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Should We Create a Network of Innovation Hubs throughout the Baltic Sea Macro-Region

“Digitalization is the key driver of change in the global economy: the digital industry is at the cutting edge and offers great potential. The local and regional levels need to take the lead: bottom-up experimenting, rapid prototyping, widening participation and increasing focus on joint co-creation cultures.”

This was my message in addressing the Latvian EU Presidency as the newly elected President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) a few weeks ago. And the Prime Minister of Latvia Laimdota Straujuma responded: “ Through the next stage of the eGovernment Action Plan, we want to address the use of open process and promotion of digital skills for all. To face economic, social and global challenges, we must become digital by default, that is, to include digital aspects and solutions in all policy areas and initiatives where possible.”

These statements were clearly in my mind when responding to the questions of the Latvian media in our CoR Bureau meeting in Riga in mid March. One of the key questions was: “How to prevent brain drain which refers to the emigration of intelligent well-educated professionals? What would be the best mechanisms to solve this problem?”

In my response, I painted first the bigger picture defined in the book “Orchestrating the Regional Innovation Ecosystems – Espoo Innovation Garden” and continued with a few key messages:

  • The success factor in regional innovation strategies is effectiveness in bridging the gap between existing global research knowledge and actual regional practice.

  • Orchestrating innovation ecosystems is about creating synergy between many activities and many actor groups, both research and society: con- ducting the research, having access to the results, understanding the implications, and ultimately putting the research into practice.

Brain drain can be stopped only by creating favourable conditions for local innovation hubs based on human capital which are effectively networked on a global scale. Most often these hubs are strongly affiliated with universities. Investments in multidisciplinary innovation policy and university-industry collaboration are a must.

I concluded that the Baltic region can take a pioneering role in Europe. We can provide prerequisites for a network of innovation hubs that promotes the creation of digital applications and boosts new jobs. 

These themes, among other current trends, will constitute the central topics in an EU Open Innovation 2.0 conference in Espoo in 7-9 June 2015. The conference is not an isolated event but rather a part of a vaster flow of processes and measures. Why would we not benefit from the networking opportunities available? Also regional decision making can expedite the required development measures, e.g. by means of the Baltic Sea INTERREG program. Let us jointly review these opportunities in more detail. One option to move to concrete measures is conferences – let us meet in early June in Riga in the WIRE, the following week in Espoo in the Open Innovation 2.0 conference, and a week after that in the Digital Agenda Assembly in Riga. 

The book about orchestrating ecosystems will later in April be available on the web pages of the Open Innovation 2.0 conference:

Markku Markkula

President of the EU Committee of the Regions


CoR Bureau met in Riga on the 18 March. CoR President Markku Markkula (on the left) together with Andris Jaunsleinis, Chairman of the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments. Markku Markkula is also a long standing member of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.

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