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03.06.14| Measuring regional Innovation: Prof. Hugo Hollanders stresses the role of benchmarking and indicators in designing and monitoring efficient regional policies

HugoAhead of WIRE 2014, Prof. Hugo Hollanders, Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and technology (UNU-MERIT), the Author of Regional Innovation Scoreboard, stresses the role of benchmarking and innovation indicators in designing and monitoring efficient policies and suggests less advanced regions to support entrepreneurial activities, a prerequisite for innovation.

How should regions use benchmarking and indicators for efficient policies? How do we know we’re making the right steps?

Indicators can be used for multiple purposes. E.g. indicators help us to understand how well a region is doing in creating favourable framework conditions for innovation. Indicators also tell us how innovative a region is. As such they clearly signal weaknesses and potential areas for policy intervention. But indicators as such do not tell us which policies are needed. E.g. if we see that there is only a small number of firms that innovate in a region, we may assume that could be the results of firms have difficulties in financing their innovation activities. A straight-forward policy would be to offer financial support but only more qualitative analyses can tell us which type of support (e.g. subsidies or tax advantages).

Can we measure regional innovation? Lessons from the Regional Innovation Scoreboard and the European Service Innovation Scoreboard? Where Greece stands?

Regions should use scoreboards like the Regional Innovation Scoreboard (RIS) as a first step in trying to identify their relative strengths and weaknesses. The advantage of scoreboards is that they present an easy-to-use tool to compare a region with other regions in Europe. The disadvantage is that scoreboards have to use existing data and thus focus more on measuring inputs and throughputs and much less so on measuring outputs. Scoreboards, by using existing data, are better at measuring innovation in industry than in services. A comparison between the RIS and the European Service Innovation Scoreboard (ESIS) shows that less innovative regions would perform better if service innovation activities would be better captured.

The Greek regions are all moderate innovators, similar to Greece in the Innovation Union Scoreboard. However, in the European Service Innovation Scoreboard, which focuses more on measuring service innovation, Attiki would be an innovation follower performing better than the average for the EU28.

How can we help less advanced regions to catch up with innovation leaders?

First we need to understand that being a less innovative region is not necessarily a bad thing. Also agriculture and tourism can contribute to a strong economy. But if regions want to improve their innovation performance, the RIS clearly shows that more business activities are needed. Entrepreneurial activities need to be supported and governments need to create a business-friendly environment. What is also needed is not just to create more innovations as the latest Innobarometer shows that in particular in the less innovative countries many of these are never commercialized. We need more research to better understand why some innovations fail and why this is happening more in the less innovative countries.

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