Interview of M. Paino (CCIAA Maremma Tirreno) and I. Cavallini (University of Pisa)
Vouchers for innovation in businesses of the CCIAA were selected by PASSAGE partners as a best practice for entrepreneurship and social innovation. Can you tell us more?
MP: To sustain development and competitiveness of enterprises, the Chamber of Commerce has set up a strategic program on "research, innovation and development" for entrepreneurs and aspiring ones, to implement innovative ideas to be translated in entrepreneurship development. Among others, CCIAA launched 2 competition notices:
- Voucher for innovation to support SMEs to develop innovative ideas in cooperation with university researchers (6 companies selected in 2015)
- Voucher for social innovation to encourage innovative solutions enhancing society wellbeing and economic competitiveness.
CI: I represent the University of Pisa in the Commission to choose projects that can get the voucher. Later, I match enterprises and researchers, identifying colleagues who have the most consistent skills for projects. Finally, I assure that results of collaboration fit with expectations. At each stage, collaboration with CCIAA is very close to fulfill enterprises’ needs.
How does it help low-carbon innovation? What guarantees projects' sustainability after funding has ended?
MP: All sectors could contribute to low-carbon transition according to their technological and economic potential, so the Voucher for innovation is open to all economic fields, impacting directly or not on low-carbon economy. Entrepreneurs' and researchers' partnership guarantees sustainability of projects: both university’s departments and enterprises invest human and financial resources to deepen the work after funding has ended. Considering the good results, we develop a cross-border approach on economic sectors impacting more directly carbon emissions (sustainable tourism, blue & green biotechnologies, renewable energies) with MARITTIMOTECH project, launched in January 2017. The Voucher for innovation also contributes to change attitude of entrepreneurs and citizens. Their engagement on innovative projects and processes in cooperation with researchers encourages more sustainable choices.
CI: The University devotes more and more energies, skills and resources to study low-carbon, sustainable production solutions. Researchers observe surrounding economic reality before starting projects and studies; we are all aware of having to play our part to leave a healthier and cleaner world to future generations. Matching enterprises' needs and universities' skills should be guided by this trend.
What are the main difficulties and solutions for cooperation between universities and enterprises?
MP: Implementing our action, we first confirmed the distance between universities' and enterprises’ worlds. Despite universities’ researches are able to contribute to intelligent, inclusive and sustainable growth, they often don’t, because they don’t fit socio-economic needs expressed by companies and citizens. We first had to overcome beliefs, to understand each other and favour dialogue. Meetings between companies and researchers allowed them to lay grounds for a positive partnership. The most important step was the direct involvement of researchers in the companies for some days. A permanent body with representatives of stakeholders’ interested in innovation and entrepreneurship could strengthen cooperation.
CI: Literature coined the term triple helix to shape relations between research centres, companies and public institutions. A fourth helix (civil society) was added to comprehend 21st century innovation. Quadruple helix allows territories to follow non-traditional innovation paths. Within academic environment, there is more and more insistence on a third mission, complementary to education and research, to align agendas of the subjects that animate the quadruple helix.
Could it be developed easily in other regions?
MP: The vouchers can be developed easily in other regions if all relevant stakeholders are involved: companies, universities, research centres, public institutions and citizens. Dialogue and information are key. Do your best to sensitize the actors about the importance of cooperation and to involve them on the planning and the realisation of the innovation process. Organisations representing the companies’ interests, such as Chambers of Commerce, have to strengthen their role as facilitator between socio-economic and academic systems.
CI: I absolutely agree. The quadruple helix model can be applied to explain the technology transfer in each country, so the vouchers can be developed everywhere. Each Member State has developed different models of technology transfer and collaboration between companies and research centers; but they never deviate from the triple and quadruple helix vision. We simply need to adapt the voucher practices to specific features of each nation.