Brussels, 21 Mar 2003
Coming shortly after the publication of both the Commission communication on innovation policy and the innobarometer, the presentation of the 'monitoring innovation in regions' (MIR) initiative at a Swiss science briefing in Brussels on 20 March could not have been better timed.
At the briefing, organised by SwissCore and the Swiss Mission to the European Communities, Christoph Koellreuter, Managing Director of BAK Basel Economics, along with Deputy Director Thomas Kübler, outlined the aims and results of MIR, a novel innovation benchmarking methodology.
'We try to fill the gap between international and national systems and the information and forecasting needs of regions,' explained Mr Koellreuter. Instead of using the traditional indicators to benchmark innovation levels, MIR monitors the quality and the quantity of the application of knowledge, for example the number of university spin-offs, as well as knowledge production: the quantity and quality of graduates within a given region. The quality of graduates is measured by assessing the demand for graduates from the region and through contact with human resources managers.
Mr Koellreuter emphasised the diversity or regions in terms of size, specialisation, geography and population density. Those monitored under MIR have been divided into four categories: metropolitan, technology, conversion and tourism regions.
Although not enthusiastic about overall ranking, Mr Koellreuter showed how MIR has been used to divide regions into 'above average', 'average' and 'below average' categories with regard to their growth in GDP. Ranking above average are Greater London (metropolitan region), Ireland and Isère (technology regions), Niederösterreich (conversion region) and Bolzano (tourism region). These rankings also take into account the starting conditions of each region.
Initial data indicates that metropolitan and technology regions perform best with respect to overall innovation results, particularly those with flexible labour regulations.
'Good innovation performance measured by GDP per capita does not only depend on a good performance of innovation resources and processes in the narrow sense, but on other good framework conditions such as, for instance, innovation and diffusion friendly regulations of factor and product markets. More expenditure on R&D [research and development] as well as education without a better general regulatory framework for the economy at large will not yield the expected results,' concluded Mr Koellreuter.
Responding to the presentation, Richard Escritt, Director for the coordination of Community activities within the Commission's Research DG, emphasised the need to pay more attention to the regional dimension. 'We need to equip regions with the appropriate ideas and tools,' he said.
Mr Escritt underlined the importance of universities as regional actors, and recommended clustering as a way strengthening regional innovation potential.
'We are in the middle of a complex process. The regions will undoubtedly by key players and will be increasingly involved in the further development of a competitive Europe,' concluded Mr Escritt.
For further information on MIR and BAK Basel Economics, please visit: