Regions have 'strategic role' to play in EU recovery

Written by Christos Vasilakos on 16 June 2014 in Feature
Feature

Europe's regions must work to identify innovation potential and exploit it through smart specialisation strategies, writes Christos Vasilakos.

It is a pleasure to welcome the week of innovative regions in Europe (Wire) to Greece. Organised by Greece's national documentation centre, in collaboration with the general secretariat for research and technology, we believe that Wire is one of the most promising events held during the Greek EU council presidency.

Competitiveness and innovation have become key words again, especially now when the economic recession urgently calls for both national and regional initiatives to help cope with problems such as unemployment, the brain drain, poverty, climatic changes, low-cost energy. In every field of endeavour, we must focus on the aspects where value comes from new, innovative ideas. Innovation is a systemic procedure and takes place within the context of participation from a wide number of stakeholders - industry, research, national and local government.

Today, significant opportunities are created for recovery and regions have a strategic role to play. Regions should identify competitive areas of innovation potential through smart specialisation strategies (S3) and use all available resources - including the structural funds and European programmes such as Horizon 2020, Cosme, Interreg, coupled with the national strategic framework for research and innovation (NSFRI) 2014-20 - to implement them for growth. The general secretariat for research and technology (GSRT) strongly supports regional stakeholders in this dynamic endeavour.

"Our target is to mobilise the necessary resources so that all public and private research spending rises from 0.67 per cent of GDP in 2012, to 1.2 per cent in 2020"

Our vision for 2020 is to restructure and strengthen the area of research, technology and innovation in order to become the key pillar for improving the competitiveness and productivity of Greek enterprises through the production, dissemination and integration of new knowledge and innovation in existing and new production systems and value chains. We hope to do this while addressing the new social and regional inequalities generated by the lack of access to new technology.

Our target is to mobilise the necessary resources so that all public and private research spending rises from 0.67 per cent of GDP in 2012, to 1.2 per cent in 2020. To achieve this goal, the funding of business R&D should be increased from 0.23 per cent of GDP in 2012 to around 0.38 per cent of GDP in 2020.
The NSFRI 2014-2020 is based on the national research and innovation framework for smart specialisation taking into account regional perspectives. The NSFRI will fund major projects, productive partnerships and research organisations under various shapes - research infrastructures, clusters, partnerships, PPP - which will produce innovative products or services with high added value, linking with industry and business, creating sustainable jobs, exports (where possible), training of potential businesses to new technologies and will generally act as an area of constant interaction and application of new knowledge in production.

The GSRT has already selected an initial set of priority areas at national level, with criteria such as: added value in the Greek economy, sustainability, job creation, scientific excellence and commercial potential. The priority areas are: agro-food, tourism and the experience industry in synergy with the creative industry, economic activities related to art, energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, ICT for health, tourism and emerging advanced technologies, technologies and services for environmental protection and sustainable development - including eco-innovation and blue economy, health products and services, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic products - including eHealth, transport and logistics. GSRT has initiated eight innovation platforms with wide participation from the private sector, the competent public authorities, and the research and academic organisations in order to discover the activities in these areas which with their interactions will support innovation among and between these sectors. In the development of these areas, emphasis will be given to the integration and development of key enabling technologies which can stimulate all sectors and productive activities, increasing productivity and added value.

"Our vision for 2020 is to restructure and strengthen the area of research, technology and innovation in order to become the key pillar for improving the competitiveness and productivity of Greek enterprises"

These priority areas constitute the basis of a wide dialogue at national and regional level. At regional level, the Greek regions have been invited to participate in the S3 through a continuous entrepreneurial discovery process with all regional stakeholders. GSRT has embraced and supported the whole process through continuous policy guidance on research, technology and innovation issues and regular interaction with all stakeholders. Especially in the less favoured regions, the role of universities and research centres in unlocking their innovation potential is critical in the transformational approach to regional change.

Emphasis has also been given to the integration of research and innovation infrastructures, which constitute a major component of the European research area, to the S3, both at national and regional level. For the efficient implementation of the regional strategies and the development of a sustainable innovation ecosystem, GSRT fosters: clear provisions for stimulating synergies between national and European funds, interregional collaboration for mutual shared interest and knowledge-based growth, diffusion of research results and knowledge re-use in - priority area, in regional production systems and critical sectors of the country, and transparent indicators for evidence-based innovation policies, monitoring and evaluation.

Wire 2014 will cover important thematic areas, such as the optimal design and implementation of smart specialisation strategies to counterbalance the impact of the financial recession, the adaptation of policies to territorial specificities, business contribution to the regional ecosystem for growth and creation, innovative business transforming the regional environment, open data or regional innovation, the role of clusters in regional development, scientific excellence as competitive advantage of regions and synergies between research institutions local government and knowledge intensive companies.

About the author

Christos Vasilakos is general secretary for research and technology at Greece's ministry of education and religious affairs

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