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Start-ups and tech transfers boosting Mediterranean clusters





The Casablanca Technopark was one of the first technology parks to be created in the southern Mediterranean (photo: F.Dubessy)
The Casablanca Technopark was one of the first technology parks to be created in the southern Mediterranean (photo: F.Dubessy)
Since their arrival on the Mediterranean scene, with pioneers such as the El Ghazala (Tunisia), Berytech (Lebanon) and Casablanca Technopark (Morocco) incubators, innovation ecosystems have taken a firm foothold in the region. Technology parks, or technoparks, and clusters, specializing in particular sectors, have completed the network by pooling industry or business sector skills.
In 2017, The Next Society programme listed 478 active organisations, public or private –sometimes a mixture of both, in the field of innovation, spread over seven countries*, including incubators, clusters, accelerators, co-working spaces, fablabs, and technology transfer agencies. The budding entrepreneurship and innovation culture in the Mediterranean has been hugely aided by the proliferation and professionalism of organisations supporting innovation. New programmes to support entrepreneurship, such as those instigated by talent within the diaspora, have also had an impact, as have the first networks of business angels and the private accelerators offering technical support and financing.
 
“Traditionally, clusters have followed a rationale that involves grouping together by region. And it’s using that approach, more joining together rather than actually collaborating, that they have organised themselves,” reflects Mathias Fillon, The Next Society’s coordinator at the Anima Investment Network.
Today, they are seeking fresh impetus. “Clusters need to seize the opportunity their special place within the ecosystem (fostering SME-research-start-up exchanges within a same industry or local area) gives them to ensure a comprehensive flow of innovation skills and technologies,” points out Mathias Fillon.

Boosting cluster attractiveness for start-ups

An Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA - UN) report published in 2017 underlined the importance of a new direction for clusters “with a view to boosting the efficiency of the national innovation system”. According to the document, this would enable a “better reconciliation of local industries’ needs with the innovation emanating from research stakeholders and start-ups”.
 
For Mathias Fillon, this approach, with clusters as a catalyst, “would provide a national outlet for the innovation supported by start-ups, research centres and universities”. It would also avoid “innovators and SMEs squandering efforts to seek funding, industrial partnerships or to acquire technology.”
 
Moreover, this connection between clusters and businesses would boost value creation at the national level by reducing the need to import foreign innovation. All these advantages would enhance the attractiveness of clusters for start-ups.


*Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
 



Thursday, June 10th 2021



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