Assessment and Outlook of the Regional Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation in Centre-Val de Loire
While innovation has its source in the richness and diversity of regions, the ability to innovate is a major issue for regions in terms of economic development.
Since 2014, the Centre-Val de Loire Region has pursued an ambitious policy of specialisation to strengthen skills, in particular in R&D, and to better integrate innovation into its economic fabric. Historically oriented towards industrial subcontracting, the Centre-Val de Loire Region has decided via its Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) to consolidate its innovation ecosystems in sectors where it occupies a differentiating place (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, tourism, etc.), but also to invest in emerging fields linked to sustainable development (environmental engineering, energy storage, etc.)
The COVID19 pandemic highlighted the strategic importance of certain industrial specialisations, but it also made it possible to reaffirm the objectives identified in the Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) and their application throughout the territory. It aims at building the capacities of 1,633 companies already engaged in the innovation process as well as encouraging new companies to get started and attracting talent and new investments.
The development of innovation involves strengthening links between partners, facilitating the pooling of skills and collaborative work, as well as the establishment of interface tools and appropriate actions. The Regional funding mechanisms, such as “Ambition Recherche Développement”, have generated a new impetus by encouraging research excellence and closer collaboration between industry and universities. Another key issue for the dissemination of innovation is to improve the level of qualifications in order to adapt the skills of employees to technological and economic changes.
The regional innovation strategy governance is based on a process of involvement of regional actors from different backgrounds (political institutions, companies, higher education and research establishments together with the civil society) who constitute the "quadruple helix" (Q4 Helix).
It revolves around the following bodies:
• The regional strategic innovation committee (leads the RIS3).
• The operational committee (in charge of the operational monitoring of the RIS3)
• The “Research and Innovation” committee (monitoring horizontal measures)
• The steering committees of the specialisation priority areas and related working groups for horizontal measures (process of consultation and involvement of regional actors).
The exchanges and consultations in these groups are based on a system of entrepreneurial discoveries, an inclusive and interactive learning process. It has proven beneficial at different levels: by providing feedback on entrepreneurs’ needs and on the state of play of the implementation of the strategy, which are essential elements to better target political actions. It also enables to inform entrepreneurs on emerging markets and new opportunities.
This emulation contributes to the ecosystems’ dynamics. It improves the coordination of the support ecosystem, but also the quality of the support provided to entrepreneurs.
As an example, in one of the priority areas of our smart specialisation strategy, the stakeholders have created a structured ecosystem dedicated to biomedicines around:
It obtained in 2011 a laboratory of excellence entitled “LabEX MAbImprove” that illustrates the recognition at national level of the regional scientific strengths in the field of monoclonal antibodies. It brings together 28 research teams and more than 200 researchers. It relies on a national network of academic teams associated with the project, as well as on many pharmaceutical laboratories and biotechnology companies directly interested in the benefits of the project.
A large number of start-ups (MAbSilico, Igixos, McSaf, iMAb / Mabqi…) have emerged from the laboratory of excellence “LabEx MAbImprove”.
The Centre-Val de Loire regional council also funded the project ‘Ambition Recherche Développement 2020’ (ARD 2020 Biomedicines) aimed at developing the regional R&D Centre on Biomedicines. It capitalises on the LabEX MAbImprove and multidisciplinary teams from several research establishments and benefits from substantial resources (more than 10 M € allocated in 3 phases). It has facilitated the creation of several start-ups that spring from the Region’s research laboratories, including MabSilico (using artificial intelligence to predict antibody activity, and winner of the ILab competition), McSAF (specialised in the development of therapeutic products in oncology - ADC type), IMab ... They contribute to the dynamism of the ecosystem.
C-Valo, a maturing investment system in the Centre Val de Loire Region, dedicated to technology transfer from public research to the industrial world. It aims at simplifying, accelerating and facilitating the transfer of technologies from all the universities and research organizations of the Region (University of Tours, University of Orléans, CNRS, Inserm, INRAE, CHRU of Tours, INSA Centre Val de Loire, BRGM, IRSTEA).
Regarding the industrial side, the presence of MabDesign in the Region generates an influx of national projects through industrial players
The Bio3 Institute was created in 2016 with the training organisation IMT through the investment programme “PIA” for work-study training and research, to promote the evolution of health industries towards the production of biomedicines, bioactives cosmetic and biotechnologies.
The Bio-S is the result of a regional innovation partnership; the consortium gathers the University of Tours, IMT and the SERVIER group. The latter has chosen to invest in the Centre-Val de Loire Region and created a pilot unit for the production of biomedicines.
Heath Tech Station (HTS), a unique support centre of its kind in France, supports the development of companies in the ecosystem
The pharmaceutics cluster Polepharma, through its knowledge of industrial sites in the Region (comprising 53% of French pharmaceutical production) plays an important role alongside Dev'Up, the economic development agency, to promote innovations and develop structured operations.
The Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) secures the “pipeline” of innovative projects. This translates into a growing number of projects and collaborations. From 2014 to 2018 nearly 25 million euros were mobilized by the Region to finance innovation projects in connection with the RIS3 priorities. 106 projects benefited from European Regional Structural Funds, and 94% of the funds were granted to regional actors (i.e., € 59,092,298) within the framework of RDI support.
The alignment of contractual, regional and national innovation policies has made it possible to concentrate resources on clearly identified priorities. The RIS3 is based on an in-depth diagnosis and above all, on the consultation carried out during the creation of the governance system. It has evolved thanks to an evaluation process for the actions carried out during the 2014‐2020 programming period.
The mid-term evaluation (in 2018) prompted the Regional Strategic Innovation Committee to develop the RIS3 and its 5 priorities, by modifying the scope and actions of certain priorities and by adding a horizontal measure dedicated to industrial, agricultural and ecological transition.
Each priority has also been given a dedicated mode of governance via the steering committees. This mid-term evaluation highlighted the need to strengthen the structuring and animation of the ecosystems, notably through a continuous support to large-scale collaborative projects.
Consultation will continue throughout the implementation of the RIS3 2021-2027 programming period.
Even if the economic crisis caused by COVID19 has led to a change in the dynamics of the process, access to international skills via partnerships or cooperation remains one of the main challenges for structuring industrial value chains. This is the reason why the Centre-Val de Loire Region, with the support of the economic development agency DEV'UP and the competitiveness clusters, is committed as co-leader on two S3 thematic platforms in line with its specialisation priorities: “Water Smart Territories” and “Go4Cosmetics”.
In the same vein, a consortium of digital resources on themes linked to the RIS3 priorities led to the creation of a European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH). This one-stop shop - focused on well-being and sustainable development, particularly in the cosmetics, health, environment and agri-food sectors - will help businesses and local communities achieve their digital transformation by relying on advanced digital skills to collect, process and enhance data. It will play a role to:
• Strengthen the link between the horizontal measure of RIS3 "Fostering the digital transition of the regional economy" and the action plans of RIS3 Priority.
• Ensure coordination between the actions implemented for the digital transition in each field of specialisation, while respecting two guiding principles: data processing and the principle of sustainable management of resources.
If we back up research and innovation even more closely to the strongest sectors of our economy, we will obtain major assets for greater attractiveness of the Centre-Val de Loire and better integration of regional stakeholders into national and global ecosystems.
«In Centre-Val de Loire Region, we have chosen a smart specialisation strategy rooted in the long term and based on the relevance, strength and specificity of researchers and regional entrepreneurs ».
François Bonneau, Président de la Région Centre-Val de Loire et Président de DEV’UP