Wire conference mobilises 'unique community'

Written by Imelda Lambkin on 16 June 2014 in Feature

Wire 2013 provided Ireland with a 'great opportunity' to directly engage with all innovation stakeholders, writes Imelda Lambkin.

We were delighted to host the 'week of innovative regions in Europe' (Wire) 2013 conference in Cork last summer under the auspices of Ireland's EU council presidency. Opened by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for research, innovation and science, and Seán Sherlock, Ireland's minister of state for research and innovation, it gathered 300 delegates from 20 countries and focused on aspects such as regions and competitive advantage; regional policy in an international context and putting strategies to work. It was an exciting time, occurring at the final stages of the design and legislative process for the European Union's funding programme, Horizon 2020, when crucial decisions were being made that would shape the 2014-2020 term.

Regions and competitive advantage addressed the place-based mobilisation of talent by matching research and innovation capabilities with business needs and capacities. It also considered Horizon 2020, smart specialisation, and closing the innovation divide in Europe. At the conference, we summed it up as 'focusing on the implementation zone', a simple summary but one that can be challenging to achieve for regions in their initial steps to differentiate themselves.

"The knowledge we gained at Wire 2013 has fed into the development of Ireland's research and innovation strategy for smart specialisation"

Regional policy in an international context focused on the selection of a few priorities on the basis of specialisation and integration on international value chains and the role of cities' and regions' solutions to societal challenges of global significance identified in Horizon 2020. It was all about the need to be outward looking - building exports for example.

Putting strategies to work considered issues relating to critical mass and the need to provide arenas for cross-cutting links between sectors which drive specialised technological diversification. It also examined the role of collaborative leadership where efficient innovation systems operate as a collective endeavour based on partnerships between private and public entities and synergies between funding instruments from the EU, national and regional policies. It highlighted the knowledge base, and in this case the 'community of practice' which was brought together by the Wire conference, with the region at its centre. It was exciting to be part of such a unique community, which brings together European commission staff, policymakers, researchers and enterprises that don't normally mix outside their own immediate sectoral interests.

Here in Ireland, Wire 2013 was a great opportunity to directly engage with the regional and business communities, bringing them together with national and European stakeholders, including public organisations, policymakers, research communities and enterprises to address, develop and progress the strengthening of regional ecosystems in the areas of research, technological development and innovation. The knowledge we gained at Wire 2013 has fed in to the development of Ireland's research and innovation strategy for smart specialisation in the months after the conference as we prepared for the next round of European structural and investment funds. Indeed, Ireland has even joined the joint research centre's S3 platform since then, a crucial step in the strategy's development and implementation.

I'm looking forward to chairing the Wire 2014 session on business driving regional innovation. We have an exciting line up with speakers who should give us fresh perspectives on regions we haven't seen at Wire before - from companies in Greece and Norway to regional representatives in Andalucía - and commission representatives bringing us the latest news on EU policy developments. I wish the organisers every success and look forward to engaging with the Wire community of practice in Athens and in the future.

About the author

Imelda Lambkin was Enterprise Ireland's 'week of innovative regions in Europe' (Wire) 2013 organiser

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