Microsoft also agreed to sell software programs to the public sector at a discount of 20 percent. Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, also said it will provide some of the country’s tertiary institutions with free software and will also offer scholarship programs for doctoral students working on new technologies.