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IKINET — Result In Brief

Project ID: 506242
Funded under: FP6-CITIZENS
Country: Italy

Bridging the knowledge gaps in European industry

A European project has drawn up guidelines as to how to narrow the knowledge gap between less developed regions and the most advanced areas which operate with the benefit of groundbreaking technology.
Bridging the knowledge gaps in European industry
The 'International knowledge and innovation networksfor European integration, cohesion and enlargement' (Ikinet) project aimed to expose the reasons behind knowledge creation and the barriers that prevent their enlargement. The focus centred on obstacles that prevent information movement to other clusters and the strategies used by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in medium technology industries in particular to adapt knowledge for global structures.

Seven regions were selected to represent the range of scenarios in the global competition arena. These ranged from Ile de France as one of the most advanced metropolitan areas with a large research and development (R&D) base to Silesia as a lagging region with a long industrial history facing huge restructuring challenges as a mining machinery cluster.

SMEs were seen as clusters within which knowledge developed in a localised framework. This exemplifies a systematic approach where knowledge networks then develop and there is cooperation between local and external actors to develop the internal skills of these actors.

Ikinet pointed out that a change must occur in the corporate culture to promote knowledge sharing and the willingness to develop and exchange knowledge. Formal education and life learning are instruments to promote this process, not human resources per se.

Expanding on the importance of the role of education, Ikinet recommended that EU policy should centre on support of competence centres as intermediaries for SMEs. Moreover, there should be public and private funding of competence centres in lagging areas to promote cooperation among the regions and areas of excellence.

Participation of new companies can be encouraged with strategic lead projects. Ikinet also suggested that priority should be given to projects where medium technology SMEs have links with universities and high-tech services.

Medium technology sectors play a key role in European competitiveness as they represent the largest share of European exports in the manufacturing industry. Furthermore, they indicate the highest growth rate in European exports toward global markets. Ikinet proposals to facilitate knowledge transfer between SMEs further afield for mutual benefit can only expand on this potential.

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