EU-Latin America cooperation on regional innovation is good business!
The focus of REGIO's actions in the field of international cooperation, supported by the European Parliament through the Preparatory Action 'Enhancing regional and local cooperation through the promotion of EU regional policy on a global scale', is increasingly geared towards promoting more decentralized cooperation bringing regional and city authorities in the EU and third countries together. Such cooperation does more than promote the understanding of the European socio-economic model in third countries, and one important additional effect has been to expose the actors in third countries to the EU's public and private (business) providers of investment and services for regional and urban development.
A recent example of the latter can be seen in the technical assistance project, “EU-Latin America cooperation on regional systems of innovation”, which has just been completed, and which brought together the Latin American regions of Cordoba (Argentina) and Santa Catarina (Brazil) together with the EU's Emilia-Romagna and Baden-Württemberg regions. The project was inspired by the work in the EU on Regional Innovation Systems and was intended to help the Latin American regions to improve governance arrangements bringing together the key actors working on innovation and to promote SME access to innovation. It focused on two sectoral clusters (the agro-food and biotechnology sectors, respectively, with a particular emphasis on biotechnology applied to agriculture and agro-food, ICT and energy) that have an important place in the local economies in both the participating EU and Latin America regions, as well as having good potential for further development.
The interventions at the closing conference of the project, which took place in Chapecó (Santa Catarina, Brazil) from 5-8 March 2013, demonstrated the desire of the authorities in both UE and Latin America to continue and reinforce interregional exchanges and the cooperation on regional innovation policies. It confirmed the interest the project held for the private sector as seen in the involvement of many firms drawn from each side. The result has been that on both continents more than 40 firms participated, and resulted in a number of EU agencies and firms exporting services, including know-how, to Latin American firms in Cordoba and Santa Catarina. Indeed, EU agencies and firms were attracted to the project partly by their interest in gaining insight into the functioning of the market in these two emerging and dynamic regions of Latin America as a basis for developing business ties and trading links.
For instance, the Province of Cordoba has already envisaged a series of follow-up activities of interest to their local stakeholders: promoting the development of linkages between Latin American companies and the agro-business and mechatronics sectors in Emilia Romagna, through the services of Reggio Emilia Innovazione; strengthening and formalizing the linkages between specific Latin American clusters (e.g. Cluster Quesero of Villa María, Córdoba) with industrial research laboratories and consortia (e.g. Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium); facilitating the participation of Latin American agro-food SMEs in the European fairs (e.g. "R2B – Research to business" in Bologna; "Nutrire il pianeta, energia per la Vita" in Milan); promoting the inclusion and involvement of Latin American companies in the European Enterprise Network with the support of Baden-Württemberg institutions. At the same time, a number of joint biotech research and development projects are under discussion with a view to applying jointly for EU research support in the EU and Germany.
Regional policies and practices aiming to enhance regional development and participation will have an increasingly crucial role in Brazil and Argentina as this particular project has confirmed. Within this trend, regional innovation policies have a key role in bringing together a set of locally-based policies such as education, training, business services to SME’s, applied industrial research and technology transfer.