20 Nov Developing talent
A focus on human capital, research and innovation sees Cyprus ranked third in the EU in terms of university graduates per capita
Home to three public and twelve private universities, plus three independent research institutions, Cyprus is forging a strong reputation among international students as a great place to study. Several of its universities now feature in the world’s top rankings, while Cypriot researchers stand out as the best performers in EU funding schemes, with about €3.70 generated for every euro invested in their research.
One of the sector’s trailblazers is The Cyprus Institute (Cyl), a non-profit research and educational institution focused on science and technology that was established in 2005. CyI operates from three sites on the island and is one of the few institutions of its type worldwide to provide only post-graduate education. “CyI is a research-intensive institution offering education and research in areas such as environmental sciences, climate prediction and change, renewable energy and the built environment, and high-performance computational sciences for solving problems through big data analysis, material science and so on. We also have a strong program for cultural heritage that uses technology to answer questions about our past,” explains its president Professor Stavros Malas. “CyI is an integrated ecosystem of technologies: we call it the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) of the region.”
Profitable partnerships pay off
Cyl has five interdisciplinary research centers, with the latest being its Science and Technology Driven Policy and Innovation Research Center that started operations last year. All five were established in partnership with best-in-class international institutions — for instance, its Energy, Environment and Water Research Center was founded with MIT, while it twinned with the University of Illinois to set up its Computation-based Science and Technology Research Center.
“We established these partnerships to facilitate the introduction of excellence in our institute. This has paid off, because CyI is now number one in Cyprus in terms of competitiveness in research funding as we maintain an exceptional standard of research quality,” says Malas. “Because of our excellence and focus on research areas relevant to the Eastern Mediterranean region, we are very well known in Europe. For example, CyI has had a massive impact in developing climate change scenarios.”
The institution boasts strategic collaborations with partners from more than 65 countries all told, while international specialists constitute around half of its faculty and affiliated researchers, nine of whom rank in Stanford University’s science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators.
Through its dedicated Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, CyI is also heavily involved in supporting entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “We have the versatility to develop intellectual property and establish spin-offs, seven of which we have launched to date. Generally, for every 100 spin-offs created, only five will succeed. So, the role of research institutions like ours is to generate ideas and spin-offs and then give them to the economy so that others can take the risk and, if successful, make money,” he states.
According to Malas — who formerly served as the country’s Minister of Health — synergies between research institutions and SMEs are the best way to leverage ideas of young firms. “Cyprus has some great research-centric SMEs. By bringing them into CyI’s productive research environment, they can access our cutting-edge infrastructure, allowing them to harness their potential and develop better products,” he reveals. “I want to build stronger industrial connections, because any research-intensive institution has an obligation to serve as the connecting link between academics and private entities.”
He also wants to encourage more young innovators to study at CyI. “If you want to get a really good education and be paid well, this is the place. We compare extremely favorably with any other institution in Europe or the US. We pay our students well so they can devote themselves to education. That’s our selling point.”
Turning to what Cyprus as an ecosystem has to offer students, researchers and innovative businesses, Malas concludes: “Cyprus has been through a massive transformation of its economy and is moving to a more viable model, investing massively on innovation and research. At the same time, it provides unique tax incentives for companies having significant intellectual property to set up commercial activities in a thriving research and educational environment.”