The seventh set of articles from The Future of Universities Thoughtbook |North American Edition introduces…
In 2002, the South Moravian Region and the statutory city of Brno introduced the Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS) with the aim to create the conditions for the development of an innovation-based economy, via investments in raising standards in education, research, and entrepreneurial activities. This step was rather intentional than being random, since the same year a major foreign direct investment (FDI) based manufacturing company pulled out from the region and relocated to Romania, leaving 2000 individuals without jobs and the key skills to get back into employment. While the investments continued in the following years, the relocation made it clear that solely relying on FDI was not sustainable.
The immediate outcome of the RIS was the establishment of the South Moravian Innovation Centre, also known as JIC. Established in 2003 with the support of the regional government of South Moravia, the City of Brno and the local universities in the region, JIC is tasked with coordinating the innovation policy of the region. In line with the goals of this strategy, JIC has been since enhancing the attractiveness and competitiveness of the region by spurring startups and innovation, and thus creating a number of qualified jobs every year for its residents.
Diverse streams of entrepreneurial activities
The support for entrepreneurship and startups at JIC is organized along three lines of programs: JIC Enter, JIC Starcube and JIC Master, each equipping the participants who are at different stages of their business or idea development with competences of strategy and business management.
The JIC Enter program targets individuals or teams with promising technological ideas. Each year, about 20 competitively selected applicants receive approximately 18 hours of personalized consultation, attend 18 hours of seminars/workshops, and join 10 to 20 hours of networking events. In contrast, the JIC Starcube is an accelerator program. As such, it aims to help technology-based startups jump start growth. Each year up to 12 teams that consist of three members are accepted into the program, where they receive an intensive technical support for three months. Furthermore, a financial support of €1,800 is provided. What makes the program unique is that JIC’s subsidiary – JIC Ventures, takes 2% of the share of every business incubated at the center. The third stage of the entrepreneurial support is provided through the JIC Master program that targets companies in existence for not more than three years. The aim is to develop such companies into more instrumental players at the national and international level. The program is based on individualized consultation sessions that is offered either to the founders, or to the other key figures of the company.
In addition to the three stages of entrepreneurial support, JIC also promotes university-industry linkages through a voucher system. The system provides around €3,700 for companies that establish collaboration with knowledge centers located in the universities. Additionally, the collaborators could also benefit from other national and European level grants.
JIC creates visible impact
The result achieved by JIC has been astounding. In that, each of the JIC incubation programs has resulted in significant employment opportunities. For instance, over a period of three years alone, JIC has created in excess of 1,700 jobs. Moreover, more than 200 innovative companies have been accelerated by JIC over its 13 years of operation. One notable example amongst the companies incubated is a search engine called Kiwi.com, which has a market value of around €400m. Kiwi.com has created 900 high paying jobs in the region.
The voucher scheme has also been very successful in linking knowledge centers and companies making the South Moravian region an innovation hub. In recognition of these achievements, JIC has been awarded the European Enterprise Promotion Award in 2013. What is more, it has been accredited by the highly acclaimed European Business & Innovation Centre Network (EBN).
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