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ESIC Policy workshop in Emilia-Romagna

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The regional work done in ESIC has reached the peer review phase. The aim of the ESIC activities carried out in all model demonstrator regions has been to assist regional policy-makers to test, update and improve their existing policies as well as to boost emerging industries by transformative service innovation. Via the expert analysis and regional self-assessment the summary assessment reports have been finalised by the ESIC consortium. The peer review phase, in turn, encourages policy learning and provides external input into the policy development of the region and leads eventually towards regional policy recommendations.


Background and aim of the workshop

The Summary Assessment of Emilia-Romagna was peer-reviewed in Bologna at the beginning of January. The peer-review had a two-fold aim: 1) to ensure that conclusions and recommendations in the Summary Assessment were grounded on the actual situation in Emilia-Romagna experienced by a range of service innovation practitioners as well as stakeholders in Emilia Romagna 2) to assure that conclusions and recommendations will be in line with the knowledge received both from academic world and practice in the field of service innovation policies around the world.

To this end, the members of the peer-review panel included experts like Douglas Thompson, Bettina Gladysz-Haller and Prof Jon Sundbo, as well as a range of service and service innovation practitioners and core stakeholders representing cross-sectoral industry associations (Confindustria, CNA), research institutes and universities as well as regional policymakers from Emilia Romagna and another Italian region Marche. In addition, the regional innovation delivery partners ASTER and ERVET and representatives of the ICT and logistics industries were presented.


Analysing the service innovation potential in Emilia Romagna

In the workshop, the existing regional policy setting was presented by Mr.  Silvano Bertini, supported by conclusions and main policy recommendations provided by the ESIC team. One of the core conclusions was that Emilia-Romagna has a very strong manufacturing sector as well as a strong service sector potential with many start-ups, a strong local demand for services, many patents and a large share of private R&D expenditures.

However, this potential in service sector has not yet been unlocked for several reasons. The strong manufacturing sector requires development of services but the current lack of competition does not support the service market development.  There are numerous micro-enterprises of which only few have managed to move up the value chain. Most of them are providing relatively low-value added services. Furthermore, size of service companies is quite small; in average they employ 3.5 workers. Also, it seems that there is a lack of emerging service based business models both in manufacturing and in the service sector. The region remains a net importer of business services, reflecting the missing potential.

The existing policy setting in Emilia Romagna does not yet include  programmes or initiatives directly focused on service sector, but  there are several activities were innovations have been emphasised multi-dimensionally, not only fostering technological innovations.  However, there still is a need for  more specific approach focused on service innovations.

Following this observation, Ms Bettina Gladysz-Haller, representing Upper Austria, highlighted the existing regional approach to service innovation and policies supporting services. One of the core points of the Upper Austria’s approach is Innovation Centres which provide a concrete place for service innovators to gather and collaborate. A similar approach was proposed in the Emilia Romagna strategy where the concept of living labs was considered particularly interesting. These living labs bring together suppliers and potential users of services to work jointly on new products and services and thus act as an incubator for service innovation.

Starting point for the development of a systemic approach to service innovation in Emilia Romagna

In the first day of the workshop Jon Sundbo chaired the discussion about the next steps to be taken in Emilia-Romagna. Jon Sundbo presented different views on how local service firms could be more strongly connected to manufacturing firms and how they can together reach better positions in the value chain. This can also create a fruitful base for new innovation policies in the region.  The theme led to a very vivid discussion in the workshop, and among many good issues, Innovation Centres were again pointed out as a tool to unlock Emilia-Romagna’s service potential.

On the second day, Douglas Thompson in turn, presented a very systemic approach to service innovation adopted by several regions in China. The approach has led to a strong ICT sector in the country and also this case can be considered as an example for Emilia-Romagna. These interventions in China, though larger scale than anything that could be done in a single region in Italy, were interesting in that they highlighted the need to raise awareness of service innovation and to bring together entrepreneurs from different backgrounds (some of which not service related) to collaborate on new approach to service innovation. A more systemic policy approach for services will be needed in the region and several ideas about it were further discussed in the workshop. One of the concrete ideas was to ensure that the innovation centres not only support collaboration among services companies but also boost networking between service companies and manufacturing companies.  It was also emphasized that the open innovation centres should enhance entrepreneurship as well as facilitate innovation processes within service firms. Such approaches have been successful, particularly in relation to small and medium-sized service firms in Denmark.  In addition the role of management training was enhanced  in the discussions which was also supported by the case example from China.

The regional ESIC work in Emilia-Romagna will continue with more precise policy recommendations which can be found later on via the ESIC webpages.

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