Tag Archives: I+D

Foundations and innovation

Published in the “Innovadores” supplement in the El Mundo newspaper on 1 October 2014

The management of innovation in the public and private sector has developed considerably. In three decades, we have evolved from fairly inflexible systems, which were quite closed and used administrative processes that did not facilitate knowledge transfer, to an open innovation model, in which research groups and departments contribute their knowledge and skills to the production sector. Foundations have played an important part in this process.

The role of foundations, and more specifically that of university foundations, goes beyond their work in the management of philanthropy and fund-raising, which is just one of their areas of activity. Foundations have brought new tools to the innovation system, including the management of the transfer of innovative products and services, the construction of a system of relationships with the production sector in various fields, specialized training, participation in international projects, and the establishment of collaborative structures, such as science and technology parks, clusters or technology platforms.

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This role as an interface is essential, because in many cases the creators of technology do not have effective, flexible mechanisms for transferring it to companies. Conversely, foundations help companies to connect with the academic and research environment. So it is not surprising that 90% of entities that work in R&D have at least one foundation in their structure.

Some weeks ago, the Institute for Strategic Analysis of Foundations (INAEF) published data on the sector of foundations during the recession years. To maintain their activity, foundations have disinvested, cut their assets and increased total expenditure, which has enabled them to increase the total number of direct beneficiaries of their actions. The icing on the cake is the number of jobs created, which rose by almost 15,000 between 2008 and 2012. This represents an increase of 8% in a difficult economic climate.

To continue to contribute to economic recovery and growth, foundations need improvements to be made in the legal framework – such as the proposed Council regulation on the Statute for a European Foundation – that promote and streamline business participation in R&D activities and projects. No less importantly, regulations must make sponsorship more attractive, to bring more resources to the science, technology and innovation system. Our efforts, that is, the efforts of foundations, should be focused on strengthening our work and improving the way we communicate about our activities, our services and our ability to convert knowledge into innovation.

To achieve this, the role of the media is becoming increasingly important. In addition, direct channels for communicating with those in the surrounding environment and society in general, such as webs, blogs and social networks, make it easier to disseminate information about our potential.

On 1 October, the European Day of Foundations and Donors was held for the second year running. This is therefore an excellent time to explain our role in the R&D system and to improve university-company relations, for the benefit of all.

Susana Sánchez Galve
Director of the UPC Technology Center Foundation
of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya·BarcelonaTech
(CIT UPC)

Clusters: collaborate to compete

A few weeks ago, the Health Technologies Cluster was presented in Barcelona. This cluster brings together 17 organizations with a total turnover of 650 million and 6,500 employees. The organizations include hospitals, companies and suppliers of knowledge and technology, such as the CIT UPC through CREB UPC.

Michael Porter, an American from the Harvard Business School, defines a cluster as “a geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular sector or market segment that collaborate to be more competitive”.

It is a relatively modern concept of relationships between organizations that has developed rapidly. According to the European Cluster Observatory, 38% of employees work in companies that are part of a cluster. In Europe alone, over 2,000 clusters have been identified.

Clusters are based around companies that compete in similar markets. But what is it that makes firms join platforms such as clusters? The answer is the advantages and opportunities resulting from this collaboration, which boost their competitiveness. For example, cluster members can access specialized suppliers and services, and find technological partners who provide applied knowledge or specialized training programs.

IMG_0494All cluster members have similar benefits; the difference lies in how each one takes advantage of its membership of the group and to what extent the collaboration enables it to develop or improve its own products and services and thus become more competitive.

Other advantages increase the importance of these networks, which become channels for communicating with governments to design relevant technology policies (on legalization, calls for grant applications and training programs, for example). Clusters help to identify joint needs on which to act, such as shared operating platforms or R&D activities. They become spaces from which to manage alliances, in order to take on larger projects and enter new markets.

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya Technology Center (CIT UPC), and its member centers, form part of several clusters as the Catalan Automotive Cluster; SECPhO, in the photonics and optics sector, through the Centre for Sensors, Instruments and Systems Development (CD6 UPC); the Spanish Platform of Innovation in medical technologies of Fenin, a medical technologies platform; the Health Technologies Cluster through the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre (CREB UPC), mentioned at the start of this piece ; as well a European technology platform for the rail industry, SHIFT²RAIL. In all cases, CIT UPC and its members bring their knowledge and the capacity to develop comprehensive R&D solutions in collaboration with companies and with other research centers.

Collaboration between public and private entities in specific sectors and in a certain geographic environment makes these kinds of experiences possible. A mid- to long-term vision is needed to achieve this, and a balance between collaboration and competition, which is not easy to achieve, but is the key to the system. This sums up the philosophy of clusters: collaborate to compete.

CIT UPC
Technology made real