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Issue no: 840/25

• MAY 3 - 5, 2016

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi Introduces Georgia to Golf Culture

FOCUS ON BRINGING GOLF TO GEORGIA

Hotels & Preference opens two new golf simulators

PAGE 2

Microsoft to Provide Free Services for Georgian Start-ups BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

A

Memorandum of Understanding which was signed between Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency’s (GITA) Technological Park (Tech Park) and Microsoft aims to support Start-ups and create new opportunities for Georgian entrepreneurs. Together with GITA, Microsoft will help to develop Tech Park Start-ups, assisting them to become competitive in the global market. “Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency is implementing a special program to promote entrepreneurship,” said Chairman of GITA, Irakli Kashibadze. “Microsoft will make a great contribution to the program. Start-ups will have more opportunities to develop their skills, professional knowledge and become true businessmen. The memorandum we

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Will Georgia Be Able To Benefit From Bilateral Free Trade Agreements? ISET PAGE 4

Kazakh Airline to Start Flights to Batumi PAGE 5

Excise Duties on Hybrid Cars Reduce by 50 %

PAGE 8

Samsung Makes Commercial in Framework of ‘Film in Georgia’ Program PAGE 9

The Memorandum signed between GITA and Microsoft is the first step towards assisting Georgian Youth to expand the IT industry in the country,”

signed with Microsoft is the first step in our relationship. We hope it helps our young people to expand the IT industry in the country,” he said. In the framework of the project, workshops are to be conducted by local and foreign spe-

cialists, and there will be increased access to the BizSpark program and free access to Cloud, plus free use of necessary equipment. Additionally, the program will work to attract investors to counseling sessions in order to support the activities of domestic partnership.

Making Innovation Happen: Young Georgian Inventors at NASA

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

MAY 3 - 5, 2016

Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi Introduces Georgia to Golf Culture

BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

H

otels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi has expanded the range of services offered by its Recreation Center ‘Be Pure’ and has presented the first virtual 3D golf simulator in Georgia, available from May 1. The golf simulator will be available

to everyone and gives a unique opportunity for beginners to get acquainted with the sport and for those skilled golf-lovers to keep their hand in during their stay. Hotels & Preference offers two 3D golf simulator rooms, each of which can host four players. The hotel offers an advanced model of the Cougar brand simulator, which has 100 different golf courses from across the globe, a weather change option and the chance to choose between playing the whole game or to focus on a particular skill. The simulator also helps beginners to move forward during the game, advising which clubs to use as they approach a hole. “Of course, it can’t teach you the technique and how to hit, but it helps you to learn the basics of the game,” said Petter Lillvik, General Manager of Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi. Currently, golf is not so popular in Georgia, with most of the population unaware how to play it. But Lillvik believes that golf is popular all around the world and that this country has great potential to also “get hooked” on the game. “I think our golf simulator will be in high demand among our foreign guests. However, one of our main goals is to make it interesting for Georgians. For this purpose, I think we’ll arrange some trainings, bring people here and show them how to play. If you try it at least once, you’re almost sure to get addicted,” said Lillvik.

Lillvik highlighted that Georgia is at an early stage in terms of golf, with the sole course located an inconvenient 1.5 hours from Tbilisi. In addition, golf is an expensive sport. If you have never tried it before, you have to buy or rent all the equipment: bag, gloves, clubs, balls, shoes etc., which involves additional costs. While in Hotels & Preference, you just need to come, pay only 30 Lari for an hour, and enjoy the game. In recent years, indoor golf simulators have become very popular in Northern Europe, Asia and many other regions, where most of the year it is rainy or snowy, but where people still need to practice. “Modern technologies and this kind of 3D simulator create the atmosphere of a real presence on the course. You are in nature and can even hear birds singing. Here, as on a real course, you can forget all your stress, because you are concentrated only on the game. Golf by nature is very interesting, demanding and challenging,” noted Lillvik. The General Manager also suggested that it could become a great option for spending time with friends and family. “Golf is very universal sport. Many sports have age barriers, but golf you can play with your four-year-old child or a 99-year-old grandparent. It suits everyone and is very relaxing. Try it once and you’ll see why people are so passionate about it,” he added.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

MAY 3 - 5, 2016

THE ISET ECONOMIST A BLOG ABOUT ECONOMICS AND THE SOUTH CAUCAUS

www.iset-pi.ge/blog

The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI, www.iset-pi.ge) is an independent think-tank associated with the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET). Our blog carries economic analysis of current events and policies in Georgia and the South Caucasus region ranging from agriculture, to economic growth, energy, labor markets and the nexus of economics, culture and religion. Thought-provoking and fun to read, our blog posts are written by international faculty teaching at ISET and recent graduates representing the new generation of Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian economists.

Will Georgia Be Able To Benefit From Bilateral Free Trade Agreements? BY SIMON APPLEBY AND ERIC LIVNY

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he Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Georgia and the EU, brought into effect in 2014, was hailed at the time as being of great importance to Georgian manufacturers and food/beverage producers. Yet, sceptics commented that 1) Georgia had already have more than 7000 articles duty-free and quota-free under the pre-existing GSP+ trade terms granted by the EU for many years, and 2) very few exporters had been able to take advantage of these concessions. Georgia’s wine and spirits exports are an excellent case in point. While constituting the largest consumer market in the world, the EU makes up a small proportion of Georgia’s exports of wine (including not only bottled wines but also cask wines and bulk wine in flexitanks). Traditionally, Georgia has been a very Russia-focussed wine production country, as the following charts indicate. Incidentally, 2013 and 2014 were boom years for Georgian alcohol producers: the Russian market reopened in 2013 and pent-up demand for Georgian wine meant that both sales volumes and prices increased. The mix of Georgian wines reaching the EU market includes a larger proportion of premium and super-premium wines, as indicated by the much higher average price per hectolitre Georgian wine exports fetch in the EU. Because of that, in 2013-14,

the urgency for diversifying into higher quality products and challenging new EU markets was dulled by the lure of familiar markets in Russia. Only a few shrewd operators maintained a countercyclical approach, leveraging their Russian sales revenues into aggressive European and Asian marketing campaigns. Indeed, entering the European market is a great challenge for Georgian producers. European consumers, especially in the West and South of the continent, have quite well-defined preferences and in many cases have been drinking the same wines from the same appellations for hundreds of years. Changing those preferences will not be easy. The proverbial “wine lake” of Europe means that table wine in Europe is cheaper than mineral water in many cases. Georgia does not effectively compete in this market segment, lacking the subsidies or economies of scale to do so. Yet, crucially importantly for the future of Georgia’s future economic development, the DCFTA with the EU must be seen as only the first - not last -- step in restructuring Georgia’s international trade!

Source here and below: UN Comtrade

IT’S CHINA, STUPID! Having gone through the process of DCFTA negotiations and increasing safety standards to satisfy the EU, Georgia is now institutionally equipped to push through deals not only with the EU, but with China, ASEAN, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India and NAFTA. One of the fastest growing centres of wine con-

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sumption in the world, China is poised to exceed Russia as a wine consuming country before the end of this decade. Until early this century, what little wine that was consumed in China was mostly domestic and of very poor quality. One author of this article can vividly remember buying a bottle of “Great Wall” Cabernet in 2000 in Shanghai, which had a can of Coca Cola taped to the neck of the bottle as a free gift. The serving suggestion was to blend the two, which would make the wine almost drinkable; otherwise, it tasted like furniture polish. In only 15 years, wine drinking has become a prestigious activity in China, indicating sophistication. China will soon have one of the largest areas under vine in the world. Vineyard management and winemaking quality is dramatically improved. Wine imports have also boomed, with over a third accounted for by French wine. Yet, we should pay special attention to the success of New World exporters, such as Australia, taking advantage of the fact that many Chinese consumers have yet to establish fixed habits regarding country of origin of their wines. Georgian wine exporters have been capturing market share in China, from a very low base. Import tariffs on wine imports into China are 14%. Negotiating an FTA with China will eliminate this tariff, boosting Georgian wine exports into this lucrative market. It is interesting to observe that France commands the highest premium in the East Asian markets, judging by the average price per hectalitre commanded by exporters, yet and Georgian and Australian wines fit a respectable niche in the next tier, commanding significantly higher prices than Chilean or South African wines. Raising the efficiency of rail transport from Georgia across the Caspian to China is another important way to promote Georgia exports to East Asia. Faster and cheaper rail transport could put Georgian wine exports at a competitive advantage to those from South America, Africa, Australasia and Western Europe, which have to rely on sea freight.

LEARNING FROM AUSTRALIA’S EXPERIENCE Australian exporters have been able to capture significantly better prices on average than most of their competitors, through rigorous quality management, national and regional branding, and aggressive export marketing. Importantly for our

comparison, both Georgia and Australia are (almost) zero-subsidy jurisdiction. Georgia maintains floor prices for grape produced by smallholders, but there is no substantial subsidy for commercial-scale vignerons. It is still too early to see the effect on Australia’s Free Trade Agreement with China, effective December 2015, yet this FTA has significantly reduced the cost of Australian wine to Chinese distributors (the tariff of 14% of the Cost-Insurance-Freight value is now abolished for Australian wine) which allows flexibility for discounting to capture market share, improving margins, or a mix of these strategies. $6 billion a year wine import trade in the Asia Pacific region still has plenty of growth potential. Moreover, for wine producers in countries other than France, Georgia included, the opportunity exists to capture market share amongst first-time wine drinkers who are not yet firmly wedded to European wines. Only 20 years ago, Australian wine was unknown in Asia. Now it is ubiquitous. Export market promotion has evolved over time, with levies imposed upon wineries and grape growers to fund export market development, vineyard R&D, and biosecurity programmes with government co-operation. Brand “Australia” is now well known, and consumers understand the diversity of product available under that umbrella, from supermarket “critter wines” like Yellowtail at $5 to $3000/bottle Penfolds Grange. Regional/appellation identities like Barossa Valley, Margaret River, and Rutherglen are understood by consumers within the larger national wine identity. The significance of Australia’s experience for Georgia goes well beyond wine or alcohol. Provided Georgia uses a smart export promotion strategy, one led by industry with government co-operation, we can capture market share in nuts and many niche products like Kiwifruit, blueberries, honeyberries and blackberries. Essential components of a successful marketing strategy for Georgia would be national branding, effort invested in negotiating Free Trade Agreements (not subsidies!), and transport. To sum up, the EU DCFTA is an excellent development that may yield incremental gains for Georgian exporters in very attractive consumer goods markets. However, it should not be seen as an end unto itself, but the first of many Free Trade Agreements negotiated with non-traditional markets.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 5, 2016

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SES: Georgian TV Market Thriving BY MERI TALIASHVILI

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ES, the world-leading satellite operator, for the first time conducted a satellite survey in Georgia last year. SES- initiated satellite research constantly measures the level of development of the broadcasting market and broadcasting services in broadband access to SES-European satellite fleet coverage in 37 countries. In 2015, Georgia joined the list of countries participating in the SES satellite survey. GEORGIA TODAY talked to Niels-Filip Abrahamsson, SES Sales Manager in the Nordic and Baltic States and Eastern Europe, about the data of the Georgian TV market in 2015, and the SES main results and general indicators for the globe.

WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR GEORGIA’S PARTICIPATION IN THE SES- SATELLITE STUDIES? Before we embark on the Satellite Monitors study each year, we look into identifying countries where the study would best benefit our customers. In addition, we make sure to update every country at least every other year in order to keep consistency over time. We decided to include Georgia because it’s a very interesting market for us. With its successful analogue switchover taking place in 2015, it seemed like very good timing to study the country and analyze the video trends.

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF MONITORING IN GEORGIA AND WORLDWIDE? In Georgia, there are 1.25 million TV homes, which means 97% of households watch TV in the country. Satellite is the

leading TV reception mode, reaching 50% of TV homes directly for 620,000 DTH homes. SES plays a key role in the market as it reaches 440,000 TV homes, which includes direct reach as well as cable and IPTV homes. We also observe that satellite is driving HD adoption in the country, as 47% of all TV homes enjoy HD thanks to satellite. From a global perspective, SES now reaches 317 million TV homes worldwide, which represents an overall growth of 23% since 2011. Our studies reveal that satellite continues to be the leading mode of TV reception in Europe, with 35% of TV homes reached directly. The results also highlight the important role of SES in Europe, its satellites serving 71% of satellite households directly, and feeding 94% of cable homes and 91% of IPTV homes. As in Georgia, we observe a consequent growth of HD - the number of TV households enjoying HD content in Europe has tripled over the past five years, with SES now serving 78% of HDTV homes.

WHERE IS GEORGIA ON THE LIST IN TERMS OF SATELLITE BROADCASTING? WHICH COUNTRY IS THE LEADER IN THIS DIRECTION? Georgia is actually in the Top 3 when it comes to satellite TV penetration in Europe, with 50% of TV homes served by satellite directly – sharing the podium with Slovakia. The first country is Ireland, with 63% of satellite homes, then Austria with 60%.

WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS WOULD YOU GIVE THE GEORGIAN TV MARKET? The Georgian market is certainly thriving now. The move of the entire TV

market to digital has been very successful, even though there are still 5% TV homes (served by cable) that are analogue. We believe the Georgian market will continue to grow in terms of their DTH subscribers. This is because a lot of broadcasters and content owners are seeing the benefits of satellite. Georgia has numerous remote and mountainous areas and satellite is the ideal platform for broadcasting to these homes directly as it can overcome geographical challenges to reach underconnected communities across the whole country with a single beam. Additionally, there’s a clear wish from consumers for a higher picture quality and a better viewing experience. Satellite can easily accommodate the bandwidth needed to carry the increasing number of HD channels to meet consumer demand.

SES SET A BENCHMARK FOR THE ENTIRE SATELLITE INDUSTRY. WHAT DOES IT DEAL WITH? Satellite Monitors measures the development of TV reception modes, measures total SES reach in Europe (pay TV and free to air reception), and has established a benchmark for the whole satellite industry. Satellite Monitors have been running for 21 years already, are conducted by leading market research institutes in Europe and have been audited and awarded quality stamps by independent research authorities.

Kazakh Airline to Start Flights to Batumi BY ANA AKHALAIA

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azakh airline SCAT will start flights to Batumi in early June, according to the head of Adjara’s Tourism Department, Mamuka Berdzenishvili. The number of Kazakh citizens travelling to Georgia in the first quarter of 2016 increased by 21 percent, which necessitated increased air passenger traffic between the two former Soviet countries. “For the first time in history, we will have direct flights to/from Kazakhstan. The flights will start from the beginning

of June when SCAT Airlines will make flights from Kazakh city Aktau to Batumi,” said Berdzenishvili. He also said plans are in the works to increase the number of flights to Batumi from Turkey and Belarus. Established in 1997, SCAT Airlines’ main base is in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. The company's fleet consists of mainly western-owned aircraft and offers services to more than 80 domestic and international air routes. According to data from the Georgian National Tourism Department, the number of tourists from Kazakhstan in Georgia in the first quarter of 2016 was 6,290, up 27 percent from the same period last year.


GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 5, 2016

BUSINESS

Contact: www.edelbrand.ge Phone: 599 461908

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BUSINESS

Georgia’s Foreign Trade Turnover with CIS Countries Decreases

BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

T

he National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) has published data according to which Georgia's foreign trade turnover with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries in January-March 2016 decreased by 15% compared with the same period last year, amounting to USD 574 million. However, despite Georgia's withdrawal from the CIS, the country’s foreign trade turnover with members of CIS is 27 percent of the total volume of foreign trade. Exports to CIS countries amounted to USD 129 million (26 percent less) and imports USD 445 million (11 percent

less). The share of CIS countries accounted for 27 percent of the total foreign trade turnover of Georgia; however, in January-March 2015 it stood at 29 percent with the share of CIS countries accounting for 25 percent of Georgia’s negative trade balance. One year ago the figure was the same. Georgia's foreign trade turnover in January-March amounted to approximately USD 2.14 billion (excluding nonorganized trade), which is 7 percent less than the same period last year. Georgia officially interrupted relations with the CIS but today it is a participant of the CIS multilateral economic agreements in the areas of trade, transport and intellectual property protection. The formal procedure of Georgia’s withdrawal from CIS ended on August 18, 2009.

GEORGIA TODAY

MAY 3 - 5, 2016

Excise Duties on Hybrid Cars Reduce by 50 %

BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

P

resident of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili has signed a law on excise tax, reducing it by 50 percent on hybrid cars. The tax benefits came into force on May 1. Lawmakers noted that the introduction of benefits for cars with hybrid engines will allow them to eventually replace ordinary cars and significantly improve the ecological situation in Georgia. According to the current legislation,

10 Galaktion Street

cars are subject to excise duty in accordance with the year of production. In particular, for cars released less than a year ago the excise duty will be 1.5 Lari per 1 cubic centimeter; one year or more – 1.4 Lari, two years – 1.3 Lari, three years – 1.2 Lari, four years – 1 Lari, five years – 0.7 Lari, six years – 0.5 Lari per 1 cubic centimeter. These rates apply to hybrid cars working on ordinary fuel and battery. The amendments to the Tax Code allow hybrid cars to gain a 50 percent tax discount. “Benefits for hybrid cars will lead to gradual replacement of conventional hybrid cars, which will reduce the consumption of petroleum products and

will have a dual effect – improving the ecological condition of the country and reducing fuel import costs,” it was said in the Parliament of Georgia. The amendments were prepared on the initiative of the Free Democrats parliamentary faction. In the draft version of the tax amendment, all cars with a hybrid engine were exempt from excise and import taxes. The authors believe that today it is much more important to encourage the import of environmentally friendly cars to Georgia, which will update the car fleet of the country and improve financial and economic indicators.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 5, 2016

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Georgia’s GDP Grows 3.4 % in March Geostat produces monthly rapid estimations of real GDP growth using administrative data on VAT taxpayers’ turnover, fiscal and monetary statistics. The compilation of rapid estimates is an internationally adopted practice to obtain preliminary monthly growth of real GDP. For those sectors where preliminary monthly data do not exist (e.g. agriculture, non-observed economy etc.), the esti-

BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

T

he recently published data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) shows a growth in Georgia’s economy. The estimated real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate amounted to 3.4 percent year-on-year in March 2016. The estimated real GDP average growth equaled 2.3 percent for the first quarter quarter of 2016 year-on-year. Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, recently claimed that the country was preparing for a huge boost in economic growth and the goal was to achieve 3.5 percent economic growth in 2016 and hit six percent in 2017.

Other institutions like the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) projected Georgia's economic growth will reach three percent in 2016. Global rating agencies Moody’s and Bloomberg also forecast Georgia’s real economic growth will average three percent in 2016. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected six percent growth in 2017.

Samsung Makes Commercial in Framework of ‘Film in Georgia’ Program

BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

S

amsung presented its latest commercial for the Samsung S7 Edge which is intended for the Vietnamese market. The commercial was filmed in the building of the Georgian National Opera Theater in Tbilisi in early March 2016. Since 1896, the Theater has resided in an exotic neo-Moorish edifice originally constructed by Victor Johann Gottlieb Schroter, a prominent architect of Baltic German origin. Although definitively Oriental in its decorations and style, the building’s layout, foyers and main hall are that of a typical

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European opera house. Since its foundation, the theater has been damaged by several fires and underwent major rehabilitation works under Soviet and Georgian leadership. The most recent restoration effort concluded in January 2016, having taken six years and costing approximately USD 40 million, donated by a Georgian business foundation. The Samsung commercial, a coproduction of Playhouse pictures (Malaysia) and Magnet Films (Georgia), was created in the framework of the ‘Film in Georgia’ program within which the Government of Georgia announced earlier this year that it would offer financial support to film-makers in an attempt to attract small and big budget film producers to the country.

mations are based on the data for previous periods. Therefore, the actual quarterly real GDP growth may significantly differ from monthly rapid estimates. Furthermore, the data on VAT taxpayers’ turnover for the previous months might be updated on a monthly basis, implying corresponding adjustments of real GDP growth estimates.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

MAY 3 - 5, 2016

Three New Direct Flights from Russia to Georgia

BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

T

he number of Russian tourists visiting Georgia has increased substantially. The Russian Federal Agency for Tourism announced that

around 925,000 Russians visited Georgia last year. In the future, this figure is expected to rise further since, from May, Georgia will open direct flights from several Russian cities including Ekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg and Samara. The three new flights will carry out routes to Batumi International Airport. The first flight from Ekaterinburg took

place last Thursday. Direct flights from Samara will begin May 7 and from Saint Petersburg from May 16. Regular direct flights between Russia and Georgia were canceled in 2006 following rising tensions between the two countries, to be rebuilt temporarily in 2008 but interrupted again after the August war that year due to a rupture of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. Charter flights between Moscow and Tbilisi resumed in August 2010. However, the restoration of regular air service between Moscow and Tbilisi was only adopted on October 24, 2014. Today, four airlines offer flights between Georgia and Russia, from the Russian side – S7 Airlines, Aeroflot and Ural Airlines, and from the Georgian side – Georgian Airways.

PASHA Bank Easter Charity

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ASHA Bank congratulated its partners and clients on Easter in a traditional way: on behalf of its stakeholders the Bank transferred the amount to charity organization SOS Children's Village Georgia that will be used to fund full-year English language courses for all university applicants living in the Village. SOS Children’s Villages Georgia is a non-profit organization operating in Georgia since 1989. It aims to protect the rights of the children at risk of losing or deprived of parental care and to provide support to vulnerable children through

community based and alternative child care services with the purpose of children’s socialization and social integration. “PASHA Bank has been providing a full range of corporate and investment banking services in Georgia since 2013. For all of this time we have kept corporate social responsibility at the cornerstone of our presence in Georgia and we have carried out a number of charity and social activities to date. Last Easter we made quite a significant donation to the charity fund “First Step Georgia”. This year too, in keeping with our tradition of doing a good deed, we made a donation to SOS Children’s Villages Georgia

on behalf of our partners and employees,” said Anano Korkia, Head of PR and Marketing at PASHA Bank. “On behalf of SOS Children’s Village I’d like to thank PASHA Bank for the donation and underline that any contribution to our children’s education guarantees their better future. We strongly believe that PASHA Bank – our new reliable friend – will be a role model to promote active involvement from businesses and will have a positive influence on the lives of certain individuals as well as the society as a whole,” said Nodar Topuridze, advocacy advisor at SOS Children’s Villages Georgia.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 5, 2016

11

Making Innovation Happen: Young Georgian Inventors at NASA

BY NANA SAJAIA, VOICE OF AMERICA GEORGIAN SERVICE

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think their chances are excellent, I definitely think they would have been in the running to be a winner here- Jack Griem tells me of Georgian high school innovator team Solar. Griem is President of the Board at the Conrad Foundation. Established in 2008, the Conrad Foundation honors the legacy of Apollo 12 astronaut, Charles “Pete” Conrad, and his four-decade passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. Solar is a team of four male teenage innovators from a Tbilisi-based GeorgianBritish-Spanish school. We are in Titusville, Florida, at the Kennedy NASA Space Center, where the Conrad Foundation is hosting the Conrad Innovation Summit. A few dozen students all the way from Texas, USA to Queensland, Australia are here presenting their technological innovations in an attempt to convince subject scientists of the originality and viability of their inventions. Team Solar is the second team from Georgia to make it to the Conrad Summit. Dressed in business suits, black ties and snow-white shirts, the four young men make an ambassadorial team- they are not competing with their international counterparts; they are ambassadors, presenting Georgia at the worldrenowned space center. “Hi, we are from Georgia…,” says Giorgi Margiani, he pauses for couple of seconds and adds: “but not from Georgia that came to your minds. We are from the country Georgia,” then he clicks a remote controller, and a new slide shows up on the wide screen – a map of Georgia. Georgian team Solar is the winner of the Millennium Innovations Award competition - a nationwide Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) competition organized by the Millennium Challenge Account – Georgia. Funded by the US Government, this award aims to encourage innovative ideas and projects among Georgian youth. For the next 15 minutes Giorgi Margiani, Beka Mikadze, Giorgi Nioradze and Vakhtang Kontridze speak in turns, in fast English and highly-technical lan-

guage. They are passionately presenting a project on increasing solar cell sufficiency. Even though these high-schoolers have participated in a number of competitions both locally and internationally, there are two teachers in the audience, anxious and cheering for their students. “I was nervous, but now I’m proudthey made us proud yet again,” says Lela Bochoidze, school principle, after the presentation. Pride is shared by school founder Nona Bolkvadze: “Soon after the competition was announced we contacted the Georgian Technical University and Professor Temur Chichua kindly agreed to mentor our students. They worked day and night constructing this technology and made it all the way to the NASA space center,” she says. The presentation was followed by intense applause and numerous appraisals. One from Griem himself: “The Georgian team showed a video demonstrating the level of really sophisticated physical work that they did, building a very interesting prototype, testing that prototype and gathering the necessary data.” I asked the relieved students to explain their innovation to, what we journalists call the “common reader.” Giorgi Margiani begins: “We presented a project on increasing solar cell sufficiency and its effectiveness. Our key is that we modify silicon placed on the surface that helps in the redistribution of light.” Giorgi Nioradze believes their project is an important one, “as we will make electro-energy more accessible and cheaper than it currently is.” Apart from several months’ hard work, there is something else these students share – belief in their project. For Beka Mikadze, the project is unique. “Our method of modernizing solar cells is unique, it has no analogue on any market in the world.” Vakhtang Kontridze goes further, saying he would definitely invest, if he could: “Because we can make electricity accessible and sufficient for many more families.” As a matter of fact, it is not only inventors who praise the project. Nancy Conrad, who created the Conrad Foundation in 2008 to energize and engage students

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in science and technology through unique entrepreneurial opportunities, says Georgia had a “fantastic team” at the summit: “Their solar project is amazing. That 3% saving on solar energy through their invention is huge.” As an ambassadorial team, Solar was not judged by subject experts, but now they know what it takes to win the Conrad Competition: “The criteria for winners is that their product has to be unique, commercially viable, the engineering has to be feasible and somebody needs to want it – it’s an intersection of feasibility, desirability and viability. And when those three things intersect, that’s when innovation happens,” says Nancy. “At the end of the day what it’s really about is young minds understanding how to think,” she adds. For more, go to: http://www.amerikiskhma. com/a/nasa-georgian-students/3303974. html

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Tamar Svanidze, Zviad Adzinbaia, Beqa Kirtava, Meri Taliashvili, Eka Karsaulidze, Zaza Jgharkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Ana Akhalaia, Robert Isaf, Joseph Larsen, Will Cathcart, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze

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Issue #840 Business  

May 03 - 05, 2016

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