Innovating through Internationalisation; Engaging with the Global Economy Is Crucial for Competitiveness,but There Is a Danger Devolution Could Lead to Greater Isolation,writes Prof Robert Huggins of the UWIC School of Management

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 24, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Innovating through Internationalisation; Engaging with the Global Economy Is Crucial for Competitiveness,but There Is a Danger Devolution Could Lead to Greater Isolation,writes Prof Robert Huggins of the UWIC School of Management


Akey factor hindering economic competitiveness in Wales is the lack of businesses involved in international trade. Compared with many other regions,Wales barely engages in the global economy.

The percentage of Welsh companies engaged in exporting is only 2.1%, the lowest of any UK region, and well below the UK average of 3.4%.

Our propensity to import is also brelow average, suggesting that we are not to any great extent specialising in those activities where we possess some form of competitive advantage.

Internationalisation is crucial toWales' future wellbeing, but the risk is that devolution will result in further economic isolation.

Greater internationalisation would not only provide access to bigger markets, but also the global base of knowledge, technology, R&Dand innovation.

Wales is far too small to possess a knowledge base of its own that is strong enough to catalyse the levels of innovation required to improve competitiveness.

'Wales' from Therefore, the need to access knowledge from sources outside its borders will become increasingly paramount. The recent Innovation Nation White Paper published by the UK Government acknowledged that innovation is increasingly an international endeavour, whereby businesses are internationalising their R&D, supply chains and customer bases and become adopting open innovation practices.

As result, a number of regions are developing policies aimed at the internationalisation of the innovation process.

The North West of England and East of England are examples of two regions that have developed a bespoke international strategy with a capacity to stimulate international knowledge sourcing.

For instance, as well as the usual focus on exports, the North West's international strategy identifies the scope to internationalise supply chains as a whole.

The strategy also highlights a specific need to facilitate the internationalisation of knowledge intensive firms through targeted advice and support.

In the East of England, the regional development agency is developing a cohesive international strategy to support the region's businesses in developing international alliances for R&D and open innovation.

The objectives of the strategy include: developing the global impact of science/innovation parks and international skills capacity; making the most of international knowledge transfer between industry, research institutes and higher education; and a network of nternationally significant ICT clusters and programmes of global collaboration and international partnering.

The strategy also places a particular emphasis on the formation of global alliances with other regions, consisting of prioritised partnerships with strategically selected regions abroad.

Among the devolved regions, Scotland is considerably further down the policy road than Wales.

Innovation plays a crucial role in its international strategy, combining support for new exporters with an increasing focus on assisting existing exporters to deepen their degree of internationalisation, along with the fostering of innovative international company relationships including partnerships, alliances and outsourcing.

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Innovating through Internationalisation; Engaging with the Global Economy Is Crucial for Competitiveness,but There Is a Danger Devolution Could Lead to Greater Isolation,writes Prof Robert Huggins of the UWIC School of Management
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