Innovative entrepreneurship: facing the challenge together

Innovate, innovation, innovative, innovatively ..... Steven Halligan, The JTS member specialised in innovation related matters, is familiar with all forms and variations of the subject and will share with you his view regarding innovation in the SEE Programme. "Innovative entrepreneurship: facing the challenge together" is the first in a series of articles dedicated to each of the programme priorities.

 

Spectacular, innovative with cutting edge technology, the Beijing Olympics was surely the final marker confirming the arrival of China as a competitive World economic powerhouse. If the stadia left technophiles open mouthed, the next generation internet (IPv6) system being used left them with their jaws hanging on the floor. China is on the move.

The evidence is mounting that Lisbon is right about the threat (and opportunity) to Europe posed by an increasingly competitive globalised economy. The solution espoused by Lisbon and one which is pretty much generally accepted is that the key to this challenge is Europe's capacity to innovate with entrepreneurs as dynamic exploiters.

 Innovation

The secret to innovative capacity lies in the strength and depth of the so called knowledge triangle, the interaction between research, education and innovation; these being the key drivers of a knowledge based society.

To maximise our position this society must be Europe wide, as such Europe needs its South East Europe space (SEE) and the SEE needs the greater Europe. Individual Member States and regions acting alone cannot develop the critical mass that will produce the innovations needed to compete in the World market. We must face the challenge together.

The South East Europe Programme offers a unique opportunity for working together across 16 European States. It provides a real opportunity for collaboration around existing poles of innovation and networks, a chance to develop and enhance existing innovative SME support structures and to develop the framework conditions in terms of governance and developing an innovation aware and active public.

Indicators such as those of the 2007 European Innovation Scoreboard suggest that South East Europe has a significant catch up process to undergo to meet the EU average. Though the SEE Programme will not provide a quick fix or provide an answer to all the challenges, it is an opportunity to put in place and strengthen the building blocks for a knowledge based society.  The challenge is ahead and as a European space and Programme we do have a base to build from. Here are a few hints:

  • there are existing strengths, significant poles of innovation within the area that can be networked and collaborated with;
  • the region offers a fresh dynamic, quality education/research institutes, SME support structures, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit;
  • significant political will exists throughout the Programme Area;
  • the EU supports a range of related programmes that offer experience and potential synergy (The Innovating Regions in Europe (IRE); Network; PRO INNO Europe; Europe INNOVA; The Regions of Knowledge Initiative (FP7); INTERREG; Regions for Economic Change; Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (CiP));
  • the locating of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in Budapest, is very positive for the SEE area in its own right, but is also a demonstration of the commitment of the EU to its new Member States and potential members.

To conclude, I might add that the Monitoring Committee, the JTS and National support structures are highly motivated to maximise the impact of the Programme in the area of innovation. It would be our contention then that whilst we face significant challenges there are also significant opportunities to really contribute towards driving innovation and entrepreneurship forward in the South East Europe Area. The high number of Priority 1 Expressions of Interest received in the first call supports the case that we have a highly motivated base in which we can, together, move forward with optimism.

Steve Halligan

Project Manager - SEE Joint Technical Secretariat