Guidelines for Structure for Regional Innovation Hub
Published: 18th December 2023
Objectives and purposes
“The guidelines for structure for regional innovation hub” were designed as the conceptual framework underlying the establishment of innovation hubs, which will serve the whole regional I&E ecosystem. It is a step-by-step guide to setup a regional innovation hub that is led by a HEI/university.
The guide proposes a five-stage model in order to set up an innovation hub. The first stage involves the definition of the vision and mission, in which the expected values and underlying working approach will be elaborated. Then comes the structure of the innovation hub, which refers to the organizational form under which the innovation hub will operate and the corresponding stakeholder composition to be involved. In the third stage, the activities that can be assumed by the innovation hub are presented. Fourth stage presents the pathways for regional engagement, that are the means and tools to provide external stakeholders access to the innovation hub services. Finally, the guidelines emphasize the international dimension that will connect single innovation hubs under a common transnational network to be governed by a virtual interface.
Initially, the assessment of the regional I&E ecosystems was conducted through interviews with key stakeholders in order to see the needs of the stakeholders at all respective regions. This assessment led to the development of an innovation hub model proposal with regards to the roles, structure, activities and regional and international engagement.
The model has gradually been implemented at the University of Stavanger (leader of the related WP) in Rogaland region in southwestern Norway. University of Stavanger is a relatively young university with a long history of regional engagement through its predecessors. The internal implementation of the regional innovation hub at the University of Stavanger includes the following steps.
First, the model was presented to the Vice Deans of Research representing all faculties at the University of Stavanger. Also, several rounds of consultations were held with the top management of the university (Vice Rector of Innovation and Societal Engagement and Rector).
At the same time, the opinions of regional stakeholders were collected by presenting the innovation hub model proposal at the existing regional collaboration platform (Value Creation Platform) led by the University of Stavanger. The Value Creation Platform consists of approximately 30 representatives from city administrations, industrial clusters, business associations, other research organizations and civil society networks. It was acknowledged as a positive step by the regional stakeholders.
The proposal was also shared with the BOOGIE-U consortium members at several workshops and meetings. Specifically, the transnational dimension was discussed.
Then, the guidelines for structure for regional innovation hub were finalized by synthesizing the input from all consortium partners.
The implementation of the guidelines is an ongoing process at University of Stavanger and some other consortium partners, for example University of Trento. At University of Stavanger, the next steps include involving academics to be engaged with the regional innovation hub and informingthem about the possibilities that they can benefit, as well as learning how they can support this initiative. Thus, the implementation work resumes with the developments leading to the creation/revision of an internal structure at the University of Stavanger.
This practice has also led to the strengthening regional efforts in adapting a more coordinated and structured approach to the regional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Rogaland region, where University of Stavanger is located. The region has set up a project team led by University of Stavanger to establish an innovation district in the campus area. Also, the region has submitted their intention to become a regional innovation valley.
However, the transnational network of innovation hubs is also yet to be established. The consortium partners explore available external funding possibilities to realize the ambition to establish a transnational innovation hub structure across all the universities and regions involved in BOOGIE-U Project.
What was learned
During the preparation of “the guidelines for structure for regional innovation hub”, the importance of having open consultations at various levels became apparent. The internal (at the university), external (regional stakeholders) and international (other universities within the consortium) perspectives have contributed largely to shaping what an innovation hub should look like from different angles. This led to the finalization of the guidelines that can be adapted to different regional I&E contexts.
The fragmented nature of I&E efforts within and across universities limits the impact of HEIs in their regional innovation ecosystem and beyond. By creating the innovation hubs, I&E activities run at universities such as entrepreneurial education, incubation and acceleration, commercialization, funding etc. could be assisted centrally with the active involvement of regional stakeholders.
The document is mainly aimed at the university management and non-academic staff in charge of external collaboration/engagement, knowledge and technology transfer, incubation, commercialization, and other areas of I&E, who is searching for a more coordinated and structured approach. Regional stakeholders will also benefit.
However, the realization of regional innovation hubs will also benefit students and academics with entrepreneurial aspirations and intentions to collaborate with external partners, and regional stakeholders who would like to access various I&E services provided by universities/HEIs.
The Guidelines for Structure for Regional Innovation Hub serve universities/HEIs that want to achieve a more structured approach in their external engagement by bringing together the initiatives that are already implemented within the regional I&E ecosystems. The document states the necessary steps that can be followed in the process for establishing a regional innovation hub driven/led by universities/HEIs.
With an underlying challenge-based approach, the guidelines are expected to result in the creation of innovation hubs that are envisaged to act as a “one-stop-shop” to serve the needs of regional I&E ecosystems by offering a wide array of services covering business development, competence development, incubation, project development support and establishment of transnational linkages. The innovation hubs, which can also be called local partnership arenas, will also be linked with their counterparts in other countries through a transnational network which will enable the interconnection of regional I&E ecosystems across the borders.
Key success factors / How to replicate / Sustainability mechanism
For a well-functioning regional innovation hub, the existing initiatives at the university and within the regional I&E ecosystem should be mapped extensively and the structure-to-be-established should be designed according to the needs and realities of the regional I&E ecosystem. The structure of the regional innovation hub should be aligned closely with the vision and mission of the university with regards to the I&E and the surrounding regional context.
Also, the structure should be simple enough to govern and complex enough to respond to the regional needs of the ecosystem. The backing of the top management of the university and the support of the regional stakeholders is also critical in ensuring the sustainability of the initiative.
Moreover, the innovation hubs can be built on the existing arenas, platforms and they should not target to replace them by creating a new overarching organization or structure. Therefore, IHs should avoid hindering ongoing activities and practices within a regional I&E ecosystems but aim at bringing in a more coordinated structure that generates an added value for the whole ecosystem actors.
The sustainability of the envisioned innovation hub structure requires calibration and close communication among all relevant stakeholders. The corresponding mechanisms across various actors integrated into the regional innovation hub should be connected better to ensure a seamless transition between education, research, and knowledge valorization. Thus, clear pathway practices should be designed across student and academic entrepreneurship (from entrepreneurial education to commercialization), external funding search and application (from research to valorization), andstakeholder engagement approaches.