Innovate at international level from the local arena

For organizations working in the local environment that are interested in innovation, internationalization is a task that is often complex and distant. It is a challenge to be able to grow and leave their area of activity with a high cost in time and human resources that most do not consider.

This situation applies to public bodies, third-sector organisations and companies, particularly small and medium-sized ones. However, the new rules of globalization, which enable access to international markets in which goods and services can be purchased and products offered, are inverting this trend.

This not only affects the markets. Public research and development policies, specifically calls for applications and financial assistance for research projects, often arrive from the European environment. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the EU budget for funding innovation has become the main option for developing initiatives in universities, research centres and companies.

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) has not overlooked this trend. In fact, for years its research centres have dedicated an increasing amount of resources to the presentation of projects that can compete with the best at European community level, as partners or as leaders of international consortiums for innovation. Evidence of this is the increase in funding that we obtain through competitive European projects, which in 2018 represented 27% of the revenue for research and technology transfer. One key factor is collaboration. For companies that wish to access this type of programme for the first time, it is essential to do so accompanied by partners who know the ground, and who have the right experience and know-how to identify opportunities and present sound projects.

Embarking on innovation projects at international scale has various advantages:

  • Preferential participation in the development of new technologies and, consequently, access to the resulting innovative solutions.
  • Intangible value is added to the brand that contributes to its differentiation and increases its value for clients and suppliers.
  • Forming part of international teams enables access to high-level facilities and resources that would not be available to partners individually.
  • In times of local crisis, a network of contacts is available to help enter new markets.
  • Access to new, more frequent, better research and development calls, with more funding for longer periods, promotes the recruitment and consolidation of teams and contact with experts in other organizations.
  • Experience working in international consortiums is an advantage. Models for working on open innovation are standard, so knowledge and contacts from former projects become new opportunities.

In this way, successful projects have been developed with public and private entities in our environment, such as the FLEXICAST project to optimize the foundry process for grey iron, ANYWHERE to improve responses to extreme meteorological and climate events, MASSY to make the recreational maritime sector sustainable, FLOIM that innovates in the processes of manufacturing and integrating optoelectronic devices or IDPR, a smart router for energy distribution, to give some examples in different environments. At the CIT UPC, we help and support research centres so that they can participate in these types of projects.

For these reasons, we encourage companies to increase their participation in international innovation projects. The next launch of Horizon Europe, the European Union’s new and most powerful instrument to promote these types of projects, is an excellent opportunity.

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