[This post introduces our newest nowEurope contributor, Toby Elwin, writing from Boston - a regional US tech hub once on par with Silicon Valley, but recently finding themselves fighting for relevance. Toby also has deep career experience working in Hungary and China. He'll be looking at Central Europe from a comparative perspective - Steve Carlson]
My interest in Hungary and the region stems from an opportunity to study an advanced business degree in Budapest. After living in America and China, two countries that dominate both their region and much global news, Hungary, the size of Pennsylvania, was a distinct change of perspective.
In 1999 I arrived in Hungary, straight from China. The country and many of the seven countries that border Hungary were shaking off decades of planned-economy paralysis. The region was entering a renewed sense of opportunity and Hungary was stabilizing its voice in the region, in Europe, and in the world.
The opportunity, and the challenge that lay ahead, for Hungary and others in the region was to set the proper goal. The more I worked and studied at Central European University, the more I discovered a region, from the Czech Republic through Mongolia, full of immensely brilliant, able people to have an impact on a global scale. With a brilliant work force, many in government chose a low-wage competitive strategy. I felt then, as I do now, the race to the bottom is a short-term solution.
Continue reading ‘Central Europe: the view from Boston’
The centrope_tt team has just published a comprehensive map of R&D institutions, which provides the location and further details of more than 2,200 R&D facilities in the CENTROPE region. My organization, Pannon Business Network, took part in building this map.
With the quick search function, you can find easily who is who in R&D in Centrope. As I mentioned in a previous post, the centrope_tt international voucher system awards 50 fortunate companies up to € 5,000 worth of research service, at no cost. This call will be published some time before summer 2010, so stay tuned, Meanwhile, use the R&D Map to located your potential partners, and let me know what you think in the comments!
Since we’ve been talking about how clusters work, whether they work, and how to start one, it’s worth having a closer look at one of the most successful European examples. The so-called Silicon Fen, located around Cambridge University, has nurtured roughly 25% of all UK tech startups. Seven percent of all European venture capital is invested in Cambridge.
‘Can regional clusters be engineered
?’ is an intriguing case study authored by Professor William Webb, Head of H&D and Senior Technologist at Ofcom. The article appeared in Ingenia Online, the journal of Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering.
I’m afraid the news is not too optimistic for those for those of us hoping for quick, tangible results. According to Webb, the Cambridge Cluster emerged organically, took 15 years to become noticeable and required a further ten years to become a well-established phenomenon. However, the article does identify a number of best practices which we can apply here in the Centrope region.
A central goal of the CITT project (under which nowEurope is financed) is to work out strategies to improve technology transfer between the business and research communities within the Centrope region.
However, a larger issue throughout the European Union is increasing the cross-border business activities of SMEs. Euractiv writes:
[M]ore than 99% of EU companies are small and medium-sized enterprises with no more than 250 employees and a maximum turnover of €50 million. However, only 8% of them engage in cross-border trade and just 5% have subsidiaries or joint ventures abroad, according to the European Commission.
According to experts, the key barrier is differing tax regimes.
Continue reading ‘Tax issues the main barrier to cross-border SME business in Europe’
A few days ago the Calypso initiative published a blog post and link about my recent nowEurope article address addressing technology transfer and FP7. Calypso specialises in helping organisations to participate in FP7 projects. Their blog deals with similar topics and questions as nowEurope, which got me to thinking about a handful of European initiatives that resemble our project, CITT.
Continue reading ‘A little peek over CITT’s fence’
Recently I read in the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard“ an article investigating if there are enough IT professionals available for Austrian companies. The journalist, Gregor Kucera, interviewed several opinion leaders from the chamber of commerce, social union, leading IT companies and drew the following picture of the future.
At the moment there are enough IT professionals available to fill most job offers because of the economic crisis. The problem will come in about 10 years. Before the dotcom bubble a lot of young people wanted to become IT professionals because of the high salaries. These have dropped in the recent years and are currently only little above other branches. As a consequence less and less young people want to go into that direction.
Do you have similar prognosis in your region? Or is it different?
After sharing my experiences about what I call “hard core“ technology transfer I would also like to discuss with you two other forms of technology transfer that are working quite fine in my business environment:
1) Joint projects with research centers/universities
2) Hiring employees from universities/research centers
A very effective way for my company to gain new expertise has been to work jointly with research centers and/or universities. In all cases this has been a very fruitful cooperation, as on the one hand the RTD institution received hands-on market knowledge and on the other hand we received first class technological expertise.
As the next step I hired even employees of this research group if I planned research and innovation within our company over a longer period.
For my small company these approaches worked out very successfully. Do you have similar experiences? What is your opinion?
One of the key output of the CITT project was the survey conducted among the top Centrope ICT companies and university institutions. Our team at FIRST Innovation Park approached over 50 premium ICT companies in South Moravia and received 34 answered questioannaires. Let’s look at one of the questions – what are the main barriers for your cooperation with academic research?
Several companies mentioned university departments concentrated too much on theoretic approaches and the fundamental research, having only few researchers with practical experience and little trust in commercial activities. They also lack stronger discipline and training for real-life situations at students.
Our respondents often quoted very complex and hardly usable legislation for sharing experiences & research results and problems with the intellectual property protection. They reported a missing concept for technology transfer, insufficient rules and decision making process taking too long at the university side.
Continue reading ‘Main barriers for cooperation with academic research’
In his post, Vlastimil Vesely introduced the innovation voucher system of South Moravia. We at Pannon Business Network are working on a project called centrope_tt, where we are responsible for the development of a system for supporting innovation and cross border technology transfer between SMEs and R&D institutions in the Centrope region.
The main characteristics of the centrope_tt voucher:
- while national programmes support innovation on national and regional level, centrope_tt supports technology transfer on interregional level
- Any SME in Centrope can apply for one of the 50 pilot vouchers and use the voucher for services of one of the universities located in a foreign Centrope country
- In 2010, 50 pilot vouchers are available: 20 in Austria, 10 in the Czech Republic, 10 in Hungary and 10 in Slovakia.
- The maximum value of one voucher is € 5,000.
- The financed activities are similar to other innovation voucher systems.
Currently the consortium is working on the preparation of the voucher system. (public call, implementation manual, trilateral contracts etc.)
When the official call is ready we will publish it on this site, too. Until then please collect your ideas and find your international partners for your project!