The twelfth edition of the Week of Innovative Regions in Europe (WIRE) took place last week, hosted by our Member, the University of Paris-Saclay. This edition of WIRE was organised under the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, on the theme “Towards a leading Europe in breakthrough innovation: unleashing the potential of regions”.
For three days, participants from all over Europe exchanged and debated around themes such as (i) the characteristics of innovations with high disruptive potential, and how to support their deployment within regional ecosystems? (ii) What are the key factors for supporting and deploying disruptive innovations in civil society? (iii) How to achieve the scaling up essential for the growth of start-ups, but which represents a high risk for private investors? (iiii) What are the existing or missing tools, at European, national and regional level?
All stakeholders present at WIRE were in complete agreement: the world needs radical solutions and breakthrough innovation to face and solve the current societal challenges.
The conference emphasised the link between innovation and regional cohesion, showing how rural and widening regions can become ERAhubs, which attract global talent, boost deeptech innovation, and orchestrate funding synergies.
The various debates centered around the need for a more bottom-up approach, concerning individuals and citizens and the importance of talent development, entrepreneurial skills and lifelong learning. In that respect, universities are the main driving force for the development of their local areas to attract and retain research, innovation and entrepreneurial talent.
Participants also agreed that breakthrough innovation needs to be inter-, pluri- and trans-disciplinary for it to be meaningful, as well as allowing for risk taking and boldness.
To achieve this, stakeholders from SME’s, to universities and to regions requested legal and administrative barriers within the single market to be reduced, for the establishment of a better framework and additional funding to make Europe a leader in breakthrough innovation.
Our association contributed to a panel discussion on Europe’s green transition: the role of the EU missions. Our panel was moderated by Markku Markkula, Vice President of the European Committee of the Regions, with additional speakers including, Pirita Lindholm, Director of European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) and Neville Reeve, Principal Missions Coordinator at Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission (DG RTD).
Our Advisor for Innovation and Sustainability, Louise Drogoul, introduced the need for disruptive innovation to deliver on the European green deal and on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the crucial role of universities of Science & Technology (S&T) to do so. Following our latest position on ‘Boosting disruptive innovation by fostering new mindsets and co-creating innovation’, Louise underlined the vital importance of appropriate framework conditions and sustainable funding to deploy co-creation practices and develop the right skills and mindsets within and beyond universities to ensure a safe, secure and sustainable future.
On the role of universities of S&T in boosting disruptive innovation and contributing to sustainability, Louise argued that universities of S&T act as the ‘glue’ bringing together the local, regional, European and global levels, connecting gaps in the innovation ecosystem through cooperation and co-creation. On the other hand, the role of the Missions would be to bridge between society and research, levering through citizen science to connect broader society (including local and regional level) to latest developments in Research and Innovation.
There should be a balance between top-down strategies and bottom-up approaches in the development of disruptive innovation. On the societal and political level we should have an open and evolving discussion around societal priorities and rules. On the level of research and innovation, the goal should be to empower researchers and innovators and their organisations such as universities, to take risks and assume their responsibilities to contribute to sustainability by creating the right framework and regulation to create a new mindset.
Louise concluded that (i) knowledge and learning are key to making change and universities have a crucial role and effect on innovation and their ecosystems and (ii) although it is important to close the innovation gap in Europe, we should not lose sight that Missions need to be aligned to the SDG and that sustainability is not a competition but rather a global issue concerning us all.
The conference was closed by Anna Panagopoulou, Director of European Research Area & Innovation at the Research and Innovation Directorate General of European Commission, who promised the discussions and points raised at this conference will feed the upcoming European Union Innovation agenda. We will therefore keep a close eye on the developments of this agenda and look forward to seeing Universities of S&T prominently represented in it.
The recordings of all the sessions and plenaries will soon be available directly on the WIRE website.For more information please contact our Advisor for Innovation & Sustainability, Louise Drogoul