OPENandchange: SC!FY aplies and offers scientific knowledge for free

Despite an image of desperate, crumbling Greece that some people might have nowadays, those who investigate alternative economies and societies, those interested in self-organisation and changing the status quo recognize the country’s revolutionary role. One of the finest examples is SC!FY, a young organization based in Athens which in the course of four years managed to get a lot of stuff done.

My brother, George (Giannakopoulos) has been an Artificial Intelligence researcher who has worked both in Greece and the North of Italy for quite a few years and has had programming and IT consulting experience for over 15 years in the industry. He has been collaborating with researchers from both sides of the Atlantic. What he was experiencing as a researcher, was beyond his imagination. He puts it nicely:

“EU is spending billions of euros in research projects. Consortia of research institutes and big EU companies receive huge amounts of money to produce amazing technologies. Technologies that need only a few months of work to become great, potentially life­changing products. But most of them remain unused for years within the walls of the institutes that produce them. It seems absurd, but rarely does anyone undertake the little work that is required to bring top notch scientific results to our everyday lives. It is also common that researchers simply cannot grasp the direct impact a technology they create can have on everyday life, if applied in a friendly, accessible way.”

He wanted to see it change - and so in 2012 he founded an organisation with a mission to publish and transform that knowledge into ready to use solutions.

He could not take it any longer. So, he and his cordial friend Vassilis (Salapatas) decided to bridge this gap between research and society. In 2012 they formed SciFY (Science For You), an Not for profit organization that does exactly this: take scientific results, and then form a community of entrepreneurs, volunteers, researchers and end users to build useful final products to solve everyday problems. And they offer them for free. To all.

For the first two years we strategically decided to prove that we are serious about what we do, we are able to deliver and … that we are not crooks (since trust towards NGOs has been very low in Greece after some scandals)

We also had to prove we are using freely available results (these are more and more common in EU, which requires many of the research it funds to publish their findings on the most open licenses possible). In the last 2,5 years, we’ve started looking for funding and this is when plenty of things got done.

We have been awarded by the President of the Hellenic Republic, we’ve built collaborations with most of the major Greek institutions - foundations, institutes, universities etc. We have a feeling that our impact is rather disproportionate compared to our size :wink: But we really think this happens thanks to our focus on communities and our passion for getting things done.

You can read about our work in our annual report for 2015.

The model that we’ve introduced to our work is to create communities around each of the ideas from the very beginning. We’re also often asked to solve a particular problem by the very communities. This is one of the keys to our success - we’re surrounded by people who want to see and use the results of our work. And they’re actively taking part in the process. It helps us create a space where ideas, needs, opinions circulate and are being taken into account.

SC!FY is working now in four domains - areas of interest.

The first area of interest is care-related and it focuses on creating assistive technologies for people with disabilities, and on offering them for free (and under open source licences). Among these are games for blind children, which have been developed in collaboration with schools for the blind - they helped us design them, tested and now use them. The process allowed us to bring together blind and non-blind people to work together. These games have more than 3,500 downloads from all around the world, got much media attention - and we constantly get positive feedback from people using them. So we continue developing more games for the bind. :slight_smile:

We’ve also created a smartphone app called ICSee for people with low vision that applies special filters to the video captured by the phone’s camera and allows users to read a restaurant menu or signs on the door. It’s also available for free and under open source licences on Google Play…

We’re finishing the development of Talk and Play, a platform for people with motor disabilities, that will kick-off in late September. This application will help people who can’t move or talk to communicate with their environment, watch videos, listen to music, or play games that support their rehabilitation.

We have created more solutions in this area, that you can find here.

The second area of our work is e- democracy. In this strand, we’ve built an open source platform DemocracIT that supports the process of public consultation, which is theoretically common in Greece, but tedious in reality. We’ve tested it and presented to the governmental bodies. Besides, there is also ActiveCommons platform, which we’ve designed to foster collaboration for the common good between It caters organisations, NGOs and groups of people who want to change something and need an effective tool for collaboration.

The third scope of our work is supporting civil society with our IT skills. One of the results of such collaborations is a volunteer management platform - available for free, as well.

And finally, the fourth pillar of our work is the Artificial Intelligence business. One of the outcomes of our work is NewSum that produces automated news summaries, and works in many languages. Or PServer application, that helps you personalise other applications.

How do you cope with finding financing outside your own country? Do you struggle building or managing communities that could support your work and contribute towards making it time and cost effective? What are the obstacles you face in terms of accessing and using scientific research? Talk to us by leaving a comment.


Thanks for the vote of confidence, @vassilis_giannakopou - SciFY . And thanks also for this great experience.

I was trained as an economist, and I find it easiest to think about what you do in terms of fixing a market failure. In a perfectly functioning market, the stuff that is only a few months away from being productive would be immediately picked up by somebody who spots an opportunity for gain.

What do you think causes the market failure? Why is it that you can look at a paper and see the opportunity, while others cannot?

The gap

Hi Alberto!

The two main reasons are the following:

  • many (not to say most of the) players join consortia to submit proposals for EU funding, looking just for either cash, or for a way to complete “deliverables” with the minimum effort required. This attitude does not deliver actual usable results

  • Most researchers are not “market-savvy”. Most of the times they think that, since a technology exists, the problem is solved. But nothing is farther than the truth! Turning a technology into a product that solves a problem,and creating a supporting community is an exciting but difficult venture!

That’s the gap we found…

Turning a technology into a product

Nice post @vassilis_giannakopou - SciFY

Id like to know more about how you do it (the report seems to be missing) thats why we propose the WeHandU initiative, Maybe we could collaborate?

How do you ‘recruit’ your ‘clients’?

recover the lost space of “participation” and “knowlege”

Hallo Vassili,

over decades we lost our acces to knowlege, public decision making (if there was ever such a thing?) and there is much need to create a base for organizational intelligence and social decision making. There are some tools available like wikipedia and e-govenance, gut to difficult to manage for the broad society and often higly manipulated by “editors”. To find a way for decisionmaking, maintaining bottom up decision making by meta-rules that can be adjusted in an iterative democratic manner and making wisdom available not driven by profit intersts.

I wish you good luck, because your issues have a high priority for societal development and as well for a socio-economic development.