Last October 2018 took place in Bergen (Norway) the 13th Regional Innovation Policies Conference held at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. In this forum, experts from all over the world like professor Rodríguez-Pose met to share their experiences in the management, promotion and support of innovation, from a regional perspective, where critical discussions and analyses of the role of regions and regional policy in contributing to sustainable and responsible regional development were particularly appreciated.
Nowadays, European regions face several challenges. These regions are containers of innovation activity and policy, and place innovation at the forefront of addressing these challenges. We can say that the mainstream official discourse at this moment increasingly conceives innovation as something broader than economic growth and technological development. The innovation concept is entrenching new fields, and it is now completely common and normal to refer to terms such as ‘social’ and ‘green’ innovation, meanwhile in the past it was just the opposite. Therefore, it is increasingly common to discuss the role of innovation in economic, social, cultural and political development; processes of which all have a geographic counterpart. This introduces us to a new field of research where a key issue is to focus on effects and implication of innovations beyond the economic sphere.
Businesses are constantly working to develop new and improved products, processes of services, organizational methods and market adjustments. It is increasingly understood that they also cause unforeseen outcomes for example in terms of economic restructuration and job losses, concentration of capital accumulation, climate change and environmental degradation.
How to tackle these issues should be on top of the research agenda within the field of innovation and regional development, especially as the regional level is considered an important constituent in addressing a number of future challenges.
Nowadays, public administrations are asked to manage better than ever their budget, since economic resources are more limited than in the past. Regarding to this, the European Association of Development Agencies (EURADA), as partner of the Interreg Europe project Beyond EDP, has promoted innovation camps as a tool for better implementing the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP), since this methodology is intended to develop new innovation “discoveries” which eventually will become new economic strengths, and “must be carried out within the framework of strategic interactions between the government and the private sector” (Foray D, 2015).
Developed by Aalto University and the New Club of Paris, innovation camps are meant to identify and tackle locally the societal and economic challenges that a region faces, applied to RIS3 by the Joint Research Center and the Committee of the Regions.
Each region has faced their development in a different manner. EURADA has identified several formats, and has analysed different ways of implementation in Brussels, Gabrovo and Valencia, focusing on the latter as a good practice to learn from. There they are called “labs” due to their experiential risk component, being a process of dialogue among the different actors of the Quadruple Helix (administration, academia, business and society), energized by an initial group led by the Valencian government. It defines specific challenges on which to focus innovation policies, with the purpose of facilitating the EDP.
As a result, four labs have been created till now: agri-food, industry, sport and smart grids. They are intended to create and develop a local culture of innovativeness, responding always to the priorities of the Valencian RIS3.
Since this is an ongoing methodology, with an experimental component, we can say that in the near future we will discover the true potential of this new way of managing the design and implementation of innovation to public policies.