Europe’s Innovation Hot Spots
BusinessWeek Special Report on Innovation (April 2008) includes a number of intersting stories about the state of European innovation, Europe’s top inventors, and main innovation drivers. Included is a piece on Europe’s Innovation Hot Spots. European governments are making efforts to propel innovation on the continent by creating competitive clusters—areas with businesses, research centers, and educational institutions centered around a specific sector. Since 2005, France has founded 71 such clusters in places like Lyon, Toulouse, and Grenoble that specialize in industries such as health care, aeronautics, and microelectronics, and has funded them with €1.5 billion ($2.35 billion) since 2006. In 2003, regional development agencies in Britain founded the Oxford to Cambridge Arc initiative with the aim of building the premier knowledge-based regional economy in Europe. The area has become a center of Britain’s high-tech manufacturing and research industries.
The flowering of fresh ideas isn’t limited to technology and the hard sciences. Countries such as Israel and Denmark are pushing the envelope in pharmaceuticals, France is overflowing with Web startups, and even tiny Estonia—with its policies promoting universal access to the Internet—has cultivated a booming information economy that bred Web phone-calling phenomenon Skype. But don’t leave out Spain, whose chefs have revolutionized contemporary cuisine; Italy, which continues to pioneer apparel and furniture design; or the financial innovations of Britain and Switzerland.
The development of such hot spots not only has spurred the growth of “creative classes,” but also has made competition more local, pitting cities against each other in a struggle to earn recognition and corporate investment.
While no specific formula can determine how to maximize European potential, two areas that could use an overhaul are the public and research sectors. The public sector accounts for more than 40% of gross domestic product in some countries, and is typically slow to change. Meanwhile, Europe continues to lose researchers to the U.S. due to a seniority system that evaluates them according to their age rather than their performance. Europe also continues to spend less of its GDP on R&D overall—though some argue that the productivity of innovation is more important than total spending.
Source: Europe’s Innovation Hot Spots