International workshop on economic and technological dimensions of national innovation systems

02/08/05

International workshop on 'economic and technological dimensions of national innovation systems' at the Warsaw School of Economics

The links between economics and technology as they apply to innovation are very strong. It is a fact that innovation must not only make sense technologically, but should also be financially sound as well. The discussion related to these issues was the main objective of the international workshop on Economic and technological dimensions of national innovation systems, which was held in January 2005 at the Warsaw School of Economics (WSE). This interdisciplinary workshop was organized jointly by German and Polish academics, namely the researchers from TuTech Innovation, Hamburg (Germany) and the World Economy Research Institute at the Warsaw School of Economics (Poland). The event was aimed at examining the diversity of national innovation systems and policies in the European Union. Examples both "new" and "old" EU countries were discussed and experiences gathered in the post-enlargement process was considered.

The workshop was attended by a number of respected researchers and scholars from universities and research institutes from different European countries, including England, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Sweden. The opening speech was delivered by the Polish Minister of Science and Information Technology, Prof. Michal Kleiber.

The discussion focused on recent developments in the national innovation systems. As it was clearly marked by Prof. Marzenna Weresa from the Warsaw School of Economics, national systems of innovation in the EU countries significantly vary with respect to the distribution and the success of publicly-financed R&D, the technological specialisation in as well as science and technology policies. Despite strengthening of integration processes in Europe, the meaning of national environment for generation of innovation continues remains important, which can be seen in the diversity of national patterns of technological and economic specialisation. However, certain functions of national innovation systems have been delegated either to regional/local levels or to European level. Integration in Europe creates a pressure on national governments towards convergence in terms of national innovation systems performance ('efficiency' measured by innovation indicators), but towards divergence in terms of its institutional characteristics, as well as technological specialisation. Professor Weresa concludes that some diversity of national innovation systems is of an advantage as it enables countries to benefit from synergy effects.

Since this seminar was held in Warsaw, it did not come as a surprise that many of the presentations dealt with the issue of effectiveness of national innovation systems in transition economies. Marika Rudzite from Latvia (Head of Development Planning Department, Livani District Council) emphasised that it is very important to compare the innovation performance of the new EU members to the old ones, and to analyse what their speed and sustainability of economic development are. Furthermore, this comparison allows using other countries' experiences in development and implementation of regional innovation strategy and helps to plan synergic future measures of national innovation system. Marika Rudzite argued that culture of innovation is still limited in Latvia. The country is now in the process of designing effective innovation support systems. There is a gap between science and manufacturing, and links between the creators of new knowledge and its users in practice are not good enough. On the one hand, it is obvious that scientists do not get involved in knowledge transfer processes actively enough, but on the other hand, industrial enterprises are not active and they lack the capabilities to acquire new technologies and their application. Another problem arises when regional distribution of innovation is compared: around 60% of economic potential is concentrated in the capital of Latvia and Riga region, as well as greatest part of innovation related information and investments. Therefore, special measures should be developed to promote progress in Latvia's less developed and remote regions.

Hungarian example was discussed by Dr. Annamária Inzelt from the IKU Innovation Research Centre, Corvinus University of Budapest. She argued that competitiveness and wellbeing of a country depends on the existence of innovative small firms and the life-cycle they can perform. In the second decade of the transition period the development of the Hungarian economy has produced a growing number of successful, innovative small and micro-firms specialised on R&D, but there is hardly any information available on their activities. As an outcome, a clearly visible world-wide tendency has been for innovative small- and micro- firms to grow in importance in the development and dissemination of new knowledge, with the result that their significance to the national economy must be re-evaluated.

Surprisingly, also many authors from West European countries analyzed that topic too, including Prof. Walter Leal Filho from TuTech Hamburg and Dr Lynn Martin from University of Central England. Professor Filho pointed out that despite efforts to promote innovation in the "old" and "new" EU countries, the new members, i.e. the countries which became members since the enlargement in 2004, do not have well developed infra-structure to pursue, support and capitalise from the advantages of innovation in a meaningful way. In addition, there is still no critical mass of human resources which may allow them to take full advantage of the various opportunities innovation may offer both nationally and in Europe as a whole. In real terms, the new EU countries are at a disadvantage, since they do not yet have national institutions, which support research and training on innovation. There are at present many barriers to innovation in Europe (varying from legislation to mobility).

As Dr Lynn Martin noticed, these countries require significant improvements not only in technology diffusion patterns but also in building basic support mechanisms for innovation. These include new forms of research and development funding, more flexibility in setting research goals reflecting general economic and social goals of the economy, fine – tuning the state investments framework, strengthening investment promotion among business enterprises, encouraging further regional cooperation, supporting appropriate commercialization of university research and many more.

Dr Georg Licht (Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim) in his paper co-authored by Dr Dirk Czarnitzki (Catholic University of Leuven (KUL), Leuven) examined the input and output additionality of public R&D subsidies in West- and East-Germany. They pointed out that the catching-up process of former Eastern Germany does not match its expected speed. Labour productivity is still significantly lower in former East Germany than in West-Germany, the unemployment is much higher and the value of regional production falls short of regional consumption. Hence, a significant transfer of income is needed for a much longer time period than expected during the first phase of the catching-up process. Neither the private nor the public sector is viable without massive transfers from the western parts of Germany to the eastern parts.

The seminar was the first in a series planned by the German Economy Research Unit of the Warsaw School of Economics. As envisaged by the organizers, they should help to foster the exchange of views and opinions between researchers coming from all European Union countries, serving the ultimate goal of social and economic cohesion of the whole of the European Union. Moreover, the outcome of the workshop will be a book that will present in detail issues discussed by the speakers. It will both document the event and disseminate the experiences gathered as part of it.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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