Spanish first focus group

The Spanish focus group meeting was held on June 29, 2023, and was attended by 10 participants who represented 6 stakeholders. The meeting was organized by EURECAT.

The focus group included different discussions on a handful of topics:

1.        How do you collaborate with other organizations in your region on developing regional knowledge and innovation ecosystems? Which challenges have you faced in the process?

Challenges, obstacles and missing skills:
– Quadruple helix model: The high importance of having a diverse portfolio of agents (academia, government, industry and community) involved in order to have greater results given the different knowledge perspectives they have. This diversity can lead to a mismatch of project expectations (eg. results, timings).
– Most important problem: the mismatch in project expectations mentioned above. The private/business axis tends to want projects with way better ROI than possible; the research axis cannot provide this. Due to the lack of knowledge of the possibilities of research in the private sector, there is a lack of realism in expectations.
– Tenders/Bidding process: Being involved in tenders implies that the selection of partners you work with is sometimes out of your control and therefore, they may not be completely aligned with your own expectations/ideas.  Also, some organizations have the feeling that there is a certain tendering process that is already assigned before knowing the real result (conflict of interests).

What would it need to overcome come them/opportunities for growth?

– Alignment of expectations/interests: Focus on making sure that all agents are aware of their role and the impact of the project in a way/language they understand.
– Improve the knowledge about the reality of research among the private sector. Improve the communication of the real expectations that companies may have.
– Improve the transparency in the tendering process, allowing for a more transparent process that allows innovation to be enhanced, and reducing potential conflicts of interests that may arise.
– Establish that all the stages of the projects are the result of a joint process of creation and development. It is easier for companies to understand the difficultness that the research partners face the more involved they are in these stages too.

2.        What are the main obstacles your organization faces when developing regional knowledge and innovation partnerships?

Challenges, obstacles and missing skills:

– Mostly, industrial manufacturing sector is more willing to collaborate, more realistic, and has more experience collaborating with the research axis. Outside this sector, it is really difficult to find realistic expectations, and the organizations do not try to collaborate with the research axis proactively.
– There is a lack of communication and knowledge of the positive impact that these collaborations may have in society.
– There is a significant level of time and resources spent dealing with all the bureaucratic process due to its complexity. Moreover, there is more focus on the business opportunities that may arise from the project rather than the development of the innovation project itself.

What would it need to overcome come them/opportunities for growth?

– Spread the positive impact that regional collaborations have in our society and improve its communication.
– Bring other sectors (non-industrial sectors) closer to research and align expectations when collaborating.

3.        Have you noticed any knowledge or skill gaps within your organization that are obstructing you from taking advantage of existing collaborations and knowledge flows? How those skills might help you to be more integrated in the regional ecosystem?

Challenges, obstacles and missing skills:
– There is a culture of “fear”, and a lack of courage, about entrepreneurship. We lack this entrepreneurial culture and this willingness to take risks, a culture that leads to more creation of spinoffs.
– Certain companies (especially SMEs) do not have the necessary knowledge to have a meaningful participation in big tenders, especially European/international.

What would it need to overcome come them/opportunities for growth?
– Improve the entrepreneurial culture, reinforce actions that boost courage among researchers that want to potentially start a new business.
– Improve knowledge of European tendering processes among SMEs.

4.        Can you pinpoint possible opportunities for growth and job creation which you have noticed through collaborations, projects, or networks related to sustainable manufacturing, bio-based circular economy, and clean renewable energy?

Challenges, obstacles and missing skills:
– Our spin-off creation panorama is good and keeps evolving positively during the years.
– The main problem in research is talent retention. It is almost impossible to compete with the private sector when there is such a big difference in salaries and in contracts quality.
– There is no problem detected regarding IP. It is a complex topic, but the ecosystem allows for a good management of the IP between all the involved stakeholders.

What would it need to overcome come them/opportunities for growth?
– More resources to retain talent in universities and research centers in order to be able to compete with the private sector.
– Incentives for the researcher to stay in the research sector rather than jumping to the private sector.

5.        Do you have any specific policy or incentive in mind which would enhance the transfer of knowledge and expertise between regional stakeholders and the organization? What do you find necessary for the development of an innovation ecosystem?

Challenges, obstacles and missing skills:
– Innovation degree is measured through papers’ development, not with technology transfer.
– Lack of competences of the people in organizations for an ecosystemic and holistic approach of the challenges to be tackled.
– Time spent on performing an orchestration role that is not paid.
– Misalignment of expectations between clients and technology providers due to the TRL system regarding the framework of a service provision.
– IPR conflicts in the process of transfer of knowledge, mainly when the cocreation takes places in a project.

What would it need to overcome them/opportunities for growth?
– Create other indicators in order to measure the innovation progress and degree in the region. For instance, put more attention into created spin-offs, number of patents, etc. rather than purely academic stuff such as papers.

– Empowerment of representatives in organizations with holistic perspective that can facilitate the alignment of expectations.
– Recognition from regional administrations of the orchestration role   and start to get paid for the related activities.
– Facilitate good practices, real examples and clarifications on general terms related to TRL system and IPR management in an easier and understandable way.
– Emphasize the importance of cocreation processes in the development and transfer of knowledge. Remark the added value that they generate although the IPR management gets more complicated, for example.
– See above other policies proposed.

General conclusions of the workshop:

a.        Results of the discussion about the regional knowledge and innovation ecosystem in Catalonia:

Obstacles / challenges:
– The mismatch of project expectations between agents involved.
– Non-industrial sectors are not used to collaborate proactively with the research axis.
– High spending on time and resources to deal with the bureaucratic process.
– The lack of courage about entrepreneurship.
– Less representation of some companies (specially SMEs) in big tenders due to their lack of knowledge and resources.
– Talent retention due to the precarity of the labor market in the research sector.

What it would need:
– Improve the communication among agents to align project expectations.
– Improve the transparency in the tendering process.
–  Spread the positive impact that regional collaborations and a higher level of diversity of agents involved have.
– Improve the entrepreneurial culture and the labor conditions of the research sector.
– Provide resources to SMEs and facilitate their inclusion in big tenders.

b.        Further involvement of participants in the ERA_FABRIC project:
– The participants all expressed their interest in being updated about what is going on regarding the ERA_FABRIC project.
– There is a special interest in enlarging their European network and having more visibility about what other potential partners are doing to considerate collaborations.

The participants of the workshop were:

  • Cambra de comerç de Barcelona
  • Eurecat
  • Clúster Digital de Catalunya
  • Learning by Helping
  • Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  • Generalitat de Catalunya
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