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Cooperating in Europe – Innovation Congress in Stuttgart

Innovation is a key factor for competitiveness of enterprises, research facilities and regions within the European Union. The European Commission endorses these innovation processes through strategies and research programmes: Enterprises for example through the Seventh European Framework research programme (FP 7); actors and regions through Programmes such as the European Territorial Cooperation (ETC).

Just some days ago, the new Commissioner for innovation policy, Ms. Geoghegan-Quinn, identified research and development as the key to economic recovery and research plays a fundamental role in the recently published Europe 2020 strategy, in which the main goals to be reached until 2020 are laid down.

Therefore the CENTRAL EUROPE Programme, together with the Enterprise Europe Network Baden-Württemberg, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum and the Ministry of Economics Baden-Württemberg, organised the public congress “Strategies for Innovation and Competitiveness in Europe” on 14 and 15 April 2010. Two different perspectives of innovation were tackled within this event:

  • the transfer of knowledge from research to business practice and
  • the transfer of innovation within a region and between European regions.

More than 400 people followed the invitation and gained insight into theoretical and practical work on innovation and possibilities the EU offers the strengthen innovation on regional, national and transnational level. 

Plenary Session

“Although we are an economically strong region, we benefit threefold from the European Union”, said the minister of Economics in Baden-Württemberg, Ernst Pfister, during his welcoming speech. “Economically through the export trade of our companies, strategically through bundling research priorities and financially through funds coming from the European Union.” 

Günther Leßnerkraus, Head of Section in the Ministry of Economics in Baden-Württemberg outlined the positive environment for innovation in his region: 4,4 % of the GDP are used for research and development, 18 % of the workforce is employed in a research and development intensive industry branch and 27% of all German research and development employees work in Baden Württemberg. But he outlined at the same time, that there are areas, in which the challenges cannot be solved alone. He mentioned transnational clusters, healthcare, mobility or energy supply as examples. “It is important to build up decentralized think tanks to develop and retrieve innovative ideas”, he proposed.

Talking on innovation exchange and challenges and possibilities for SMEs in EU regions, Anna Rogut from the University of Lodz emphasized that European Programmes may be a promising backup, if they are real placed and sectoral based. On the common issue of problems of understanding between companies and science as one of the main challenges to overcome and to improve technology transfer she said:”Often these two groups speak in different languages. But it is not impossible to overcome this. And European Programmes offer the possibility to improve the communication.”

CENTRAL EUROPE workshops

The Central Europe Programme organised two workshops during the event. In the first workshop “A regions view on innovation. How to further stimulate innovation in European macro regions”. In her welcome speech Christine Krammer-Bensegger from the Monitoring Committee of the Central Europe Programme emphasized that in this programme bridge builders are most wanted as it is a very new programme and therefore new bridges must be build, which perhaps already exist in "older" programmes. For the innovation process this means that the Programme has to improve the innovation environment in the regions and to use better the existing innovation potential. “CENTRAL EUROPE therefore has an own priority axes wich deals with innovation”, Krammer-Bensegger said.

Anders Lindholm coming from the DG Regio in the Commission presented some lessons learnt from the Baltic Sea Strategy. “It was important to listen to what the regions want, therefore a long an intensive consultation process was the kick off for this new strategy.” Having a look on innovation Mr. Lindholm said that Structural Funds have more and more shifted to innovation. As also in other macro regions, in the Baltic Sea best performing and very innovative regions work together with least innovative countries. “Nevertheless, as the projects which are build up under the Strategy, as for example on the issues of Clusters, Health science and infrastructure for innovation show, each region can still learn from the others.”

Michael Theurer, Member of the European Parliament stated that it is crucial to integrate the regions in the process of overcoming the financial crises. “All innovation is local”, he said. 99% of European economy is based on small and medium sized enterprises, but only 9 % participate in the Single Market, he made his point clear. European Programmes may start the process and they are necessary, he is convinced. “You have to put energy in to reach a higher level.”

Krzysztof Krzysztofiak, President of the Malopolska Regional Development Agency in Cracow showed the importance of innovation in his region. “In Cracow of today the university is the biggest employer and the region became an ICT hub”, he said. “We were successful in transforming the town and its surroundings from a coal based economy to a knowledge based economy.”

Coming from the University of Vienna, Dimitris Karagiannis showed the importance of regional assistance to support innovation for small and medium sized companies. In a start up phase to establish enterprises in the regions and after that to guarantee a sustainable existence through legal -, business -, technology compliance and governance. “But money is not everything”, he warns, “it also needs, the manpower and the ideas behind it.”

Daniel Zwicker Schwarm from the German Institute of Urban Affairs in Berlin, presented the results of a research on innovation projects which were funded by the European Union in the last funding period. Among others he mentioned the development of joint standards and procedures for (transnational) introduction and application of innovations, preparation and mobilization of R&D infrastructure and investments and the transnational networking, innovation strategies and joint platforms which have the advantages of size (critical mass, synergies, marketing) as positive effects of transnational cooperation projects. But he also indentified the integration of private companies in transnational activities and the sustainability of project results (instruments, platforms etc.) as major challenges for the future.

In a second discussion round under the title "Innovative Angles in transnational EU Programmes" participants had the possibility the gain information on running projects which are co-funded with the support of different transnational programmes. Beside three projects co-financed by the CENTRAL EUROPE Programme, also projects coming from the Alpine Space Programme, the North-West Europe Programme and the Baltic Sea Programme were presented and exchanged ideas on their content and their outcomes.    

Please find here the presentations of the discussion rounds:

1st Forum: “A regions view on innovation. How to further stimulate innovation in European macro regions”

2nd Forum: "Innovative Angles in transnational EU Programmes" 

Tour

On the second day of the event the Steinbeis Europa Zentrum invited participants on a tour to Stuttgart and Karlsruhe to visit projects which are co-financed by the EU in practice. The broad scope of projects which receive support from the Community was demonstrated through the visit of a newly build organ, which was a cooperation between organ builders and a research institute for physics. At the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology two EU-funded project dealing with nano-technology were presented, while the EU-project INNOWA, which was presented by the university of Karlsruhe dealing with water treatment and cleaning of industrial waste water. 

Exhibition Area

All participating projects had also the possibility to present their first outcomes during an exhibition area which was open to the public during the event.

Cross fertilisation workshop

Before the official start of the Congress, the CENTRAL EUROPE Programme invited all projects which were approved in priority 1 – innovation – so far to participate in a Cross Fertilisation Workshop in order to find better synergies and cooperation possibilities among them.

Find more information on the Workshop here.