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Innovation talk

How regional innovation partnerships drive innovation

How can regional innovation partnerships foster innovation outside of the big cities? And what models are in place to support triple-helix collaboration at regional campuses?
That was the topic of the Industry on Campus Innovation Talk ‘Regional innovation partnerships as innovation drivers outside of the big cities’ hosted by the Innovation Centre Denmark in Munich and Baden-Württemberg International Tuesday June 29, 2021.

One example of a regional innovation partnership in Baden-Württemberg is the Black Forest Campus (Campus Schwarzwald), a regional center for education, research and technology transfer in the manufacturing industry near Stuttgart. The topics in focus are digitisation, leadership and sustainability. 

Experiences from the Campus were presented by Stefan Bogenrieder, Director, Campus for Digitalisation, Management and Sustainability Black Forest GmbH, as well as Dr. Liliana Zarco from the University of Stuttgart, one of the founding partners.

"A child of the industry"

The Black Forest region is characterised by a high density of “hidden champions”, family-owned enterprises, especially within the production industry and the mechanical industry. It is a rural but de-centralised knowledge region. 
“This is what we want to do with this project. We want to bring the students, the research organisations and the industry strongly together to get a symbiosis of university teaching, research and industry involvement. It is crucial for the industry in order to be successful in the future. This is what all the companies see and this is why they founded the Black Forest Campus together with the University of Stuttgart four years ago," said Stefan Bogenrieder. 
The Black Forest Campus is financed primarily by entreprises, and therefore Stefan Bogenrieder calls it “a child of the industry”. However, now it is also one of the regional innovation partnerships funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts of Baden-Württemberg.

Regional innovation partnerships in Baden-Württemberg

Campus Black Forest is one of several projects, funded with €3 million through the broader Regional Higher Education Innovation Partnerships (RegHIP) of the State of Baden-Württemberg.
Dr. Justus Lentsch, Ministry of Science, Research and Arts of Baden-Württemberg shared insights into regional innovation partnerships projects in Baden-Württemberg at the Innovation Talk. 
RegHIP aims to:
  • Strengthen regional knowledge-based innovation ecosystems
  • Connect the fabric between universities and multiple actors in regional innovation ecosystems, promote demand-inspired study programmes reflecting the diversity of regional situations, particularly in less favoured regions (rural areas)
  • Match the needs of future challenges
  • Empower “hidden champions” in rural areas to become more innovation absorptive
The approach is a regional innovation and ecosystems approach. The idea is to fund regional consortia - not institutions. Other ideas are to encourage students to actively engage with local innovation actors - particularly SMEs - and to develop demand-inspired study programmes, which strengthen challenge-based learning and entrepreneurial thinking and provide low-threshold access to “human capital” (master students) to “hidden champions” in rural areas. 
The demand for innovation partnerships projects in Baden-Württemberg has been overwhelming according to Dr. Justus Lentsch.


               Justus Lentsch

A Danish perspective on regional innovation

The Danish perspective at the Innovation Talk was presented by Thomas Buhl, Head of the Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, University of Southern Denmark (SDU) with campuses in Odense and Sønderborg.
Thomas Buhl recognised the picture depicted from the Black Forest Campus, with regards to supporting research and innovation outside of the big cities, and especially of linking students to the regional industrial setting.  
As an example, Buhl highlighted that also Danish companies in smaller cities struggle to get good engineers. This has for example been the case for the company Danfoss, which - despite the relatively small distance between the university and the company – has struggled to attain highly skilled staff.
To solve this problem, SDU, in 2018, formed a partnership with the local industry. And now the industry - companies in Sønderborg - get the engineers they need. 
In more details, the partnership aims to: 
  • Supply the industry with engineers with the right competences
  • Ensure industry relevant teaching through industry driven research
  • Bring research into the context of the industry for the benefit of the companies
  • Teach tomorrow’s engineers tomorrow’s technology.
Thomas Buhl further explained that study programmes at SDU’s Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering are closely linked to the needs of the regional industry. As an example, students have good opportunities to get involved in internships at local companies, and in industry projects during their studies.
The partnership with the industry also includes a job guarantee for students, who finish their studies on time and learn basic Danish. 35 local companies in Sønderborg have already showed an interest in this initiative. 
Another tool to ensure strong university-industry relations at the Department is to offer new members of the scientific staff - often internationals with little knowledge of the local industry – an internship in a company, in order to get to know the daily business and needs of the industry, and to establish a network. 
“After all, it is easier to pick up the phone with someone you have already worked with,” Thomas Buhl said. 


               Thomas Buhl

Even though, the above mentioned partnerships are all regional, the speakers - both from Baden-Württemberg and from Denmark emphasised in the Q&A session that they also see opportunities for international partnerships - also across the Danish-German border. 

This Industry on Campus Innovation Talk was one out of two events hosted by the Innovation Centre Denmark in Munich and Baden-Württemberg International. Read more about the events here.

For more information

Contact Research and Innovation Attaché, Ulrik Kjølsen Olsen: 
+49 171 309 6314
[email protected]