|The last day of the 2009 Annual Partnering Event began with a short video documenting the participants’ impressions of the event, as well as their aspirations for the future of their projects [Please click here to learn more about Europe INNOVA projects]. One of the many interesting points raised by the participants was that the Europe INNOVA projects were of course important but the most important aspect in these projects were the people. Emiliano Duch, the CEO of Competitiveness.com explained that: “The European Union has been promoting clusters for some time and there has been an incredible impact and it is now mainstream in policy in nearly every EU country. The next step is to ensure these clusters are producing excellence, competitiveness and innovation and that is not unattainable. Europe can lead and for SMEs this will be facilitated by becoming part of clusters”.|
Christophe Guichard, Policy Officer from the ‘Support for Innovation’ Unit at DG Enterprise and Industry, started the main business of the day. He presented the rationale behind the public consultation on the effectiveness of innovation support in Europe. The idea to undertake this consultation was inspired by the wish to better understand what needed to be done to improve the effectiveness of innovation support in the EU. It was felt that there may a duplication of efforts at Community, national and regional levels and the perceptions of companies and that public innovation support had a too low impact. In the light of these concerns, the three main objectives of the public consultations were to:
• Improve the effectiveness of innovation support, by better addressing the needs of innovative SMEs;
• Better prioritise the actions to be launched at the Community level; and
• Provide guidance to the Members States to help them re-assess their innovation support mechanisms.
The results of the public consultations were analysed and subsequently used in preparing a recent Commission Staff Working Paper ‘Making public support for innovation in the EU more effective: Lessons learnt from a public consultation for action at Community level’, which was published officially on 9 September 2009.
Enrico Correia Neves, CEO and Founder, INNOVA Europe provided an informal commentary on the main results of the public consultation. In terms of robustness, the sample size included responses from 792 companies and 428 stakeholders. In his view, this compared very favourably with the level of responses to the recent consultations on the Small Business Act (2008) and on the ERA Green Paper (2007). It was also noted that a large proportion of the respondents came from the Europe Enterprise network. This provided a certain degree of quality assurance, as there was a predominance of responses from EU specialists.
One of the key findings to emerge was that companies receiving public support did apparently not view it as being instrumental to their innovation activities. There was also a gap between what enterprises expected to get as innovation support and what they actually received. In addition, four out of every five innovation services providers considered that there was a need to improve existing support mechanisms. Despite different point of views on the interpretation of the results, there was a clear need to increase the effectiveness of public support for innovation.
Jørgen Rosted, Development Director at FORA, then presented the main findings of a recent report ‘A new nature of innovation,’ which had been prepared as contribution to a new OECD innovation strategy to be presented in spring 2010. He identified as new drivers of innovation co-creation, global knowledge sourcing and collaborative networks, global challenges and public sector challenges, especially the pressure on the public sector to create new business opportunities. His opinion was that to make a difference companies must listen to, and dialogue with, customers. They also needed to be transparent, giving the customers access to all kind of information, platforms and company systems and evaluating the risk with them.
The last presentation on the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) Strategy was delivered by Anders Lindholm, a Programme Officer from DG Regional Policy. He underlined the importance of scaling up and focusing on the introduction of novel approaches into mainstream programmes through a top-down strategy, as achieved by the BSR INNO-Net on clusters, which contributed substantially to the preparation of this strategy. He announced that a similar approach would be followed for the Danube regions in 2010.
These four contributions were followed by a voting session on the Europe INNOVA Mission Statement introduced by Mette Quinn, a Policy Officer from the ‘Support for Innovation’ Unit, at DG Enterprise and Industry. She stressed that this event was not simply another conference or workshop. One of main objectives of the discussion was to help clarifying what exactly the Europe INNOVA stands for. She explained that, in a constantly changing world, it was essential to re-think the mission statement for Europe INNOVA. She underlined the fact that “Europe INNOVA is not a talk shop as it must produce practical measures and approaches and the final delivery of these services should be left to the relevant organisations.”
A process of electronic voting was used to determine the support by the participants for the proposed answers to four questions. The working mission statement for Europe INNOVA constructed on the outcomes of the voting was as follows:
• To help innovative enterprises innovate faster and better, Europe INNOVA will:
- Support in particular those innovations that drive competitiveness and growth (25.97%)
- Support in particular those innovations that respond to the great societal challenges of today (20.78%)
- Support all forms of innovation, taking into account the great societal challenges of today (53.25%)
• To become the main pan European platform for innovation professionals to discuss, develop, test and exchange “better practices” in support of innovation, and to contribute to a better understanding of the innovation patterns in different sectors, Europe INNOVA will be driven by:
- Innovation agencies and other public intermediaries active in the field of innovation support that are interested to cooperate at European level (10.3%)
- Innovation agencies and other public or private innovation support providers that are interested to work in partnership in search of new forms of innovation support at European level (69.1%)
- Innovation experts from different fields of competence that are interested in networking at European level (20.6%)
• To maximise Europe’s innovation potential, Europe INNOVA will:
- Follow a “thematic approach”, by responding to the “Grand challenges” as to be identified by the European Innovation Plan (15.7%)
- Follow a “bottom-up approach”, by adapting its actions to the changing needs of innovative SMEs (40%)
- Follow a “strategic approach”, by identifying which new innovation support mechanisms need to be developed at European level (44.3%)
• To follow an “evidence-based” approach, Europe INNOVA will seek mainly:
- To actively improve the analysis of sectoral innovation patterns and the drivers and barriers of innovation (20.5%)
- To build upon existing research and analysis and better disseminate the results to public funding agencies and private institutions supporting entrepreneurial innovation (42.5%)
- To provide more and better practical information services about sectoral innovation patterns and match-making facilities (37%)
In addition, the participants had an opportunity to explain why they chose their particular responses and then panel members were asked to give their points of view. It was indicated that additional comments and suggestions would be welcomed as the draft mission statement would be published on the Europe INNOVA website over the next two weeks. After that, the Commission would look at all of the evidence and propose a final mission statement for Europe INNOVA.
Following the voting, Ioannis Perakis, Vice-President of the Heraklion Chamber of Commerce made some closing remarks. He said that it had been an honour for his chamber to host the 2009 Europe INNOVA Annual Partnering Event in the vibrant city of Heraklion.
The Partnering Event was officially closed by Reinhard Büscher, Head of Unit ‘Support for Innovation’ at DG Enterprise and Industry. He expressed the view that the Europe INNOVA Partnering Event 2009 offered a very good opportunity to listen to some excellent interventions, discuss specific aspects in smaller teams and share experiences in a more informal way. He believed that there was a need to think about how the challenges of today could be better addressed through innovation. In his view, the main directions of change in innovation policy were to better user innovation in support of societal challenges, to accelerate the uptake of novel concepts in support of innovation and to broaden the concept of innovation towards user-driven innovation. Europe INNOVA could make a contribution to all of this.
In order to roll out the activities on a larger scale, the levels of aspirations need to be higher. A genuine impact can only be achieved by seeking synergies between policy instruments and finding real solutions to how to do it. Reinhard Büscher concluded that “the enemy of the good is the strive for perfection. There is no justification to delay what can be done now, while at the same time already thinking about the next step.”
Europe INNOVA Annual Partnering Event Proceedings Report will be made available towards the end of October.