The establishment of Danube Transfer Centers in Romania, Serbia and Slovakia should bridge the gaps between research and innovation and make it possible to launch new products and services more quickly on the European market. This should add impetus to crossborder research and technology collaboration, plus EU projects in regions all the way along the Danube River, opening access to new markets. Ultimately, in times of skills shortages this should also be of benefit to companies in Baden-Württemberg. Steinbeis Enterprises are an excellent model of successful technology transfer. The first pilot centers are being set up at universities in Romania and Slovakia with the support of the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum and the Steinbeis-Donau-Zentrum.
In late 2012, Prof. Dr. Norbert Höptner, Commissioner for Europe of the Minister of Finance and Economics of Baden-Württemberg and Director of the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum, signed a cooperation agreement with five universities from Romania, Slovakia and Serbia in the presence of the Baden-Württemberg Minister of European Affairs, Peter Friedrich. The agreement covers the setting up of Danube Transfer Centers with whose help the gaps between research and innovation should be bridged. Business plans and business models have already been developed, individually by country and center, taking local conditions into account. An overarching strategy is also being developed to plan trans-national technology transfer in the Danube Region. Similarly, the intention is to fuel cross-border research and technology collaboration, submit joint EU funding applications and provide training to personnel in the Danube countries. The centers being set up will be at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra (both in Slovakia), and the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca in Romania. The Technical University in Romania also has a cooperation agreement with Babes-Bolyai University. There are also plans in the pipeline for another center in Serbia at the University of Novi Sad.
The Danube Transfer Centers are an integral part of Priority Area 8 of the EU Danube Region Strategy. Priority Area 8 is being coordinated jointly by Baden-Württemberg and Croatia. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum and the Steinbeis-Donau-Zentrum are spearheading a working group for innovation and technology transfer in the Danube Region. To help set up the Danube Transfer Centers, they are receiving an injection of funding from the German state of Baden-Württemberg. To safeguard their ongoing existence, the centers have committed to raise further domestic and European funding. The European networks of the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum and its many years working on European projects are helping to integrate the activities of the Danube Transfer Centers into the European Research Area and to set up joint funding projects. According to the Steinbeis philosophy, the Danube Transfer Centers should increasingly attract funding through projects with industry. Local demand for projects should be fostered by Steinbeis, for example by training innovation managers from Romanian companies.
There is still unused EU funding available for the year 2013, especially for projects in Romania and Bulgaria. The new EU funding period starts in 2014 with a variety of new programs and additional budgets, and it is these funding programs that the Steinbeis teams want to tap into. The aim is to involve companies from Baden-Württemberg and the Danube Region in activities, making the seller’s market more attractive for German companies. Steinbeis will also strive to make suitable programs available in eastern reaches of the Danube Region.
Further development of the Danube Region will result in stronger demand for technology and services from Germany. How precisely this demand develops and what will be the target of demand, can be shaped by becoming involved during the preparation phase. It is here that both Steinbeis Centers have a major opportunity to wield influence.