Cyprus is embarking on a societal and economic transformation from a services-based economy to a knowledge hub. This process, which is aligned with the EU’s 2020 strategy for growth and jobs, has been ongoing over the several last years and is already proving successful. Policies like country’s competitive corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent and implementation of the Cyprus Entrepreneurship Fund – with initial investments adding up to 200 million euros set aside for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country – have lent credence to the island nation as a growing business centre.
The European Commission’s Regional Innovation Scoreboard ranks Cyprus as a moderate innovator, noting the country’s strong intellectual assets and research systems. In its 2017 research and innovation report on Cyprus, the European Commission also noted that in 2016, the country’s GDP grew by 3 per cent and was forecasted to grow to 3.5 per cent the following year. Public finances were expected to show a surplus of 1.1 per cent by the end of 2017, and unemployment was expected to fall to 9.3 per cent by 2019. As time as shown, this transforming economy is already bearing fruit.
The pharmaceutical industry is a major player in all of this. Pharmaceuticals account for an outsized proportion of the country’s intensive research and development, and these companies lead Cypriot exports, accounting for 436 million euros in 2017.
In 2016, a major South African health company, Ascendis Health Group, noted this trend in Cyprus and decided to take action by acquiring one of Cyprus’s most established pharmaceutical industry players, Remedica. With current export activities in more than 100 countries and a product portfolio of more than 300 generic, brand, and over-the-counter products, the Remedica collaboration is a prime example of Cyprus’s innovation- and expansion-focused future.
“The acquisition was extremely smooth. Everybody was surprised, and that proved that Cyprus has very good procedures as well as a regulatory environment that facilitates and fosters investments”, said Remedica’s Managing Director, Dr Michael Neoptolemou. “In addition, it gave a big message to potential investors that may have plans to invest in Cyprus: that companies in Cyprus, like Remedica, which was acquired a year and a half ago, are robust irrespective of the size of the country they operate in”. Neoptolemou noted confidently.
Neoptolemou came to Remedica after successfully excelling in several fields of higher education, as well as pursuing a career in the public sector. A long-time academic and PhD graduate, Neoptolemou followed his studies by working as the competitiveness and growth counsellor during the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU. He was also a part of the negotiating team during the Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU as an advisor for the Competitiveness and Growth Council before he was approached by Remedica. He found that his biggest knack for success with the company was being matched up at the right time with the right talent. “As someone said, ‘Smart people hire smarter people than them, [they don’t] tell them what to do”, Neoptolemou noted, explaining that he himself is trying to run Remedica the same way, by bringing in the brains and talents that will create, innovate, and drive massive change.
Under Neoptolemou’s leadership, Remedica has increased its R&D activities, investing in the development of new pharmaceutical products and adding more and more international patents to its portfolio. Remedica is also making some of its innovative technology available to other companies around the world through licensing and supply agreements, allowing the company to enter more markets and broaden its customer base.
“We intend to penetrate additional markets in the forthcoming years. That includes Latin American countries, the Far East, and also reinforce one of our strongest territorial areas, namely MENA countries – Middle East and North Africa”, said Neoptolemou, giving credit to the company’s founder, Chris Pattichis. The entrepreneurial acumen and extroverted approach of the company’s founder abled him to start Remedica in 1960 with an outward-looking, growth-oriented vision that Neoptolemou hopes to realise in his time at the helm.
This vision, the company’s talents, and the business model – affordable prices, secure supply, and sustainability – have culminated into a multitude of awards over the past few decades. Starting in 1989, Remedica began winning the Export Award for Industry by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism). It has collectively received seven of these awards over the years. The company also was named one of the top 10 best export/import companies across Europe by European Business Awards in 2015. And in 2017, Remedica was named the Best Company in the Ascendis Health Group of Companies.
Just this year, Remedica was listed on the London Stock Exchange’s list of “1,000 Companies to Inspire Europe”. The list celebrates the fastest-growing and most dynamic SMEs across Europe.
But beyond being a highly established and innovative company in pharmaceuticals, Remedica has an additional business aspect that differentiates it from some revenue-only driven companies of the modern day. Remedica is among the founders of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Cyprus and places a huge emphasis on giving back to society.
“We feel that we should never be greedy and should give back to the society …. Because, if you have a cohesive society, it’s going to be reflected in you at a later stage. So it’s a mutual approach, I would say. You give, you get. You get, and you give”, explained Neoptolemou.
And Remedica gives quite a lot. The company provides financial support to the Sophia Foundation for Children, it organises blood donation camps, fundraises for the Cyprus Red Cross, sponsors the event “Beautiful Pregnant Women Beautiful Mothers Healthy Infants”, and coordinates educational visits to Remedica for university students, among other things.
“For many, many years we have donated free pharmaceutical products around the globe because we always follow the slogan, “We want to create wealth through health”,” Neoptolemou explained with genuine belief and commitment in Remedica’s broader charity mission.
It really is a win-win. With more business activities around the world and an increasing number of life-saving pharmaceutical products, Remedica is continuing to augment the amount it gives back to society in myriad ways – beyond their medical products.
“If you don’t alleviate suffering, then you do not have a place within the industry – which is called the pharmaceutical industry”, stated Neoptolemou. “Because we want to stay here forever …. we set the scope [of Remedica], which is to alleviate suffering”.