The globalisation of research and development activities and the increased relevance of cross-border issues for innovation worldwide have been accompanied by the emergence of regions that act as innovation drivers within countries, including sometimes with a cross-border significance.
Mobilizing regional assets for overall national innovation performance is seen as increasingly important. Regional development strategies seek to promote innovation as a way to improve living standards and create competitive advantages.
The Applied Policy Seminar “Building Strategies for Regions of Innovation”, which was organized by the UNECE as part of the fifth session of the Team of Specialists on Innovation and Competitiveness Policies (Geneva, 12-13 April 2012), brought together policymakers, representatives of international organizations, academia, regional development organizations and other innovation practitioners to discuss key policy issues concerning the regional dimension of innovation policies.
The Seminar made particular emphasis on the collaboration between different stakeholders to develop and effectively implement regional innovation strategies. Such collaboration can also have an international dimension or link partners from different regions, as in the concept of “extended innovation alliance”, which was presented by Mathias Rauch, Deputy Director of the Fraunhofer Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Germany, as way to support the development of backward regions.
Regional innovation strategies can be built on existing advantages and seek the transformation of traditional sectors. Many speakers at the Seminar warned against the danger of an excessively narrow focus on technological factors and stressed the need to take a wider view of innovation, which incorporates also non-technological change. Mikel Landabaso, Head of Unit, Thematic Coordination and Innovation, DG Regio, European Commission, mentioned that “for most companies and the majority of regions, their competitiveness is not mainly or primarily dependent on R&D efforts but on knowledge absorption (education and training, advanced business services) and diffusion (technology transfer, ICT, entrepreneurship)”. Such view, which was echoed by other participants, underlines the importance of connectivity between various components of the national innovation system and the openness to external influences.
The focus of “smart specialisation” regional strategies is the identification of sectors that show some promise and can be supported by appropriate policies, thus helping the process of entrepreneurial discovery rather than imposing specific priorities. Participants in the Seminar had the opportunity to discuss different aspects related to this new policy concept, which is becoming increasingly influential in shaping regional and innovation policies in Europe. These included practical, operational aspects, such as the self-assessment tool for identification of Smart Specialisation Strategies launched by the OECD Working Group for Innovation and Technology Policy.
The Seminar also included the presentation of country experiences on the promotion of regional innovation, thus providing an opportunity for policy learning and the exchange of experiences across a wide range of economies and situations. Charles Wessner, Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme at the US National Academy and Vice-Chair of TOS-ICP, concluded that “cooperation and mutual learning are essential to ensure our common prosperity”.
All presentations made at the Seminar can be found at: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=28471
For more information please contact:
Innovative Policies Development Section
Economic Cooperation and Integration Division
UN Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations, room 470
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 16 43
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 01 78