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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Latin Link

Paulo C De Miranda at the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) highlights opportunities for new alliances through collaborations within science, technology and research parks between Europe and Latin America

A decade ago, Professor Manuel Castells, speaking at a world conference of science and technology parks in Bilbao, Spain, highlighted the significant transformations taking place in many parts of the world with regard to the importance of and the role played by science and technology parks, largely “due to the creation of innovation networks and to economic development”. But today, as we undergo a period of financial insecurity and sluggish economic growth, contrasted by some magnificent scientific discoveries, linkages and collaborations between innovation actors, places and regions seem more than necessary.

The times of solitary research projects working inside labs and R&D departments are long gone. The post-industrial era has multiplied the importance of competitiveness based on innovation and knowledge as engines of economic growth, and inaugurated new and fresh ways of transmitting and applying scientific and technological discoveries. For more than half a century, science, technology and research parks have made a direct and tangible economic contribution to economic development in many regions and countries of the world, and have delivered a successful wave of innovative ideas. When the practical needs of the new economy evoke innovation and increasing collaboration, these are projects specially suited to respond to many of the world’s key challenges: dealing with the environment and energy on climate change issues, and human health needs to address disease prevention and treatment.

With its origins based in out-of-town industrial estates, this new model of the industrialised environment, science parks, forms part of the global economy, breaking concepts formerly considered untouchable and creating something quite different. Mainly in Europe and the US, they were initially widely linked with the notion of high-tech regions, where successful hightech enterprises and institutions, as well as world class universities and innovative projects are often found. These parks and their resident companies and research labs, have helped deconstruct hierarchical approaches to collaboration in science and technology research-based projects and helped introduce a more open, modular and collaborative model by becoming essential nodes in a global entrepreneurial ecosystem and forming part of many of the most sophisticated knowledge and business networks known today.

Without support for new ideas and development innovation and technology, there are many business opportunities that would not have reached the levels they are at today. Science parks and their innovationbased communities provide the ideal environment to nurture new companies and produce innovative products. Science parks, and the concept of what a science/technology/research park (STRPs) is, are in continuous evolution. This evolution reflects the richness of their models and purposes, and reinforces their attractiveness not only for collaboration and alliances among businesses and academia, but also for the skilful ‘knowledge workers’, helping their companies to attract and retain talent. In short, STRPs are a formidable springboard to reach higher levels of competitiveness within increasingly global and demanding markets and to stimulate opportunities for international collaboration among them.

The geographical panorama of science and technology parks is widespread, with approximately 1,500 found across the globe today. An aim for many is to increase business opportunities for their residents through international strategic alliances. Together these environments form a burgeoning network of technology and entrepreneurship and help drive innovation growth on a global scale through cooperative projects and partnerships. There is a large amount of STRP activity in Europe with more than 400 parks just within the EU zone, reflecting the highest concentration of innovation environments in this industry worldwide.

Today, on the other side of this industry, we find the economies of leading countries, with perhaps China as an exception, such as Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Turkey with a striking growth in investments, new opportunities emerging in STRPs and vibrant innovation and entrepreneurial activity. Latin America, for example, has undergone tremendous growth in technology parks during the first decade of the 21st century. Still, it holds a modest geographical representation within this industry, with a little more than 100 parks in total. But this region is rapidly becoming a key focus for many investments and a location for new foreign companies with leading technologies in renewable energies (clean tech), biotechnology, new materials and nanotechnology. The region is privileged with a wealth of networks of technologybased business incubators and parks that are advancing cooperation among their members. These networks run on a national or regional level, promoting the exchange of knowledge, generation of business and interactions and more recently, carrying these experiences across the Atlantic with shared institutional collaborations involving other parks and business incubators in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and the UK.

Research and development is flourishing; from 1997 to 2007 the number of science publications as registered with the Science Citation Index doubled; and, for example in Brazil alone there are approximately 70 STRPs, both operative and still under development (1). Currently there is great economic progress in Latin America: using Brazil as an example again, its economy is growing at a rate of five per cent, and the country is expected to become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2020. Furthermore, the government of Mexico recently announced a major initiative to launch 30 science and technology parks through federally funded national programmes. In both countries, developments such as Sapiens Park in Florianópolis and Rio de Janeiro Technology Park, both in Brazil, and PIIT Monterrey Research and Innovation Technology Park in Mexico are sound examples of where the opportunity for building strategic alliances for European parks would come from.

In addition to Brazil and Mexico, there are other very strong contenders within the STRP industry emerging from Latin America, such as Panama, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. All of these countries are fully engaged in European-funded projects and initiatives linked with technology parks.

Still, some studies have found that although some Latin American countries have a great capacity for R&D, they are yet to develop the links necessary between knowledge production and use to increase market share and market value. The impact of R&D projects funded by innovative firms is still limited to a small number of cases in the region. Enhancing opportunities for collaboration between European and Latin American parks is important, and support is essential in order to increase absorptive (innovation) capacity and growth in this area, especially by creating business linkages among technology and innovationintensive SMEs, researchers and entrepreneurs inhabiting these parks.

Since the Lisbon agenda, European policy to support and fund research and technological development projects and activities is designed to increase Europe’s growth and competitiveness in this area, focusing on knowledge being Europe’s greatest resource describing what they refer to as the ‘knowledge triangle’: research, education and innovation. This policy framework in research and technological development provides an array of opportunities amongst European STRPs to explore collaboration with other parks in the world.

Linking Europe and Latin America in order to pool resources, foster partnerships and secure the existing ties between them on a historical, cultural and economic level is a priority on the agendas of both regions. Indeed, the EU and Latin America have had a strategic partnership since 1999. This has led to a series of very successful collaboration projects, and today the EU is Latin America’s biggest trading partner. Key bilateral agreements of the EU with Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico for example, have been instrumental in enhancing a range of partnerships between these countries within the eurozone. Such agreements facilitate cooperation, devising specific trading policies which are extended to allow these countries to enter into research and science-based projects with direct financial support coming from the EU.

But in order to create further alliances and to strengthen connections between the two regions, it is essential that STRPs and, of course, their resident companies and institutions, are perceived as strategic actors to drive competitiveness. On a broader level, this can be achieved by increasing the number of EU-funded projects involving parks and the networks to which they belong across both sides of the Atlantic, by carrying out technical assistance missions, transferring of know-how and holding events, among other things.

On a more specific level, European and Latin American parks should form partnerships to provide greater benefits and added value services for their resident companies. Such partnerships or strategic alliances have the potential to generate a range of opportunities and benefits to their residents and the parks themselves. Establishing soft landing programmes for their leading companies is one of the clear trends seen today. European parks such as the University of Warwick Science Park and Surrey Research Park in the UK, Sophia Antipolis Foundation in France, Heidelberg Technology Park in Germany, Mjärdevi Science Park in Sweden, Spain’s 22@Barcelona and Technology Park of Andalucía are amongst the better known examples.

Industry-wide, however, STRPs are basically facing the same broad challenge when addressing the growth and quality of their companies: how better to convert its innovation capacity into jobs and other economic outcomes. And one of the biggest challenges for high-tech innovative SMEs going abroad is to find the right partnerships which will lead to business expansion and actual internationalisation of the company. In Latin America, many parks are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to host these types of innovative SMEs and are well positioned to assist them through the difficult task of ‘landing’ in foreign markets. In Europe, parks are much more mature and are better suited to building long-term strategic partnerships and highvalue services for innovative enterprises and research-based institutions coming from Latin America.

There are many advantages of these types of programmes that are designed for residents of a park. First, the company can take full advantage of safer alliances involving parks, which help bridge the gap of knowing who the best partners are and knowing where to start operations. Second, European parks tend to rely more on their networking capabilities and strategies to attract inward investments aimed at benefitting all residents of the park. Third, these programmes tend to match equal levels of funding schemes from public agencies. And fourth, as internationalisation of innovative, high-growth, high-valued technology-based SMEs is clearly seen as a trend to favour private sector investors, such programmes, when well crafted and implemented, would serve as a catalyst to leverage the value of investment needed to support these types of enterprises.

In both regions there are already a few programmes such as these underway amongst STRPs. In Europe these programmes can be seen in Finland, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK and, in Latin America, there are examples in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Panama.

On the other hand, there are currently many projects seeking to enhance communication between resident companies of the parks and encourage investment and support. It is important to allow the enterprises from both regions to make face-to-face contact and discuss business interests and investment needs and, most importantly perhaps, share common facilities and supporting mechanisms and opportunities. A good example was initiated in 2005, through the national associations of technology parks and incubators in Spain and Brazil who share a strategic alliance which facilitates these types of projects. Forming alliances between European and Latin American STRPs will enhance the competitiveness of the relevant industries, and create crosscultural links to stimulate open innovation, internationalisation and recognition.

Technology forms part of everyday life, and making this technology work for consumers, rather than against, is the aim of any new technology designer, developer and entrepreneur. Efficient and high- quality products are produced on the basis of hard work, clever ideas, knowledge and open collaboration. What STRPs do is bring together a wealth of knowledge, information and ideas in a highly sophisticated environment, thus raising standards and business opportunities, driving growth and opening new markets.

Reference

  1. The Brazilian National Association of Science Parks and Business Incubators, ANPROTEC

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Paulo C De Miranda, is the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) Director for Projects and Knowledge Management. He holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs from Syracuse University, NY and a Bachelors of Science in Management and Technology from University of Maryland, US. Previously he was Managing Director of the Brazilian Association of Science Parks and Business Incubators from 2002 to 2007.
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