On 22nd September, Baltic Development Forum and Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY) organised a panel discussion “Northern European Excellence and Innovation Cluster” in Hamburg. The debate was initiated and hosted by the project BalticTRAM (Transnational Research Access in the Macroregion) and arranged in conjunction with the Fehmarnbelt Days 2016, a regional platform for the stakeholders from the emerging Fehmarnbelt Region and beyond.
The panelists raised some core issues that the project BalticTRAM will aim to address over its three-years lifetime: How to improve access for industry to large-scale research infrastructures and get a better pay-off from highly costly research facilities, how to overcome the mind-set that the use of cutting edge laboratories and equipment is something unreachable and expensive, and how industrial needs can be better matched with available research offers. Everyone in the panel agreed that we need to work to apply a “science for society” rather than a “science for science” approach. Knowledge and state-of- the art technologies need to be better transferred to societal and industrial needs.
It was highlighted that business is a crucial target group in order to reach targets in the field of innovation. However, it remains a challenge to get business and industry representatives engaged as discussion partners and users at the laboratories. It was stated that companies spend more money on marketing and sales than on research and development, while SMEs tend to invest more in research to test their innovative products. However, the budgets of SMEs are not always sufficient to secure proper testing and this raises a problem.
However, things are changing and luckily in the right direction. Both parties – research and industry – tend to realise the need in establishing an earlier dialogue and develop industrial cases before the research facilities have even been completed. The political will and commitment in facilitating this dialogue is also a key issue in reaching successful results.
Finally, the panelists addressed the need in strengthening cross-border research collaboration and joint marketing of the Baltic Sea region as a region with outstanding innovation and research capacity. The region already has a unique research infrastructure and this provides an enormous potential in securing knowledge-driven competition and growth.