Kriti is a south-eastern region of Europe located at the crossroads of three continents. It is the largest island in Greece, and its capital is Heraklion. With a total area of 8,336 km2 and a population of approximately 633,500 inhabitants, it is an important tourism and services hub and, despite being an island, is one of the most important agricultural regions in Greece. The island is also the home of some internationally renowned public research centres and higher education institutions creating a vibrant and competitive research community.
The region of Kriti is a regional hub for services. However, most of the regional services firms are organised around tourism and exports of agricultural products and are not international in scope. Tourism is the most dynamic sector and the increased arrivals over the past decades gave incentives for important investments in hotel units, resulting in the qualitative and quantitative upgrading of the island’s infrastructures.
Additionally, the most important manufacturing activities gravitate around the processing and packaging of agricultural products, food, and beverages, non-metallic mineral products, metallic products, plastics, and chemicals, with only a small number of large firms.
Despite the high contribution of the primary sector to the region’s GDP, it is characterised by the dominance of smallholdings production focused on traditional crops. Finally, the energy sector and, in particular, renewable energy sources, can be an important future source of economic activity and employment growth on the island.
The regional development plan:
The vision for the upcoming decade is a dynamic and sustainable Kriti. Dynamic translates to the presence of an integrated strategy to exit the protracted economic crisis (started back in 2009), with investments and enhancement of interconnections and of the export-oriented character of the Dynamic Sectors of regional economy: agro-alimentary, cultural, touristic, environmental, knowledge-based.
The Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) of the Region of Crete embraces the vision of Crete’s development plan as it has been planned to represent an integrated proposal for the regional economy’s exit from the crisis, aiming at enhancing the potential of innovation and scientific knowledge, in an attempt to boost the competitiveness of the well-established branches and to expand the productive base of Crete towards new emerging high added-value sectors.
Furthermore, national and/or regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation are integrated, place-based economic transformation strategies that are created around the following 5 axes which: (i) focus policy support and investments on key national/regional priorities, challenges, and needs for knowledge-based development; (ii) build on each country’s /region’s strengths, competitive advantages and potential for excellence; (iii) support technological as well as practice-based innovation and aim to stimulate private sector investment; (iv) get stakeholders fully involved, through a bottom-up procedure which has constant entrepreneurial discovery as a key feature, and encourage innovation and experimentation; and (v) provide qualitative and quantitative evidence and include sound monitoring and assessment systems which are supported by appropriate indicators.
In particular, the Region of Crete aims at using the potential of innovation and scientific knowledge in order to revitalize the agro-alimentary complex so as to adapt to climate change, strengthening of export branches, and promotion of the value of Cretan nutrition (an intangible cultural heritage). The aim is also to achieve the consolidation in the international market of a competitive cultural – tourism complex, with unique and original features, and reduce Crete’s dependence on conventional forms of energy. The island needs to shift towards the sustainable use of its natural resources (e.g. photovoltaic systems, wind-generators), make the best of the sea’s possibilities, and develop production activities of high added-value in emerging sectors which will rely on Crete’s educational web.