CFECPR › Halle (Saxony-Anhalt). Study Visit, 28 - 30 June 2006
An international review panel led by the OECD LEED Programme visited the City of Halle (Sachsen-Anhalt) from 28 to 30 June 2006. A regional workshop has been held in Halle 27 September 2006 to discuss with local stakeholders and representatives of national ministries and representatives of the two East German Länder ministries preliminary findings and draft policy recommendations and to make case study presentations of international learning models/best practices.
The OECD review of entrepreneurship policy in Halle focuses on how to maximise the contribution of the city’s higher education sector to local entrepreneurship development, with a particular emphasis on the development of innovative and growth enterprises through exploitation of the science and technology assets of Halle. The promotion of innovative and growth enterprises has the potential for relatively strong economic impacts as compared with more general entrepreneurship promotion, which often suffers from high local product market displacement effects. Furthermore, there is strong potential to develop innovative entrepreneurship around core science and technology strengths even in the context of a depressed regional economy. For the most part, the commercial exploitation of university research will produce high technology businesses or businesses where the added value will depend heavily on innovation. Success for these businesses will usually depend on being able to address a global market – or at least a national or continental market – from the very beginning. Issues such as the economy of the region in which the university is situated, the level of demand or the numbers of unemployed are therefore much less important, although the availability of investment finance in the university’s home region will be a relevant factor.
There is a strong potential to develop innovative entrepreneurship around the core science and technology strengths of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and other higher education institutes (HEIs) in Halle region. The HEI community in Halle has taken a strong and effective leadership in stimulating HEI entrepreneurship, and successfully engages other stakeholders in providing innovation infrastructure, human and financial capital, and other resources for University-based start-ups. The efforts initiated by the University seem to be fully embedded in the partnership work with business support institutions at both local and Land levels, which allow for knowledge and technology spill-overs to non-HEI entrepreneurs. The existing network structures provide the ground for public policy and local entrepreneurship support programmes to further promote interaction between the research community and the local economy. Although it might be possible to have vibrant entrepreneurial activities within the HEIs, technology and knowledge transfer into the local SME community require receptive environments on both sides. These prepare for communication and interaction between these two communities, which often develop quite independently.
Whilst there are several short and medium term approaches to strengthen the contribution of the existing science and technology base to local entrepreneurship, a large part of the policy effort should focus on achieving a number of longer term shifts. These include changing the attitudes towards and motivations for entrepreneurship, as well as strengthening abilities to undertake entrepreneurship activities, reducing distance and barriers between the University and local enterprises, attracting academics from the rest of Germany and the rest of the world, strengthening local, regional and global university-industry linkages around Halle’s research specialisation, and further tailoring policies and programmes to business needs. It is also important to recognise the scale of public funding in maintaining the current innovation and enterprise support. The existing policy initiatives themselves are impressive, but they might not be sustainable without continued public funding. The already started gradual reduction of public kick-off funding and the inclusion of the business community in support measures can be mentioned here as examples of good practice policy.
Both the discussion of strengths and weaknesses, and the recommendations are not meant to draw-up an exhaustive picture of the local scenario, leading to immediate and concrete policy actions. The aim is, rather, to stimulate and catalyse a process, whereby regions, cities and districts in East Germany can stand back and reflect on their overall options, needs and priorities, by facilitating an exchange of information on innovations and good practices from a range of OECD Member countries. The key messages resulting from the local case study area, in terms of suggested policy actions and initiatives, are summarised in an Action Plan.