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RTOs RTOs

What are RTOs?

Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) have developed in many European countries at both national and regional levels to assist in the support of local industry, often around specific industrial technologies or sectors. With a core responsibility for technological upgrading they play a key role in regional and national innovation systems.

RTOs tend to be public or private non-profit organisations that provide a range of research, development and technology services, principally to business and governments. Although the definition of Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) vary, reflecting RTOs institutional statutes, governance, business models, funding models and resources, the public missions and industrial support objectives of RTOs seem to be aligned.

The European Association for RTOs (EARTO) defines RTOs as "regional and national actors whose core mission is to harness science and technology in the service of innovation or public bodies and industry, to improve the quality of life and build economic competitiveness in Europe. RTOs are generally non-profit organisations and their revenues are re-employed to fund new innovation cycles." Although not so frequently identified in studies of the innovation ecosystem as universities, they are significant elements in innovation systems at regional and national level. It has been estimated that RTOs across Europe have revenues of €18.5-23 billion with a wider economic impact of up to €40 billion.

References

Charles, D. and Ciampi Stancova, K. (2014). Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation. S3 Policy Brief Series, No. 15/2015. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for prospective Technological Studies, Spain.

Arnold, E., Clark, J. and Jávorka, S. (2010) Impacts of European RTOs: A Study of Social and Economic Impacts of Research and Technology Organisations. A Report to EARTO.

Lawton Smith, H. (2003) Knowledge Organizations and Local Economic Development: The Cases of Oxford and Grenoble, Regional Studies, 37, 899–909.

Rush, H., Hobday, M., Bessant, J., Arnold, E. and Murray, R. (1996) Technology institutes: Strategies for Best Practice, International Thompson Business Press, London.

How do RTOs affect S3 strategies?

RTOs have been identified as key agents in regional innovation systems, and particularly as key elements of regional innovation strategies in many parts of Europe over the past 20-30 years. Even earlier though RTOs were established as national initiatives to promote innovation, in some cases with some form of regional delivery.

The RTOs play a multiple role in smart specialisation. First of all they contribute to entrepreneurial discovery process, secondly they play an important role in connecting actors, and thirdly they build research and technology capacities and contribute to technology transfer. There are three key contributions that RTOs make to the development and implementation of S3, and each of these are shown in Figure 1.

Many RTOs have considerable experience in analysing firms’ needs and technology forecasting and provide policy advice services to their regional governments. Such expertise may be used by regional governments to help identify opportunities and assist in developing entrepreneurial discovery processes, especially where governments have limited experience of collaboration with industry.

Figure 1: Roles of RTOs in smart specialisation

Entrepreneurial discovery process Connecting stakeholders Capacity building and technology transfer
Provide for evidence-based input Connect stakeholders geographically (in the region, country and internationally) and among the sectors Transfer knowledge to SME clusters and help SMEs articulate demand for research and technology
Involve different regional stakeholders Interact continuously with the industry and public administration in the region Support emerging activities and enhance capacity building  close to the market
Are aware of regional strengths and weaknesses Search for good national and international partners for the regional clients Help create new business opportunities by creating accelerator incubators and involving disruptive technologies, entrepreneurs, capital, etc.
Have (long) experience with implementation of regional/ national research and innovation strategies Connect with local population and make research and technologies popular across generations Contribute to improvement of technological capabilities aligned with RIS3 priorities
Participate in monitoring - gather and organise information relevant to RIS3 implementation Carry out forward-looking activities, consultancy and advise service for other regions Help public administration innovate by means of independent competitive policies (consultancies, demonstrations, eservices, eGovernment, etc.)
Can provide advice on revising and updating the RIS3   Raise awareness and promote ongoing constant and effective discussions among stakeholders

Source: Charles, D. and Ciampi Stancova, K. (2014)

References

Charles, D. and Ciampi Stancova, K. (2014). Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation. S3 Policy Brief Series, No. 15/2015. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for prospective Technological Studies, Spain.

Charles, D., Gross, F. and Bachtler, J. (2012) ‘Smart specialisation’ and cohesion policy: a Strategy for all regions? IQ-Net Thematic Paper No. 30(2), EPRC, Glasgow.

Walendowski, J (2011) Policies and Process of Smart Specialisation: Realising New Opportunities. Regional Innovation Monitor, Thematic Paper 2, Technopolis Group, Brussels.

What is the rationale?

RTOs offer a core set of skills and competences needed by regions to successfully develop smart specialisation strategies. These skills sit in a number of areas from support for policymaking to longer term opportunity recognition and direct support to firms within the S3 clusters. Specific opportunities for RTOs to engage with regions in S3 plans have been identified to include support for the entrepreneurial discovery process, support for internationalisation and the development of cluster groupings.

Three key roles:

  1. Many RTOs have considerable experience in analysing firms’ needs and technology forecasting and provide policy advice services to their regional governments. Such expertise may be used by regional governments to help identify opportunities and assist in developing entrepreneurial discovery processes, especially where governments have limited experience of collaboration with industry.
  2. A particular strength of RTOs is their involvement in international networks, and whilst this brings potential challenges where governments fund them to support domestic businesses, the RTO may be in an ideal position to identify cross-border linkages and to source knowledge from other regions. The RTO can help bring a more global perspective, especially where the RTO has considerable international experience.
  3. Many RTOs are central to particular clusters where they have a long history of supporting innovation. As such RTOs may be central to particular smart specialisation initiatives and play a central role in the coordination of support for groups of firms.
References

Charles, D. and Ciampi Stancova, K. (2014). Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation. S3 Policy Brief Series, No. 15/2015. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for prospective Technological Studies, Spain.

Carayannis, E. G. & D. F. J. Campbell (2009), "'Mode 3' and 'Quadruple Helix': Toward a 21st Century Fractal Innovation Ecosystem", International Journal of Technology Management, 46(3/4), 201-234.

What policies can influence RTOs?

RTOs are present in many, but by no means all regions in Europe. Though, most EU countries have some form of industrially oriented research organisations, and these are likely to be considered as important elements in the national and regional infrastructure for innovation strategies. RTOs need to be supported by public policies including:

  • Public agencies involved in the development of smart specialisation strategies should seek to better involve RTOs in the design and implementation of RIS3s.
  • RIS3s may support interventions to encourage collaboration between RTOs and SMEs for knowledge exchange and innovation support. Many regions have encouraged the development of RTOs and their links with SMEs in recent years through projects to support collaborative research projects or through knowledge exchange projects.
  • Many regions plan to use their RIS3 to help develop competitive clusters, drawing on existing strengths. Often these will include the RTOs as they have previously been developed to support significant local industries within the region. The precise role of the RTO in a cluster initiative may vary depending on the needs of the cluster and the strengths of the RTO, but will usually involve technical support to SMEs, collective training activities and networking.
References

Charles, D. and Ciampi Stancova, K. (2014). Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation. S3 Policy Brief Series, No. 15/2015. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for prospective Technological Studies, Spain.

Events Events

1st SMARTER Conference on Smart Specialisation and Territorial Development

The First SMARTER Conference on Smart Specialisation and Territorial Development was co-organised by the S3 Platform and the Regional Studies Association

EARTO-JRC Joint Event

The objective of this event is to present the JRC publication "Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation" which is currently under...

Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) and Smart Specialisation

In the frame of the S3P project, this workshop took place to discuss the role of RTOs in smart specialisation (in particular implementation). RTOs are...

Publications Publications

Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation

15/2015 David Charles and Katerina Ciampi Stancova
Research and Technology Organisations have developed in many European countries at both national and regional levels to assist in the support of local...

Related Publications Related Publications

Research and Technology Organisations and Smart Specialisation

15/2015 David Charles and Katerina Ciampi Stancova
Research and Technology Organisations have developed in many European countries at both national and regional levels to assist in the support of local...