Friday, July 21, 2006

The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme

By Johannes Flensted-Jensen, County Mayor of Aarhus and Chairman of the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme

e-mail: jfj@ag.aaa.dk www.aaa.dk and www.jylland-fyn.dk

The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme

The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme was set up in 1998 by the 8 counties and 173 municipalities in the region, along with the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs. Just over 50% of the Danish population live within the Jutland–Fyn region.
Long before 1998, these Danish counties and municipalities had observed that Greater Copenhagen was developing at a much faster rate than their own region. They also noticed that this rate of development was intensifying over time. A significant reason for this was that state funds were being spent to a greater degree in Greater Copenhagen than in the rest of Denmark. Until 1998, the individual counties and municipalities competed for investments from both the state and private sectors. This meant that it became much too easy for the state to play the local and regional authorities off against each other. Something had to be done to alter this state of affairs.
That “something” was the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme, headed by a political steering group with very good decision-making powers. This group consisted of the 8 county mayors and 8 mayors representing all the municipalities in each of the individual counties. The Danish state was also represented.
The venture was set up after realising that wide-reaching cooperation was necessary right across the board, cutting through administrative boundaries and both the public and private sectors – to ensure good conditions as a basic framework for the business community throughout the region.
The first task for this venture was to analyse precisely where any imbalance occurred. The results confirmed the feeling that most people already had – namely that, compared with Greater Copenhagen, the Jutland–Fyn region had a considerably lower level of education and training; a higher rate of unemployment; lower income levels and basis of taxation; lower incidence of setting up new companies; less use of IT in business; and considerably less expenditure on research and innovation.
With this information in hand, it was much easier to reach agreement on what the problem was and which issues should be focused on as part of the business cooperation scheme.
The venture currently has four main focus areas that should also be considered in the light of increasing globalisation:

· Education, training and expertise
· Entrepreneurship
· Innovation and research
· IT

The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme has led to a number of projects that have provided additional benefits in terms of the emergence of a network culture that transcends the normal boundaries between the business community, the education and research institutions and the public authorities. This has provided a solid, forward-looking basis for collaboration focusing on growth and innovation in the Danish business community – and it is this environment that provides the foundation for the comprehensive activities that are constantly being developed as part of this business cooperation scheme.
The venture also aims to exert an influence on the overall regional-political agenda in Denmark. One measure currently under way is a conference to be held in Copenhagen on 7 October 2005 to help persuade the Danish parliament to decide on greater decentralisation of state jobs.

What has the venture achieved in these focus areas?

IT

The Jutland–Fyn IT effort really took off in 2002, when a broad political agreement was reached in the Danish parliament regarding the allocation of DKK 175 million to the Jutland–Fyn region over a period of 4 years. This sum was doubled by an allocation from members of the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme and the business community. Our focus on IT will strengthen the key IT skills and widen the use of IT in the entire Jutland–Fyn region – especially in those areas that are not located close to the IT knowledge centres. The IT effort is built up via close collaboration between the knowledge and education institutions and the business community. The aim is to create synergy between the business community and the world of research as regards knowledge about IT. Half of the funds have been allocated to 4 specialist IT centres in the Jutland–Fyn region. The other half have been used for specific collaborative projects between the knowledge centres and the business community. So far, this has involved more than 80 projects, ranging from IT in toys to digital scenography and computer models of building components. Two knowledge-sharing conferences have also been held.

Innovation and research

Expenditure on innovation and research has also been sharply increased in both the private and public sectors. However, cooperation between private companies and public research institutions is lagging behind. The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme has therefore financed and set up a scheme called “Research Contact”, which draws on DKK 28 million (EUR 4 million) to provide subsidies to collaborative projects between knowledge institutions and private companies in the Jutland–Fyn region. In addition, the venture has initiated several projects aimed at enabling students to gain practical experience in private companies, especially those located outside the major urban areas. The aim of this is twofold – partly to get the students to see the job opportunities that exist in smaller private companies, and partly to provide these companies with the latest research knowledge.
Within this area, the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme also held a camp that focused on commercialising a larger proportion of the inventions and research results that stem from the public health sector.

Education, training and expertise

Education and training are mainly financed by the state in Denmark, and the venture’s opportunities therefore mostly consist of exerting an influence on the national decision-makers to increase education and training efforts and to make it easier to get credit for skills already acquired. We are by no means passive. We held a camp attended by all the most important education and training representatives to obtain as many ideas as possible for raising the level of education and training in the region. This resulted in a suggestion for building up business courses based on modules to make further education and training more flexible. Members of the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme were willing to jointly finance such a proposal for state courses, but the Danish state has so far refused to contribute to implementing the suggestion.
Another project that arose at the camp is “Developing skills at the workplace”, which enables employees to improve their skills during working hours.

Entrepreneurship

All the counties and municipalities in Denmark try to provide consultancy services to increase the rate of entrepreneurship and improve the ability of entrepreneurs to survive. The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme held a camp to boost entrepreneurship in the region. This led to the building of a Jutland–Fyn entrepreneur high school, which is currently under construction. This school will provide tuition for both entrepreneurs and their families in what it actually means to be an entrepreneur and an entrepreneur family. The school is financed by the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme, participating counties and the European Social Fund (ESF).

The Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme in an EU perspective

Collaborating with other regions in Europe has not been part of the agenda to date – in terms of the EU. This is not because we are reluctant to cooperate, but because the venture has concentrated up to now on managing to set up interdisciplinary partnership across administrative boundaries in West Denmark. However, cooperating with other European regions is one of our aims. Based on the preliminary statements regarding the new programme period, the Jutland–Fyn Business Cooperation Scheme can see opportunities for entering into new partnerships with other regions in Europe.
Individual members of the Jutland–Fyn partnership have independently participated in a number of EU-related activities and programmes, such as political-administrative collaborative projects in CPMR (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe), including the North Sea Commission. Other projects include the EU Commission’s network of Innovating Regions in Europe (IRE), as well as research projects and regional development projects.
In the new programme period for 2007, we see far more opportunities for entering into partnerships with other regions in Europe. This could include regional development with a focus on research and innovation, business development, tourism and rural districts. We see significant advantages in being part of the solid Innovating Regions in Europe (IRE) network.

I can also see opportunities for Jutland–Fyn participating in
· Entrepreneurs: Seeking financing through business matching
· InvestorNet: Investors
· Technology Incubator Managers: Incubator forum for technology and management
· Academia Network: Academia in entrepreneurship, innovation and finance
· Service Centre: Innovative companies seeking expert service providers
· ProTon Europe: Transferring knowledge between research centres and companies, institutions, etc., including the setting up of Knowledge Transfer Offices between education and training at a high level of knowledge.
This opens up considerable opportunities for developing cooperation and regional partnership within the region between knowledge centres, companies and public institutions, as well as expanding geographically to include European regions and European collaboration with the EU.

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