By Staff Reporter
A high-powered Cypriot delegation is in Russia to accelerate the exchange of technologies and boost collaboration on innovation and start-ups. The team will also promote opportunities for Russian investment in Cyprus in research and development, technology, biomedicine and health, education, and energy.
Formalising these aims, Invest Cyprus signed a memorandum of cooperation in Moscow on March 1st with the management of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre. This is sprawling science tech business hub near the Russian capital that is home to hundreds of start-ups and to more than 30,000 researchers. The protocol was inked by Invest Cyprus board member, Kyriakos Kokkinos, and Oleg Dubnov, vice-president and executive director of the energy cluster of Skolkovo Foundation.
The aim is to boost co-operation between the two countries’ governments, businesses and research centres. This is reflected in the composition of the 17-strong Cypriot delegation, which includes representatives from the private sector and leading academics.
The two-day visit begins with a meeting on trade and economic co-operation at Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development in Moscow, with officials and companies from each country giving presentations.
Cyprus and Russia have long enjoyed friendly relations at all levels – political, business and people to people. Russian investment is helping to drive the island’s strong economic growth. In turn, the EU’s easternmost member provides Russian enterprises with a gateway to the bloc, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
President Anastasiades laid the groundwork for the visit last October when he hosted a dinner in Moscow for sixty of Russia’s most influential and wealthiest entrepreneurs. He assured them that his government would strive to promote measures that would constantly improve the appeal of Cyprus’ investment environment.
Weeks earlier, Cyprus and Russia signed a protocol in Nicosia outlining the possibilities and prospects for expanding cooperation in innovation, industry, medical services, transport, telecoms and information technology.
All these are core areas at Skolkovo, where the Cypriot delegation spent a second day. CIPA delegates, including board member Kyriacos Kokkinos, were to meet directors from these various spheres of activity to examine and discuss the potential for cooperation and for gaining more know-how and expertise in innovation.
The Skolkovo trip also gives the Cypriot party the opportunity to promote the island’s advantages as a base for Russian start-ups. Apart from the island’s EU membership and strategic location, operational costs are substantially lower than in mainland Europe and Cyprus has a competitive, EU-approved tax regime.
A further incentive came last year with the introduction of a fast track visa scheme for non-EU nationals who launch innovative start-ups with high growth potential. Cyprus is already home to a rapidly-growing expatriate and local tech community, with ‘incubators’ and accelerators to provide support.
The Cypriot delegation’s composition reflected the mission’s purpose and interests. It includes representatives from Cyta’s Innovation and Idea Development Centre, the Cyprus and Limassol Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which represent the business community, from public and private universities, and companies from the private sector, including Remedica.
Most Russians they will meet know of the island from friends or relatives in Cyprus, which is home to a flourishing 40,000-strong Russian-speaking business community that sees the island as a reliable partner. Many students from Russian-speaking countries attend universities and medical schools in Cyprus and sun-loving Russian tourists are flocking to the island in ever-growing numbers. They made up nearly a third of last year’s record 3.6 million visitors.
Economic ties date back decades to when Cyprus swapped wine in bulk with the Soviet Union in return for tractors. Russian businessmen arrived in Cyprus in the early 1990s after the collapse of communism. The island provided a first step into the capitalist world. Their path was smoothed by cultural, historical and Orthodox Christian ties, making Cyprus a home from home. Cyprus’ EU membership in 2004 magnified the island’s attractions as a base for Russian enterprises.
Most Russians doing business in Cyprus stayed after the 2013 bail-in, even though many lost uninsured bank deposits. Russian foreign direct investment continued unabated, helping Cyprus to record a remarkable 9.1 per cent growth in foreign direct investment in 2016 and a further 6 per growth in 2017.