Friday, July 21, 2006

How can regionas be more involved in research and innovation-sciense goes practice

How can regionas be more involved in research and innovation
– science goes practice

Wolfgang Fischer
Institute of Geography and Regional Sciencies. Karl-Franzens-University


1. Graz Declaration on Committing Universities to Sustainable Development

The European Union through the Resolution of the Gothenburg Council and the Lisbon Process has put itself on the frontline of the implementation of sustainable development in the global context. By this, the European Union has taken over a major responsibility to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals. The Bologna Process constitutes one of the most efficient means to realize this ambitious objective in the arena of Higher Education. On the occasion of launching the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in higher education, an international conference on “Committing Universities to Sustainable Development”, was held from 20-23 April 2005 in Graz, Austria. The conference was jointly organized by COPERNICUSCAMPUS, the Karl-Franzens-University Graz, the Technical University Graz, oikos International, and was sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The objective of the conference was to discuss the role of universities and other higher education institutions in an overall societal transition towards sustainable development as well as strategies for the necessary opening of universities to society.

After the deliberations during the conference, the participants came to the conclusion that the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014 confronts universities throughout the world with a strong challenge as well as with new opportunities. As the location of academic education, universities bear a distinctive responsibility for the students and their professional and moral quality as future leaders in society and economy. As major contributors to research, they have to tackle questions which arise in connection with the transition of societies around the world towards more sustainable development paths. As significant societal actors, universities shape their local, regional and national environs and are therefore an important partner of other stakeholders, and society at large, for a sustainable future. All these challenges and opportunities require universities to re-think their position in society in order to meet expectations as well as to take full advantage of emerging opportunities.
Against this background, the participants in attendance at this conference endorse the following in view of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development:
1. Call on universities to give sustainable development fundamental status in their strategy and their activities and to promote the creative development and implementation of comprehensive and integrated sustainability actions in relation to their three major functions – learning and teaching, research, internal and external social responsibility. By co-operating more closely institutions of higher education could share experiences and develop together inter- and transdisciplinary innovative approaches to sustainability in all their functions.
Universities are also called for closer interaction with other stakeholders in communities to better respond to their needs and requirements as well as to learn lessons from professional and life experiences.
2. Call on Ministers at the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Higher Education to be held in Bergen in May 2005 to use sustainable development as a framework for the enhancement of the social dimension of European higher education as well as to contribute to the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area. The participants urge the Ministers to request the Bologna Follow Up Group to submit a proposal for criteria and procedures on how to integrate sustainability issues into the framework of the Bologna Process using COPERNICUS as one of the starting points for further deliberations.
3. Call on UNESCO as a designated lead agency for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, in co-operation with other relevant parts of the United Nations system, to support these efforts in the higher education sector and to promote and support international academic cooperation contributing to a better integration of sustainable development in the institutional mission and to see it to be part of academic values. UNESCO shall provide a critical partner in linking the European efforts in globally promoting sustainable development in higher education.
The “Graz Process”, initiated at this conference, will provide a supportive mean and a sounding board to integrate sustainable development into the Bologna Process and on the global level.( Graz Declaration on Committing Universities to Sustainable Development

2. Research at the Institute of Geographie and Regional Science

Research at the Institute of Geography and Regional Science is defined by the current
international scientific development combined with the interests of the department staff
members, which makes a wide range of activities possible but nevertheless puts the
focus on certain core competencies of the Institute. These core competencies are:
Sustainable Urban and Regional Development:
In this strongly application-oriented research field the following research topics are
currently being worked on:
- Strategic Planning Processes in Cities and Regions
- Evaluation of EU-Framework programs
- Analysis of Processes regarding the Local Agenda 21, esp. participation and
communication issues
Integrative Research in Tourism Development:
This is a traditional strength of the Institute and is momentarily realized within a largescale
project concerning tourism issues in Alpine areas. A further focus will be put on
tourism in Central Europe as part of an interdisciplinary special research program.
Geographical Environmental and Landscape Research:
The clear, practice-oriented focus here is put on applied climatology (agrarian, ground
and weather climatology, pollutant spreading). Besides this, projects in the field of
environmental management as well as glacier and permafrost monitoring try to work on
questions concerning the natural environment.
Environmental and Landscape Didactics:
This field of activity tries to focus on a target group oriented application of existing
knowledge in terms of environmental education. Concepts of nature and adventure trails
as well as the development of landscape guides belong to this field of activity.
Integrative Geographical Technologies:
As an important challenge in modern geographical research this field must be seen as an
integrative part of all other fields of research, but as well as an independent research
focus, dealing with the further development of various methods and the analysis of their
implementation. These methods are:
- Cartography (Design and Implementation, Media and Cartography etc.)
- Geographical Information Systems and Processing
- Geographical Remote Sensing
The Institute of Geography and Regional Sciencies has conducted a large number of
research projects on rural, urban, local, regional, national and European planning
matters. Selected projects:
- Interreg III B CADSES (2000 – 2006): “READY” – Rehabilitation and Development
in Mining Regions. LP City of Oelsnitz
- Interreg III C “Eco Profit International”. LP City of Graz – Department of
- Rapid Expansion of Winter Tourism and Problems with the Summer (Western
European Tourism Research Project, Universität Exeter, England)
- The leading Tourist Regions in the Alps (Internationales Forschungsprojekt an der
Universität Grenoble, Frankreich)
- Österreich - Raum und Gesellschaft (Forschungsschwerpunkt des FWF)
Teilprojekt: "Produktionsstile im Tourismus"

3. Current projects


ECOPROFIT® Certification as Management Tool
· A private-public-partnership-model, developed by the city of Graz, to increase eco-efficiency in companies by using innovative integrative technologies and by cooperating with communes, companies and consultants
· Started in 1991, 1500 companies worldwide are ECOPROFIT® certified

ECOlogical PROject For Integrated Environmental Technology
Strengthen the economic situation of companies by introducing pollution prevention
Improve the ecological situation of a region to achieve a sustainable development
Involve more and more companies of different sizes and from different sectors
Create some sort of sustainability network/platform

ECOPROFIT® provides “help for self-help” and assists companies in exploring their own business from a different angle.

ECOPROFIT for the University
ECOPROFIT® builds on a step-by-step plan consisting of an academy, a basic program and a subsequent club programConsultants and local authority representatives are trained via a ‘train-the-trainer’ program (academy)The acquired knowledge will be transferred to the employees under the organization’s guidance (basic program)
The ECOPROFIT® Club will guarantee long-term effectiveness and ongoing exchange of knowledge

3.2. Ready

The project includes four types of activities: local activities in the participating cities, intensive international co-operation, founding of an European network of mining cities and support for the local implementation of strategies and measures through scientific monitoring and coaching by experts.

The detailed activities are:

(1) work in selected regions to (a) install co-operative structures of regional stakeholders (regional management) to formulate regional development concepts, (b) identify and prepare key investments by feasibility studies, planning activities etc. or (c) place first investments. A mutual co-operation under the leadership of the local selfgovernment will ensure an efficient work. The objective of the first group of activities-impulse giving- is to initiate regional development processes in each of the involved mining regions. Participants, who prepare and make local/regional decisions, are the relevant stakeholders. These activities will contribute to the enhancement of the commercial, ecological and social situation in the participating cities and regions.

(2) strive for an intense international co-operation via expert workshops, seminars and public conferences (input), an interactive homepage with e-mail newsletter, leaflets and brochures, participation in international congresses and publications (output). The direct contact to multiplier organisations like the Council of Europe, national cities’ associations and various networks will create a “snowball effect” and allows for a broad discussion of the project and the results. On workshops, seminars and public conferences the experiences of all regions are compared and checked against international experience from outside the project.

(3) found a permanent network of mining cities (“Georgius Agricola”) which will continue and deepen the exchange and allow for trans-national lobbying. This activity is on one hand necessary for the trans-national exchange of experiences. It will support a learning process of local, regional and national stakeholders by promoting an exchange of views (mutual co-operation). On the other hand the network will foster lobbying for the needs of mining cities and for better funding policies as well as dissemination of project results which will raise awareness for regions in danger of further decline. On the base of the existing co-operation of German and Czech cities (Interreg IIC) a permanent international network of mining cities will be the result of this step.
(4) support the local implementation of strategies and measures through continuous consultancy by experts; transnational scientific monitoring will ensure that the strategies applied are in line with the international state of art. This approach has proven to be successful in the German model projects „Rehabilitation and Development Area“. The monitoring and coaching will be co-ordinated by the Institute of Ecological and Regional Development (IOER, PP 2, responsible) and the University of Graz, Institute for Geography and Spatial Research (PP 15). On the basis of a monitoring and coaching concept the 2 institutions will be responsible for the organisation, description and utilisation of the development process in all participating cities.

3.3. Competence Pool Water

The competence network “Water Resources and their Management” should forge close links with water related technology businesses, the water using industry and water research in Austria as well as in Middle and East Europe. Furthermore should the competence network work out innovative and integrative approaches and solutions to problems in order to optimize water resources management. Because of this further competence build-up – in the sense of an “activity with double dividend” – we can, on the one hand, accompany the development of the national water market on a profound basis and, on the other hand, it is also possible to market Austrian know-how actively on an international level.

The competence network “Water Resources and their Management”(KNW) consists of Austrian partners but because of the involvement of strategically important partners from our neighbouring countries Slovenia, Croatia and Italy it can even today get used to shape the European development area actively. Therefore this programme is very close to EU strategies and finds very high acceptance. K-net started on 1st. December 2003.

We would like to invite all those business partners representing regions who are interested in broadening their already existing specialist knowledge or to develop new fields. The research partners are therefore not only asked to enhance the field development with our business partners but also to implement the newly won competences evidently with the according business partners. A conservative teamwork between business and research with traditional roles would not fall under the proposition for financial aid. Neither would the use of simple routine know-how to solve regional problems. Joint Ventures should take place in Non- KNET projects outside the area of financial aid.

According to the financial aid guidelines it is also possible to invite foreign partners to participate. We are thinking mainly of those companies that could lead the way for Austrian business partners in their fields (e.g. irrigation, measurement and test engineering, engineering, tunnel construction). These companies can bring in a higher level of competence and this could lead to Joint Ventures with Austrian businesses.

The competence nodes are furthermore based on specific topic focus. Each competence node will work on certain topics, increase the permanent competence setup and the international competitiveness.

In the network participating business and research partners will be matched to competence nodes according to regional and thematic reasons. They deal with the execution of the research projects and in the case of business partners, they are responsible for the co-financing of the network budget.

KNET water is, on purpose, established as an open network. This means that after its founding other partners can participate and develop new network nodes within the described field on the one hand. On the other hand, the choice of research areas according to the innovation need, can get enlarged.

Project results will be processed in the individual network nodes. An information network results through that, which fulfils the function of know-how and information transfer and it represents an essential acquisition instrument for future research assignments on the basis of an improved knowledge and information level.

Added Value for Business and Research

The added value of this competence network “water” for each company lies without any doubt within the common presentation and operating of business and research:

The implementation of the funding program “KNET water” provides a stronger cooperation between business partners on the one side as well as university and extra-university research institutions on the other side.

Through the financial aid measures we provide an incentive for highly innovative research projects in industry, tourism, supply of drinking water and water for industrial purposes.

A continuingly progressing build-up of competence in business will take place through the individual network nodes, which unify project and information network. They are responsible for public relations, mobility and innovation management. Educational and training programs play thus an important role.

The focusing of specialist competences and the common presentation of several research and business partners result in a higher added value from R&D investments.

Therefore the competitiveness of our business partners will increase because research results get directly generated within the company and/or an intensive cooperation with research partners takes place and it is not necessary to buy those results via long detours (fairs, markets, etc.).

In the international framework the market can be better prepared through additional know-how and this increases again the competitiveness.

· Accompanying network marketing serves as an information track and brings advantages for the positioning at the international market.

· Strategic business decisions can get better prepared through the network and can more easily be made through the working out of field-related basic concepts.

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