Cyprus, an Eastern Mediterranean island-nation, has been divided between a Turkish-Cypriot north and a Greek-Cypriot south for over four decades. Failed peace talks have left young Cypriots uncertain about the future of their country, where conflict between rival communities still exists. Yet, Cyprus remains a glimmer of hope in a highly volatile region of the world, geographically positioned in the Middle East, nestled in the Levant at the crossroads of three continents.
CyprusInno, a non-profit startup, social venture and think tank, was created by a young Greek-Cypriot and a Turkish-Cypriot team, to challenge the status quo by developing a bi-zonal, inter-communal business ecosystem where entrepreneurs cooperate, grow, succeed, and build trust. Their strategy aims at reversing the impact of conflict through entrepreneurship as a driver of economic development and as instrumental for peace-building mechanisms.
The team recently launched an innovation center within Cyprus’ Buffer Zone by transforming a military container unit into a co-working space and startup accelerator/incubator. The center is one of the first innovation spaces in the world located in a demilitarized zone, one where Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots from the last divided capital in Europe come together every day to work and break barriers.
Another key initiative from CyprusInno is the startup’s online platform which includes tools and resources that connect Cypriot entrepreneurs, startups, problem-solvers and innovators. There, users can register and create a profile, submit startups, check island-wide business events, seek jobs, publish articles – all assets as part of an effort to battle high unemployment among youth and strengthen business trust. The platform also features the largest database of startups in Cyprus and is the first to map from both north and south, presenting a united Cyprus through entrepreneurship.
CyprusInno received a UN SDG Action Award in the Connect category, for its ability to flip division into peace and unity, by bridging the gap between citizens and institutions, and connecting individuals from traditionally divided areas to increase progress on the SDGs – particularly on Goals 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). CyprusInno team’s vision is to replicate this model in conflict regions worldwide, thus flipping the script for more peaceful and prosperous communities.