In the evaluation report Vinnova presents the first evaluation of the initiatives in the fourth announcement of the Vinnväxt-programme. The initiatives were selected through a call in two steps; first a planning phase where eleven applications were approved and a second phase where the winners were announced.
In May 2013 the programme council and the assessment panel (10 experts), plus officials and experts from Vinnova, selected the three Vinnväxt winners; Geo Life Region, Smart Housing Småland and The Paper Province 2.0.
The objective of the Vinnväxt-programme is to promote sustainable growth based on international competitiveness in regions. This is done by developing regional innovation system´s functionality, dynamics and efficiency to an international level. According to the evaluation strategy the initiatives are evaluated every third year.
This report presents the evaluation of the following initiatives appointed as winners 2013:
• Geo Life Region
• Smart Housing Småland
• The Paper Province 2.0
The three Initiatives have all shown that they have been able to mobilise the key stakeholders to activate a regionally based triple helix and thereby initiated the regional innovation system.
The local and regional agencies have in all three cases shown strong engagement and commitment to their Initiative and this has already triggered a multiplier effect in the region.
Examples of this is in Paper Province 2.0 where the cooperation between the research institute Innventia and Kristinehamn municipality led to the Vinnova funded test bed for lignin R&D, LignoCity, and the inclusion of the Paper Province 2.0 Initiative’s core ideas in Region Värmland’s smart specialisation strategy.
At the same time, we observed that in the three Initiatives more work needs to be done to balance contribution of each of the stakeholder groups by strengthening which of the helix might be less developed. In the Geo Life Region, for instance, the evaluators recommend that the University needs to be more engaging at an institutional level going beyond individual faculty’s commitments; in Paper Province 2.0 the Karlstad University is very committed, however, the evaluators recommend to expand the mix of competences and knowledge to provide the local system with the necessary research and innovation capabilities.
The critical mass and the breadth of the business community also contribute to system building in the Initiatives. Following the leadership of larger local firms, new firms are expected to emerge to populate the local supplier chains and to take to market innovations and prototypes.
It was noticed however that new firm formation is limited in all of the three Initiatives due to a lack of entrepreneurial culture in the regions –see the case of Paper Province 2.0 and Geo Life Region. This is of course not surprising since the Initiatives are aimed at re-casting the industrial make-up of the regions and to create innovative systems that whilst drawing on regions’ industrial heritage, explore innovations and new technologies able to trigger growth opportunities.
The role of the triple helix would be to contribute to create new business opportunities, new firms as well as to diversify existing businesses. It is therefore very important that the Initiatives put in place clear structures and processes to translate innovations into business openings: indeed, to secure a route from prototype to product for all innovation coming out from the innovation activities in particular of universities or research organisations.