Dr. Christos Dimopoulos, the co-Director of CERIDES, recently gave an interview to Vestnik Kypra, the Russian-speaking newspaper based in Limassol. In this interview he discusses extensively the research activities of CERIDES, as well as its future perspectives within the local and international research environment.
The interview (in Russian), can be found in the following location:
The English transcript of the interview is provided below:
Q1. Ability to measure, assess and the mitigate risks has never been so vital to academia and business world. In your opinion, what makes the Centre of Excellence in Risk and Decision Sciences (CERIDES) unique and why it is important for Cyprus and wider geographical area?
A1. Risk Management is indeed one of the fundamental processes of modern societies. All organisations, irrespective of their size and type, operate in an uncertain, globalized environment and face significant natural and business risks. Efficient implementation of Risk Management techniques and procedures is vital for increasing the resilience of organizational and societal structures which operate within this environment. CERIDES is the first organisation in Cyprus and in the wider Eastern Mediterranean area which conducts research activities in the specific area of Risk Management and its applications.
CERIDES realizes that modern Risk Management is inseparable from the technologies which support its implementation. We therefore offer a unique, holistic approach to Risk Management: our research activities are strongly coupled with the development of relevant technological tools and procedures that support the decision-maker in the implementation of her / his activities. During the short period of our existence, we have designed and developed several innovative risk-related tools and procedures which are already being used by academic, industrial, and governmental stakeholders.
The importance of CERIDES’ activities within the context of the complex geopolitical environment of the Eastern Mediterranean area cannot be underestimated. The annual Nicosia Risk Forum, organised by CERIDES, brings together academic, business, and industrial stakeholders from most countries of the region, allowing them to discuss and find solutions which increase the resilience of our countries in the face of growing political, business, and financial risk. In addition, CERIDES offers significant assistance to many Cyprus’ public and private organisations in the form of educational, training, and consultancy activities, increasing their capacity to identify and mitigate risks.
Q2. According to some statistics, 7,500 workers across the world die each day on the job due to poor workplace health and safety conditions. Furthermore, of these deaths, 6500 are due to work-related diseases and 1000 to occupational accidents. What is more disturbing, nearly one million people get hurt at work every day, impacting workers economically, physically, and socially. What is your view on these figures and how can CERIDES assist organizations in managing the risks and hazards?
A2. The worldwide statistics on occupational accidents and diseases must be taken into great consideration. There is an urgent need to understand the root causes of occupational accidents and diseases in order to develop sustainable prevention mechanisms. CERIDES is the only research centre in the Eastern Mediterranean area with significant expertise in the field of Occupational Health and Safety management. Our research work is focused on reducing risk factors in the worker’s environment and on sustaining good overall working conditions. In this way, the rate of occupational accidents and occupational diseases can be decreased, facilitating a healthier work life and healthy retirement, while simultaneously saving costs for all societal stakeholders.
CERIDES is an active stakeholder of the Cyprus OSH prevention system. Our researchers, in collaboration with the Cyprus Department of Labour Inspection (DLI), are continuously analysing official data on occupational accidents which has been collected by the DLI over the last two decades. The analysis facilitates the confrontation of challenges and the development of proactive measures to eliminate accidents at workplace. This analysis provides a significant contribution towards creating a positive health and safety culture within Cyprus organisations.
Q3. CERIDES claims to create a vibrant research community in Cyprus. What are the key challenges that you have faced in your journey so far?
A3. CERIDES is an organisation which, by its nature, likes challenges! We develop risk-related industrial solutions and offer risk-related services; therefore, we expect to be challenged within our own business environment. First and foremost, any research organisation needs to acquire funds which will allow it to maintain and grow its research capacity in a sustainable manner. In this respect, we operate just like any other typical business organisation. However, our focus since our inception has been on the quality, rather than the quantity of our output. This approach has allowed us to build a positive reputation and a strong network of local and international collaborators within a very short period of time. In this way, we are able to participate as Consortium partners or Consortium coordinators in the submission of a significant number of local and international project proposals, increasing our chances of establishing a steady flow of research funding.
While the acquisition of funding is the necessary condition of success in our business, it is not a sufficient condition on its own merit to ensure the long-term sustainability of our efforts. There are various organisational, technical and administrative challenges that CERIDES, as every organisation, faces each day. For addressing these challenges, we have the continuous support of our host organisation European University Cyprus (EUC). EUC is one of the biggest Universities in the Eastern Mediterranean area, with a proven record in teaching and research, as evidenced by international assessment organisations such as QS, Multirank, and Times Higher Education. EUC has been our mentor since the first day of our operation, and provides us with the dedicated support to address all the problems faced in the daily operation of CERIDES.
Q4. CERIDES has attracted 3,000,000 Euros in competitive research programs to date. What are the most notable projects?
A4. Indeed, we are particularly proud of our research funding performance up to the present day. CERIDES has already participated in, or coordinated more than 10 local and international research projects in the past 3 years of its operation, while it is currently participating in or coordinating 20 local and international research projects. Funding for these projects originates from all the well-known European-based instruments, such as Horizon2020, ISF, DG-ECHO, DG-HOME, DG-JUSTICE, Erasmus+, as well from the fundamental local funding instrument RESTART 2016-2020 of the Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF).
Each of these projects has a significant research, industrial, and societal impact on its own merit. It is worth highlighting the large-scale European-level projects ‘MELOGIC’ and ‘EU-CIRCLE’, in which CERIDES acted as the Project Coordinator. These projects addressed critical global-scale considerations such as the management of emergency response in natural disasters and the resilience of critical infrastructures due to climate change. It is also worth noting that CERIDES participates in the International Marie Sklodowska-Curie Training Network (ITN) entitled ‘Pyrolife’. As part of this participation, it will be hosting for several years a number of high-calibre PhD fellows, who will be trained in the topic of holistic fire management. Finally, CERIDES is proud to act as the Project Coordinator in the newly acquired large-scale Project entitled ‘OenoWatch’, which was submitted as an Integrated Project under the Restart 2016-2020 Program of the Research & Innovation Foundation (RIF).
Q5. You have been named as the overall Project Coordinator of “OenoWatch” project last month. Tell us a bit more about this innovative project and what are the social and economic impacts?
A5. The aim of the OenoWatch project is to study, develop, implement and pilot a holistic phytosanitary and plant protection system based on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and a series of cutting-edge technologies, as well as the establishment of a Competence Center for Precision Viticulture. This project will contribute significantly towards the growth and the long-term sustainability of Cypriot viticulture.
The Consortium of the OenoWatch project includes the Technical University of Cyprus (CUT), the consulting, services & training organization ‘DRONINT’, the consulting, & training organization EUROSUCCESS Consulting, the Development Agency of Lemesos, as well as Cypriot Wineries Ekfraseis and Makkas.
The total budget of the project implementation is in the region of 821.000 Euros. The project will generate a significant number of new job positions for young scientists.
Q6. For those young talents and graduates who are driven by the desire to further develop critical problem-solving skills to build a career in wider business community, what would be your advice?
The principle advice that I always give to my students and to the young researchers in our organisation is no different than the simple advice I received from my working-class parents when I was growing up many decades ago: “work hard, be disciplined, and be patient”! Despite popular belief, there are no ‘shortcuts’, ‘silver bullets’, or ‘free lunches’ in real life. Life is not linear; you might have to go back (more than once) and start all-over again. During your ‘trip’, make sure that you collect as much knowledge and experiences as possible, and use it to develop your critical thinking skills. Actively seek to develop such skills, rather than to collect monetary rewards. It’s the acquisition of these skills that will eventually ‘attract’ the monetary rewards and will help you to develop a long and fruitful career in the industry.