The availability of international Innovation Broker in the regions is a way for small and medium-sized enterprises to help developing their product/service and to allow them to see opportunities for cooperation with entrepreneurs or research institutions in other countries, thus promoting of smart specialisation in businesses and cross-border cooperation. GoSmart BSR Transnational Innovation Brokerage System (TIBS) has been operating in seven Baltic Sea Region areas since February this year and gains great feedback from local and European level experts.
As part of the European Week of Regions and Cities events in October this year, the GoSmart BSR team, in partnership with Ecorys, one of the oldest economic research and consulting companies in Europe, in Brussels organized an international session on „Smart Specialisation: trans-regional innovation and investment opportunities for EU regions and SMEs“.
Representatives of the European Commission DG Regio right now are focusing for a more practical model for cross-border cooperation in the new programming period, including support for the transfer of innovation. DG Regio at session highlighted the GoSmart BSR TIBS as a good example of bringing together a number of business sectors and solutions from economically diverse countries and regions.
During the event, project leader Wieslaw Urban from the Bialystok University of Technology told about the project’s achievements and presented the Methodology for Transnational smart specialisation strategy to the public. Ilona Platonova, who performs international Innovation Broker function in Vidzeme Planning Region in Latvia, introduced participants with business cooperation opportunities as a result of TIBS in action.
I.Platonova explained more to participants of the session about potential solutions developed so far by the TIBS. One example mentioned by I.Platonova is a tea manufacturer from Vidzeme whose packaging is made from plant fibre, allowing it to decompose quickly and organically into the environment. “In our network, tea manufacturers are looking for such packaging, so we suggested that the company distribute the packaging as a separate product and offer it to competitors. We are currently awaiting a response from Denmark where we have made offer to one manufacturer,” said I.Platonova. This is just one example of how an Innovation Broker works.
At the session the TIBS network was recognized as complementary to the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the largest technology transfer and business collaboration network in the world. GoSmart BSR project team can agree to this, and several brokerage network contact points are also national or regional EEN contact points, so there is close cooperation. However, experts at the session admitted that the opportunities it offers sometimes do not reach entrepreneurs in the regions, including Latvia. I.Platonova continued: “EEN has staff in the capital of Latvia and there are few EEN events in regions. Entrepreneurs state in interviews that they are unaware of this possibility. For the time being, EEN does not proactively approach individual entrepreneurs, so we regularly check with entrepreneurs to make sure they are using an existing EEN network. We encourage entrepreneurs in the region to take advantage of this network, to provide information and to get new opportunities.”
In addition, the event was attended by representatives from the South Holland province, which has a similar network of brokers at national and regional level for several years, but so far no methods have been found to expand it and obtain partners in other countries. The experience of GoSmart BSR TIBS network has raised an interest to learn from it.
Tõnis Lass, representative of Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Estonia, after the session in Brussels gave feedback on the event explaining more about Estonia’s experience: “Applying innovation to business is primarily about using the benefits of different IT solutions for growth. Above all, it is necessary to implement such solutions in the so-called “remote areas”, creating opportunities and interest in the creation and development of entrepreneurship. Estonian entrepreneurs have shown themselves attractive and innovative both to the outside world and locally by actively attracting foreign investment to develop and expand their production, with the appropriate qualification and more efficient use of existing resources.”
Session was attended by high number of local, regional and national level experts from across the Europe, who especially are interested and focuses on cross-border collaboration and investment issues, as well as supporting SME innovation. To continue the discussion and share the results from the whole TIBS piloting, project GoSmart BSR team is now forming the content for the next transnational level conference, which most likely will be organized on June 2020 in Turku, Finland.
Photos: European Week of Regions and Cities