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Scientific Projects 2014

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is one of the organisations in Greece working towards improving the lives of the country’s hard-hit communities. As the nation puts the financial crisis behind it, the Latsis family, including businessman Spiro Latsis, continues the public service efforts so important to John S. Latsis, for whom the foundation is named.

The foundation’s supervisory board is headed by Latsis family members: Henrietta Latsis (president), Spiro Latsis, Marianna Latsis and Margarita Latsis. Together, the team has supported social welfare, scientific discovery, education and cultural initiatives both in Greece and around the world. The foundation undertakes programmes of its own as well as supports the programmes of others. Programmes funded in part by the foundation are considered partners, and the foundation seeks to provide support beyond just financial assistance.

In 2008, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation began to facilitate an annual open call for submission of proposals for scientific research projects. By providing funding to such endeavours, the foundation hopes to advance science research in Greece and open the doors for collaborations between local scientific groups and foreign universities.

In the seven years since the annual open call started, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has funded an average of 17 projects every year. Successful project proposals have been balanced between the areas of Social Sciences and Humanities, Life Sciences as well as Physical and Engineering Sciences.

The year 2014 saw 19 projects receive funding, with the project selection committee choosing innovative ideas from each of the aforementioned categories. One project that caught the eye of the foundation’s members pertained to the use of nanogels in regenerative medicine. An overview of the project is provided below.

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Nanogels in regenerative medicine

Proposed by a team of three researchers from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the focus of this particular project was to develop new therapies using nanogels that could advance tissue engineering. Nanogels are soft matter microscopic particles whose natural properties allow them to change shape and size depending on the environment in which they are placed. Nanogels can be used to mimic the biomechanical qualities of natural cartilage, and can thus be applied in medical situations where patients suffer from cartilage degeneration.

The project submission process

Projects are submitted to the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation through an online submission system that requires research teams to have an appointed coordinator who will acquire a personal account. Through the personal account, the team can submit a proposal during the submission period specified by the foundation.

Teams have the option of submitting at once or incrementally until the expiration of the submissions deadline. Relevant proposal information, such as contact information and the CV’s of the scientific group’s members, title of the project and details pertaining to the research undertaken (significance, schedule, expected end results, project budget and more) are included in the proposal.

Evaluation of the proposals is undertaken by a scientific committee that works in tandem with independent evaluators in related fields. The results of the evaluation are posted on the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, with project team coordinators receiving emails of the results as well. Research teams that are selected are required to sign contracts with the foundation, agreements that specify the terms of financing and implementation of the project.

Maximum funding for scientific research is 12,000 euros, which is expected to cover all expenses pertaining to the implementation of the proposed project. Independent teams are expected to manage their finances, while teams that are affiliated with research institutions and universities access the funds via special accounts set up by the parent institution.

Aiding advancements in scientific research

Private funders have gained the interest of researchers in recent years, largely because research groups can approach funders with issues that may not traditionally be considered significant enough to society to gain consideration. Often, private funding will be offered in regard to the size of the project; flexibility that might not be available when considering public funding. Research groups have the flexibility when creating proposals, and the bureaucracy that is sometimes evident in public funding procedures is typically eliminated with private backers.

Since the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation decided to support scientific groups with funds to facilitate their research, more than one hundreds projects have found the lifeline they needed to make a contribution to the body of scientific knowledge.

In an era where the Greek government is working steadfastly towards the re-emergence of the economy, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is doing its part to help ensure that scientific research in the country does not stagnate. The foundation’s continued funding of projects allows researchers the ability to continue finding answers to some of science’s great mysteries.

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A look at the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and its role in funding scientific research in Greece

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation was established by the Latsis family, in order to manage and implement activities which benefit the general public. Its board features several members of this family, including Margarita Latsis, Henrietta Latsis, Marianna Latsis and Spiro Latsis. The foundation, which you can learn more about on this website, provides funding for initiatives based both in Greece and in other countries around the world, with most of its activities focusing on projects related to culture, education, social welfare and scientific research.

Whilst many of these activities are implemented by the foundation, others are organised in collaboration with third parties. In the case of the latter, the board members work in partnership with their chosen organisation, offering not only financial help, but also other types of support, which allow for the best use of the money provided. The Latsis family members involved in this foundation understand that the needs of our society are increasing every day, and so funding must only be granted to initiatives which will have a far-reaching, and extremely positive impact. To this end, they deliberate over proposals very carefully, and employ long-term, strategic planning, which takes the foundation’s priorities and values into consideration.

Each year, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation helps to fund up to 25 scientific research projects within the fields of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social and Humanities Sciences. It does this via an open call, meaning that any scientific groups operating within the aforementioned fields can apply, provided they adhere to the terms and conditions outlined by the foundation.

With a generous grant of up to €12,000 for each of the projects that it funds, it’s no surprise that the foundation receives hundreds of proposals each year; in 2014, for example, a total of 946 applications were submitted. Of these, 19 were granted funding. The supervisory board which makes these decisions includes Margarita Latsis and Spiro Latsis, as well as a number of programme officers and administrators; this board carefully considers each proposal that it receives, in order to guarantee that funding is given to projects which will have a significantly positive impact on our society.

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The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has been providing grants for year-long research projects since 2008. The purpose of this funding is to advance scientific research in Greece, and to encourage collaborative work between foreign and Greek research foundations and universities. In its first year, the board funded 10 projects, three of which related to Physical and Engineering Sciences, with the remaining seven related to Social Sciences and Humanities. The following year, it funded 15 projects, and in 2010, it funded 21. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, it funded 17, 18 and 19 projects, respectively.

Last year, the board chose to finance seven scientific projects within the field of Social Sciences and Humanities. Considering the impact that the global economic crisis has had on our society in general, and in particular, on the Greek economy, it’s little wonder that two of these seven projects related to this financial crisis. The first of these projects was run by Martha Bouziouri, and focused on how the economic downturn had affected the social fabric of Athens. The socio-economic consequences of the recession have revealed new methods of collaboration, participation and coexistence, and in doing so have changed our ideas regarding self-organisation and solidarity; the goal of this study was to qualitatively and quantitatively reveal, characterise, track and interpret these changes, taking into consideration issues such as welfare cuts and economic hardship.

The second of these projects focused on fiscal consolidation policies in Greece. The team who carried out this research included Evgenia Vella and Evi Pappa, both of whom work at the European University Institute. Following the economic crisis of recent years, policy making has concentrated primarily on implementing extensive, long-term plans for fiscal consolidation; these include making cuts in government spending, and increasing taxation.

This research project examined the various types of fiscal consolidation policies that can exist within an economy which is known to contain an underground sector. With this in mind, the researchers used a model called DSGE (Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium), which focuses on involuntary unemployment, with legal services and commodities production that are intentionally hidden from public authorities, in order to avoid payment of social security contributions and taxes. Using this framework, the researchers investigated the unemployment and output effects of expenditure-based versus taxed-based fiscal adjustments.

The decision to take Greece’s underground economy into consideration when examining the country’s fiscal consolidation polices is a new concept; this study is the first to have ever done this. Fiscal policy and unemployment are two topics which are extremely relevant in Greece at the moment, and as such it was a logical choice on the part of the foundation board members to select this project for funding. However, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation does aim to finance research covering a wide variety of subject areas, and in addition to funding projects carried out in, and related to Greece, it also finances many studies related to international issues. This is an approach which the board will continue to adhere to under the management of its leader Spiro Latsis.