The Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF), Cyprus’ national funding agency for research, technological development, and innovation, continues to be a cornerstone in developing the country’s growing ecosystem.

RIF supports startups and scaleups that have introduced innovative products and services, secured funding from business angels and venture capital firms, and expanded their reach internationally.

Furthermore, RIF has enabled researchers to excel globally, significantly contributing to Cyprus’ reputation in the scientific community.

This aligns with RIF’s vision to establish Cyprus as a regional powerhouse in research, innovation, entrepreneurship, and high technology.

The Reflect Festival 2024, held on May 30-31 at Kolla Factory in Limassol, marked another significant milestone.

As the largest tech and entrepreneurship event connecting Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, it featured 5 stages, and more than 30 side events, and gathered over 250 investors, 250 speakers, 1000 startups, and more than 10,000 attendees.

For the fifth consecutive year, RIF proudly participated as a Gold Sponsor, channelling support through its Sponsorships Programme designed to foster events that promote technological and innovative growth across Cyprus.

RIF’s booth in the main Exhibition Area was a central hub of activity, featuring a creative mocktail bar with drinks named after its various funding programmes: Pre-Seed, Seed, Innovate, Disrupt, and Co-develop.

This innovative setting facilitated lively interactions, with RIF staff on hand to discuss the benefits of RIF’s programs.

Visitors could even holoport to engage with the Director General’s avatar, ready to answer any questions. Esteemed guests included prominent figures like House speaker Annita Demetriou, Education Minister Athena Michaelidou, and Deputy Minister of Research Nicodemos Damianou.

During the event’s Big Picture Stage, RIF’s Director General, Theodoros Loukaidis, delivered the opening remarks, passionately saying that “we are on a mission, which is to make Cyprus a regional innovation and technology hub”.

“And we are very much committed to making it happen. We are creating the enabling conditions to attract talent, support the creation and development of startups and scaleups, and host multinational corporations here,” Loukaidis explained.

“We are making it more appealing for investors but also international partners to work with us,” he added, noting that “at the RIF, we have funding programmes to cater for all the needs of one’s entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial journey”.

Loukaidis also said that, at the RIF, “we are on the lookout for doers who dare to think big and act bigger”.

A significant event was the panel moderated by Loukaidis titled “From Cyprus to the World: Startup Journeys to Global Success”. This panel provided an opportunity for Cypriot entrepreneurs to share their global expansion stories and the pivotal moments that shaped their journey.

One of the highlights was Marios Kyriakou of Darefore, who emphasised the importance of team building and the support of RIF.

He noted, “Team building is of great importance, as is the support provided by RIF which has a crucial role in fostering Cypriot innovation on the global stage.”

Similarly, Louiza Sophocleous of The Mighty Kitchen reflected on the local talent, stating, “We are particularly proud to contribute to this discussion. One of the biggest takeaways is that we have a lot of talented, smart people here. What we need to do is cultivate an environment and work on problems that activate those people and their skillsets in the best way.”

Furthermore, Eugenia Herodotou of EnergyIntel shared that “EnergyIntel’s goal is to contribute to the realisation of humanity’s vision for a sustainable future by ending the planet’s dependence on fossil fuels. RIF’s funding programs, starting with INNOVATE (2020), were a springboard for the rapid growth of the company and acted as a reinforcement in confirming the value of the company and the consequent attraction of private capital for further escalation of its operations.”

She also highlighted the role of the DISRUPT grant, received in 2024, as an incentive to intensify the company’s R&D efforts towards a sustainable future.

In addition, Philippos Patsalis of Medicover Genetics, Cyprus (formerly NIPD Genetics) commented, “Building a truly great company requires more than just an exceptional product. It’s about creating value for all stakeholders involved – from investors to employees to customers. From the very beginning, there must be a clear commitment to an exit strategy that not only rewards the initial investors but also fuels long-term, sustainable growth.”

By maintaining this holistic, stakeholder-centric mindset from the outset, companies are better positioned to navigate the challenges of scaling a business and positioning it for enduring success.

Lastly, Alexis Pantazis of Hellas Direct shared the lessons learned from experiencing both the corporate and startup world and disrupting the Insurtech market in Greece and the Balkans.

Pantazis further highlighted that Hellas Direct expanded across geographies by targeting markets their competitors did not prioritise and making a difference in those areas and beyond.

Additional discussions led by RIF’s Director General, Loukaidis, focused on the key role of AI in shaping Cyprus as a hub for emerging technologies and the impact of generative AI on data centre energy requirements.

These highlighted the need for targeted investments and collaboration to successfully advance green data centres leveraging Cyprus’ ample renewable resources.

The panel discussion “Nurturing Scientific Start-up Ecosystems for Success: Greece’s Blueprint” on the Cyprus Seeds Stage, on May 31, provided further insight into the importance of supporting scientific research and translating it into commercial success.

Loukaidis moderated this panel and shared the stage with Aristos Doxiadis, a partner in Big Pi Ventures, and Roula Backtalia, Director and Steering Committee member at the egg – Enter Frow Go, a vibrant startup ecosystem in Greece.

They discussed the critical role stakeholders play in nurturing scientific startups, empowering researchers, and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset among them.

Loukaidis emphasised the need for investment in international visibility and collaboration, saying that, “Each stakeholder has a role to play when it comes to nurturing a scientific startup ecosystem. We are committed to supporting startups and empowering researchers to translate their findings into innovative business solutions.”

On the same day of the festival, RIF organised a workshop titled “Effectively Use RIF’s Funding Programmes and Services in Your Journey to the Market.”

This interactive session attracted more than 30 entrepreneurs and researchers eager to learn how to leverage RIF’s resources to advance their innovative ideas. Participants engaged in discussions with RIF’s experts, gaining insights and practical tips for navigating the entrepreneurial landscape.

Additionally, RIF hosted a series of round-table discussions on ICT, Health, and Shipping, which took place on the afternoons of both festival days.

These discussions brought together startups and established companies to explore collaborative opportunities to tackle local and industry-specific challenges.

The dialogue focused on how startups could offer agile solutions, innovative technologies, and fresh perspectives to drive industry-wide transformation.