Innovation is increasingly recognised as a major catalyst for productivity and output growth and consequently is becoming an important target for growth policy initiatives. In this respect, governments are devoting particular attention to the territorial dimension of the innovation process. On the one hand, the reshaping of regional policy in many countries has led to a more sophisticated awareness of the nature of regional innovation systems. On the other hand, science and technology policymakers are taking increasing account of the importance of region-specific factors - in particular the role of proximity -- in the innovation process. The coming together of these two policy areas has been associated with important changes in governance, with stronger roles for regional government and other key non-government actors being brought into the policy process.
At the heart of this new focus is the trend towards more globalised markets and strengthened links between research, knowledge and technology. These trends, particularly the development of information technologies, seemed, at one stage, to be heralding the death of distance. However, they also paradoxically seem to be strengthening the role of proximity in the development of new products and processes.
The Florence conference will analyse these new challenges by examining what has been learned from government policy experiences and through sharing best practices. It will examine promising new policy options to improve links between knowledge and business communities and assist in turning technology into market opportunities. A particular focus will be put on policy initiatives to stimulate inter-firm co-operation through business networks, science/industry partnerships, and evaluation and benchmarking methods. The issue of start-ups and spin-offs, a main source of innovation dynamics, will also be reviewed.
The Florence conference will bring together for the first time innovation policy officials and leading policy analysts at national and regional levels from Europe, America and Asia. This conference is co-organised by the Toscana Region, the European ERIK Network and the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).