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2013-12-08 DISCUSSIONS ABOUT BUSINESS AT VILNIUS INNOVATION FORUM: FROM STARTUPS TO CLUSTERS

More than 600 participants discussed innovation importance for the entire Europe’s economy during the first Vilnius Innovation Forum ‘Innovation draft’ on December 4-6, organised by the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania along with the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA). Significance of companies’ clusterization was highlighted, problem of science and technology parks was disputed, measuring innovation in small regions was considered, and importance of private and public sector partnership for innovation promotion was reviewed at the sessions of the forum.

 

“Science and technology parks are not about science, they must be oriented to business”, Luiz Sanz, Director General of International Association of Science Parks (IASP) and World Coordinator of the World Alliance for Innovation (WAINOVA), opened a session about technology park challenges. The accent in the session was put on the thought that parks are substantial in creating an innovation-friendly ecosystem. In the future, parks have to be more ambitious and community first, as well as should attract international investors, encourage park community members and small and medium business companies to create new products, and help these companies to spread to foreign markets.


Emily Wise, Project Coordinator at VINNOVA, Sweden’s Innovation Agency started the session of clusters with the thought that clusterization is crucial for SME that can compete internationally only by joining together. The speaker emphasised that European Commission understands the importance of clusterization and in the future intends more financial means for promoting combination of SME.


Another session speaker, cluster Consultant Ifor Ffowcs-Williams from New Zealand, continued the idea: “Small companies of small countries should not compete among themselves but unite for competing in outward markets. Only by being open, sharing the experience and competence, as well as creating strong clusters, they can compete in international market”, the speaker said. Cluster representatives in the discussion highlighted the significance of support in the initial cluster formation stage, as well as flexibility for their activity and strong consulting support.


A lot of attention was also drawn to smart specialisation, a new direction leading towards attractiveness and competitiveness of each country separately and all the Europe together. “Smart specialisation is our new face that has to be created by all of us. Local market is not enough to have strong economy, regional market is also becoming too narrow, therefore, it is necessary to step outside the regional boundaries. Smart specialisation can help to do it”, Dr. Christian Ketels, Dean at Harvard Business School, said.


Baltic Sea Region Strategy programme “BSR Stars” and 5 flagship projects were introduced to the Forum participants. In the discussion, session participants stated that “BSR Stars” was able to create innovation policy bounds and became a bridge that connected innovation institutions in the neighboring countries in order to start to create innovative products and services.


Participants from different European countries shared their experience creating and implementing region innovation policy at measuring the innovation in the small regions session. The main conclusion reached in the panel discussion hosted by Lithuanian Innovation Centre were that regional authorities have to take ownership of the innovation process in their region by connection people at regional, cross-regional and international level.


It was also emphasised that current innovation indicators are however too narrow and leave out social capital, people and business model innovation, therefore, the attention to new business models and social innovations should be drawn.


In the session of Innovative Pharmacy Industry Association in Lithuania, one of Europe’s private and public sector initiatives “Innovative Medicine Initiative”, its achievements and further action strategy were introduced. Researches of pharmacy industry in Europe have deep traditions and are competitive in the whole world. Every year they are funded with around 1 billion euros. With the help of “Innovative Medicine Initiative”, the aim is to develop the chain of medical researches and innovation creation. Other private and public sector partnerships intended for promotion of European industry competitiveness were also introduced: Bio-based Industries Joint technology Initiative and Resource and energy efficiency initiative (SPIRE). Various industry, business and other organisations from Lithuania are invited to actively participate in these international initiatives.


In the first Vilnius Innovation Forum, themes and new business models of startups and women innovators were widely discussed. In one of entrepreneurship sessions, a perspective project “Smart women” unifying a wide circle of women who create and encourage others to create innovation based businesses was introduced. Concern on the lack of women in high additional value creating sectors was expressed.


Christoph Räthke, the Founder and CEO of Berlin Startup Academy, emphasised that businessmen have to concentrate their attention on user needs and expectations, and accordingly adapt their activities. Startup businessmen should not be afraid to make mistakes, analyse them and learn from them. One of the essential things when founding a new business is preparation of a successful investment plan for investors and capability to convince them that the idea is successful. New project “Technostartas” presented in the session helps for startup technology businesses to develop.

 

The largest EU research and innovation programme “Horizon 2020” was also introduced at the Forum. Companies and science institutions can already submit applications to receive funding from this programme from December 11, 2013.


Vilnius Innovation Forum discussions were complemented by science and technology exhibition, meanwhile, on the third day, the participants visited the most innovative companies of Lithuania: UAB „Altecha“, UAB MGF„Light Convertion “, UAB „Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics“ ir Vilnius Gediminas Technical University.
Vilnius Innovation Forum ‘Innovation Drift’, was one of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU events. It was supported from the European Regional Development Fund.