Kreo tn2 Karlsruhe, Rhône Alpes, Emilia-Romagna and Oxfordshire Thematic Network for the Support of Innovative Companies

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Karlsruhe, Rhône Alpes, Emilia-Romagna and Oxfordshire
Thematic Network for the Support of Innovative Companies

Contract IPS-2001-41018

Research centres and universities spin-offs supporting mechanisms: from regional background to good practices in KREO regions

February 2004

Table of Contents

1 Executive summary 3

2 Objectives 4

3 Methodology 5

4 About KREO regions: main figures 7

5 KREO regions innovation systems: physical and non-physical resources 14

6 Good practices: the knowledge base of the network 57

7 Conclusion 71

1Executive summary

According to the European Union innovation policy approach “Encouraging the emergence of new firms is a strong force for innovation in many sectors”, as “it is the new enterprises with growth potential that are often the most innovative, …”. 1 Within this framework, the four KREO regions – TechnologieRegion Karlsruhe–Pforzheim, Rhones-Alpes, Emilia-Romagna and Oxfordshire – have developed, especially during last fifteen years, a number of initiatives and programmes addressing the complex topic of innovation and the challenging objective of exploiting research results, shorten the distance between science and industry and promoting the creation of new technology based firms and research spin-off companies.

The experience accumulated during these years is a very valuable asset for other regions and areas where policy makers are investing on the above mentioned objectives, taking into account local conditions on one side and the global scene where new business may grow on the other.

In order to make this experience available and transferable, first of all among the KREO partnership, a big effort has been devoted to the collection of information on the numerous experiences existing in each region and the organisation of this information according to a common scheme enabling to make comparisons and to understand the complexity of each territory, as well as the combination of different factors, thus setting a common basis for transfer of experience and practices exchange, in view of the design and development of new policy directions, schemes and initiatives at the regional level.

The present report aims at presenting the resources and experiences existing in each regional area and compare them in order to take advantage from the knowledge gained by each region and draw lessons that may guide new policies and actions for innovation and business promotion.

The report is structured according to three main core sections:

“About KREO regions: main figures” presents some background data on the regions, such as indicators on employment, economics and entrepreneurship including comparisons. An innovation scoreboarding exercise has been also undertaken, considering the European Innovation Scoreboard indicators relating to human resources for innovation and to the capacity of creating new knowledge. Moreover, a comparison on the overall regional innovation performances has been included, based on the European Innovation Scoreboard methodology and in particular on the Regional National Summary Innovation Index. This section ends with a table showing the main strengths and weaknesses of each KREO regions on the basis of the innovation performance indicators considered.

“KREO regions innovation systems: physical and non-physical resources” is structured on four subsections on:

  • higher education and research structures existing in each region;

  • innovation support infrastructures located in each territory, including science parks, technology transfer structures, service centres, incubators, industry-research platforms and joint research structures;

  • measures and programmes supporting business start ups;

  • spin off enterprises financing mechanisms and tools.

“Good practices: the knowledge base of the network” is the section devoted to the presentation of the good practices that have been identified in each region and mapped according to the main topics considered within the four thematic workpackages of the project. In particular, practices have been organised within one or more of the following topics: (1) Industry-research platforms referring to “New approaches in the creation of innovative firms”; (2) Incubators and (3) Research spin off and industry-science relations promotion offices, services and programmes, referring to “Research centres and university spin off supporting mechanisms”; (4) Mentoring, (5) Financing and (6) Real and virtual networks for industry-science relations and start up promotion, referring to “Real and virtual networks for supporting innovative companies”; (7) Business Plan competitions, (8) Training and Matching schemes and (9) Tool kit manuals, referring to “Learning programmes for entrepreneurs”.


The concept of regional or local environment is important in the Innovation process because it is geographical proximity, the nearness of the people that work in the firms, research centres and universities, sharing common culture and a lifestyle that facilitates patterns of co-operation and interaction between firms, institutions and public administrators” 2

The general objective of the present study is to draw lessons form KREO regions’ experiences that may be taken into consideration by policy makers and the other actors involved in the joint effort to support and stimulate the birth and survival of university and research spin-off companies.

This ambitious objective is based on the belief that in each KREO region, as in many other regions in the EU and outside, a valuable set of knowledge has been accumulated during the years, and a comparison between the different practices and a scoring of the same practices - taking into consideration a number of elements - would help in getting the best indications out of each experience and possibly identify key elements to be transferred to another context.

The characteristics of the local context are indeed the first elements to be taken into consideration, and the complexity of each territory in terms of resources, relations and cultural elements requires an additional effort of investigation and comparison. This is the reason why a relevant amount of information has been considered, trying to establish relations among different aspects with the aim of understanding as clearly as possible the main characteristics of each experience and the factors laying behind success.

Within the overall scope of the study, specific objectives have guided the work carried out:

  • to get a picture of each KREO region including general data (population, employment, GDP, etc.), and specific information on innovation related elements (mainly the ones collected in the European Innovation Scoreboard3), in order to get a general view of the contexts where the specific experiences have been developed;

  • to highlight the resources and the specific experiences of each region in terms of physical and non-physical infrastructures, relations among the actors, performances, innovation;

  • to focus on some selected “good practices” in order to identify the elements to be shared and possibly transferred;

  • finally, to select some key elements which may be taken as the references for future actions aiming at strengthening the capacity of each region to promote research and university spin-off enterprises.

“When designing and implementing regional innovation policies, regional authorities must fully take into consideration the distinctiveness and the social and economic characteristics of the region. They must learn from what other are doing, but avoid simple duplication – they must each develop their specific route to improved innovation capacity, depending on their own unique set of circumstances”. 4

The present report aims at contributing to this process, creating a knowledge basis for undertaking exchanges of good practices and experiences among the regions according to the so called “open coordination method” defined at the European Council of Lisbon, and trying to capitalise on them.

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