A key task in promoting sustainable economic activity in cities is ensuring that innovations in research and development are transferred to business and industry. This creates and secures sustainable jobs.
Universities, colleges and other research facilities are generally located in towns and cities. This makes it easier to harness innovation for the private sector in a city, thus securing jobs and creating new ones, getting companies interested in new products and procedures, and enhancing the image of the city as a location for business and industry.
More than 15 years ago, Hanoi's city government founded the Hoa Lac High-Tech Park on a site measuring some 1,600 hectares in the west of the Vietnamese capital. The project was successfully completed in 2012 with the move of the technical faculties of the University of Hanoi and the completion of the infrastructural links to the city. By the end of 2013, 70 investment projects of national and international high-tech companies were realised with a total investment volume of some three billion euros.
Fostering innovation is about giving small and medium-sized enterprises easier access to science and research, supporting technological advances, speeding up and increasing the number of research findings that are translated into marketable products and supporting knowledge-based business start-ups with a view to achieving sustainable economic development, for example, as part of a green economy approach.
Innovation activities often go hand in hand with other business start-up and SME support measures. Close cooperation with actors in the city, particularly institutes of tertiary education, but also chambers of commerce and industry, chambers of crafts and trades, and associations, are of key importance. Frequently, technology centres offer spaces where events, exhibitions and congresses can be held to foster the transfer of innovations.
Fostering innovation is also an instrument traditionally used to support sector clusters. The city state Bremen in northern Germany, for instance, supports an innovation cluster for wind power, the maritime economy and the aerospace industry.
The German city of Aachen awards the AC²-Innovation Prize to private businesses, facilities or individuals for services to further develop the region of Aachen as an economic centre. Many other cities have also introduced innovation awards with a view to encouraging further innovation and incorporating the topic into the city's marketing campaigns. Urban innovation fairs and innovation networks are also popular instruments used to help foster innovation.
Most developing countries and emerging economies do not yet make optimum use of the existing potential for innovation. Public research budgets are lower and it is not unusual for tertiary education to be far removed from the needs of the private sector. Companies bemoan the inadequate qualifications of graduates, and the graduates themselves find it difficult to get a foot on the first rung of the career ladder in the private sector. However, things are changing. Modern means of information and communication are facilitating cooperation and know-how transfer among universities and private companies. This is true of both North-South and South-South cooperation. Larger economic areas, such as the customs union between the European Union and the states of Northern Africa also increase the pressure on companies in these areas to become innovative and competitive. German development cooperation is supporting these companies, partly by establishing modern technology competence centres. Support also includes practice-based training courses for employees and initial vocational training and in-service courses.