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It’s been ages that I have posted my last blogpost here. I won’t apologize as ERRIN business has been exploding and I simply did not get down to write my usual piece. But now with the summer holidays approaching fast, here is an update on some of our innovation-related activities within ERRIN* during the past half year.

Energy/Climate Change

Our Energy/Climate Change group had an event on 25 March on “smart regions” to input into the discussion surrounding the European Commission’s SET plan (Strategic Energy Technology) and its focus on ‘smart cities’ and to prepare our work to come, for instance, on the 2011 ‘Regions of Knowledge’ call (supposedly focusing on energy). The event conclusions, which were based on a variety of case-studies presented and discussed, define a “smart region” as one that mobilises resources & investment to:
• Reduce environmental impact
• Improve quality of services
• Overcome fragmentation of policies & approaches
• Implement holistic & long term policies
• Carry out broad-based, high impact actions
• Improve the citizens experience of their cities & regions
• Increase economic development, create employment & new professional skills
• Integrate various energy sources giving priority to territorial characteristics
• Reduce costs of services

Conclusions of this event are in our ERRIN events section.

As one follow-up of this event we are currently planning to organise a roundtable in the autumn focusing more on synergetic funding for high-impact green initiatives in cities and regions. This would take place as part of DG ENT’s Eco-Innovation platform, of which we are a member through our partnership in the ECOLINK+ project.
See also the Ecolink+ Linked-in group for useful updates on eco-innovation and the project.

Health

Our Health group had a wonderful event on hospitals of the future, looking at hospitals as anchors for innovation in the regions. The conclusions and presentation are available online in our ERRIN events section.
http://www.errin.eu/en/basic100864.html

I can particularly recommend the case-studies from our member Vastra Götaland and Birmingham/West-Midlands for good examples of “smart specialisation” using hospitals and health clusters as drivers for regional innovation and growth.

Concerning the important interface between Health and ICT (see for instance the Lead Market initiative on e-health), our ICT group held a practitioner event for the Ambient Assistant Living call to kick-start consortia and project development. We are also currently working with K4I on organising a high-level roundtable on Health and Innovation at their forthcoming ‘European Innovation Summit’ at the European Parliament (11-14 October). This will be right after the Open Days, the 3 days conference marathon of the Week of Cities and Regions in Brussels. Our contribution to the Open Days will be a roundtable event in cooperation with the Committee of the Region and the CPMR on „Regional innovation indicators/ evidence-based policymaking for EU2020 (5 October 2010)“.

Funding is, of course, key to innovation clusters in the region. We therefore held a seminar on 27 May on how regions can work with EIB instruments, in particular the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility. Sorry, haven’t got down to the conclusions yet. However, we are currently planning a second seminar in September on Venture Capital in September, looking, among others, at SF-financed VC funds and how regions can work with the BA and VC community

Planned initiatives

For this autumn, ERRIN has a number of initiatives planned. Info on all events is or will be available in the ERRIN events section of our website. Here are some highlights:

• A conference on “Science and the City”, supported by the FP7 PLACES project and the Belgian EU Presidency.
• Another Belgian Presidency-supported event will be the workshop on “ICT and the role of regions” organised by our ICT group on 27 September in the framework of the ICT2010 conference.
• We will also look at the “The role of ERA-NETS in the development of regional excellence“, a seminar of our Future RTD Group on 28 September.
• As a brand new initiative we are working on an event on Innovation and Development, which may lead to a new ERRIN WG on International R&I Cooperation. This event will take place on 7 September at the Catalonia EU Representation and will look at the role of Science and Innovation in development thinking/aid and related regional activities.
• We will also planning to present and discuss, on 1st October, the forthcoming Research and Innovation Plan and „Innovation Union“ flagship initiative at the first of our planned „Brussels Briefings“, which are part of an ERRIN regions fast-track ‚capitalisation project’ on knowledge valorisation, i.e. on commercialisation of research results.
• We are also involved in a conference on the “Green Knowledge Triangle” to be held at the European Parliament on 27 October and which is supported by the ITRE Committee.
• Finally, in December, we are co-organising the EUBIO2020 conference, in cooperation with CEBR and European Biotechnology Network, that will bring together experts and representatives of commercial biotechnology across Europe to identify the 10 year commercial healthcare biotechnology objectives for Europe

This autum, there will also be all the different innovation-related conferences the Belgian Presidency will be running in Brussels and in other Belgian cities (see our ERRIN events calendar). So there is clearly no shortage of conferences and get -togethers for the innovation community in the second half of this year.

University Business Cooperation

We have also been working on University-Business relations and the skills dimension. At DG EAC’s University-Business Forum on 5 May, the regional dimension was one of the topics and we co-organised two workshops there. This led to an ERRIN meeting with Commissioner Vasiliou to discuss how funding instruments could be better streamlined to help this agenda move forward. As a follow-up we are planning a practitioner event on life-long learning in October, to develop projects that help to better integrate innovation and entrepreneurship into regional skills-related projects.

It seems to me that in Europe we need a complete makeover of our education landscape. How come that European companies (e.g. Volkswagen in Stanford) invest in the US to create interdisciplinary labs working on the products of the future, instead of doing this in Europe? It seems that the European University system, at least in most countries, is not open for this kind of interdisciplinary work with industry. Can the ETPs or the EIT help bring about that change? I am not sure, as the problem seems to run deeper. Sure, at the same time companies from the US and Asia invest on Europen campuses, but it would be interesting to learn more about their motivations and how to make our universities more receptive and attractive to industry cooperation in order to boost innovation. Can anybody point me to any research done on this? I am sure our friends from the European Consortium of Innovative Universities have an answer to this. I will ask them next time. We may be doing a small seminar in the autumn on this, but it is not yet concrete, so I will keep you posted.

*ERRIN, the European Regions Research and Innovation Network, has been consistently growing since it was founded in 2006. We now group more than 80 members from 19 countries. At the core of our work is to pool regional expertise and exchange know how on how to best benefit from EU policies and programmes for regional development, research and innovation. ERRIN has 9 thematic working groups that meet regularly in Brussels and that organise workshops and seminars for Brussels-based officers and regional practitioners.

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