G(r)eek Brains: Not in Crisis. Drain No More?

The 53rd International Mathematical Olympiad was recently held in Argentina giving the Greek team (Hellenic Mathematical Society) the opportunity to win a total of five medals, including one gold medal, and an honorable mention as this is the second consecutive year that Greece won a gold medal in an International Mathematical Olympiad.

It is not a secret among these in the know that Greece could and should develop its Information Technology (IT) sector: Greece's strength is Greek human talent, namely its talented engineers with, in most cases, Ph.D.s or master's degrees from some of the best institutions in the world and solid international experience.

The Economist Intelligence Unit routinely ranks Greece among the world's top 20 ICT talent pools.

The country's competitive advantages include:

1. A well-educated, multilingual workforce with an emphasis on science

2. Low barriers to entry

3. Reasonable (if not unfairly low as compared to their credentials) wages: In 2009 Greek engineers were among the lowest in Europe

4. A spread-out diaspora across Europe and North America consisting of successful businesspeople and/or professionals in IT and software able to provide access to international business networks as well as funding for Greece's development: on Sunday, July 22, a delegation of prominent Greek-American businessmen visited Athens together with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in an effort to raise $100 million in donations for medical supplies and poverty alleviation in Greece as well as to discuss ways to attract foreign investment and boost entrepreneurship in Greece.

The big players have taken notice: Microsoft has established an Innovation Center in Athens already since 2008 focusing on strengthening innovation through the use of technology and entrepreneurship in Greece.

Corallia is a Greek Technology Clusters Initiative that aims at boosting competitiveness, entrepreneurship promoting the "Innovation Made in Greece" branding.

Leading Greek technology companies include Velti, a global provider of mobile marketing technology that enables digital advertising campaigns. Velti was listed on NASDAQ last year and has established a Center for Innovation to finance and support new business ventures that operate mainly in the IT and New Media sectors.

Some talk about a Greek digital boom that would not have taken place if it was not for the current financial crisis as it gave birth to multiple start-ups in IT, software and new media.

Even fundraising efforts in Greece now increasingly take place online. Examples include: a) a crowd-funding campaign to create sustainable income for the residents of a small Greek island through farming acorns b) an online campaign to buy back Greece's debt.

Meanwhile the European Investment Bank agreed to unblock €1.44 billion of loans for small and medium-sized Greek companies that have lost access to bank funding because of a worsening liquidity squeeze. The funds would be disbursed over a three-year period starting next January.

Maybe in time to create true opportunity for technology-oriented ventures in Greece?