3 practical ideas on how international conferences can benefit from Latvia’s culture of innovation
This content piece is brought to you in collaboration with LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia).
Companies or organizations that want to secure their future economic success have to leave their comfort zones and open up to new contexts. In order to provide some navigation in how conferences and meetings can benefit best from local innovation, we have put together practical examples and suggestions for new content and knowledge exchanges from Latvia’s treasure trove of great ideas.
The conference planner has the opportunity to combine ideas around key industries, cluster development, policymaking and digital offerings into inspiring new events to enrich the event with new levels of active problem-solving and legacy.
There are several reasons for the excellent culture of innovation in Latvia:
1. Pro-active policy-making and implementation.
The government and municipalities provide a practical support culture to help simplify the creation of an innovative ecosystem.
The main task of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA)is to take care of foreign direct investments and to support export opportunities for companies based in Latvia. In addition to many other initiatives, the agency is also the alma mater of Magnetic Latvia Start-up - it currently maintains 15 business incubators across Latvia as well asa start-up centre for the creative industries in Riga.
Their PINK and INK (pre-incubation and incubation) programs provide a hands-on approach to sourcing and supporting new ideas, products and IT services. They include elements of mentoring, counselling, start-up assistance and more to help overcome obstacles.
The first of our practical ideas is that conference organisers looking to learn about or develop their own support culture can tap into this experience and the broad network of policy making shown.
2. Extensive support for start-ups and numerous practical examples of the resulting successful business ideas.
A supporting culture of innovations must start at zero and include the possibility of failure. It begins with the active search for new ideas and programs and assistance in how these can be promoted and used to solve problems.
The Business Incubator in Valmiera in the Vidzeme region can illustrate this well. Jurgis Prieditis, who has been head of the incubator since 2018, explains to us why his city is such a perfect location for this.
As a former industrial city, Valmiera has built the positioning of the city around the “capital” of fallow industrial sites and vacant buildings, but also on the traditionally strong and active network of local companies and organisations, and has developed a distinguishing feature as an ideal location for new businesses in Latvia.
The municipality of Valmieras concentrates on supporting entrepreneurs and the relocation of companies. To help this, there are many measures in place such as granting tax rebates for the purchase of land and real estate - network activities, infrastructure, support and advice and much more are offered.
By including the Business Incubator, the creative horizon is expanded and new solutions are sought that both help existing companies and create opportunities for students and startups.
The close cooperation between the city, university and the business incubator plays an important role in this, and is supported by an efficient regional and national network.
The Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Investment and Development Agency are also involved in optimising state, municipal and private initiatives.
The incubator and the municipality work closely together. Currently, there are 36 projects in the incubation program. In October, 5 new projects from the wider area of the Vidzeme region were able to apply for a new round in the program.
The system is results-oriented, and expects companies to reach a certain turnover after a maximum 3 years of funding. Their main objective is to continuously grow the total number of successfully completed projects.
In order to strengthen the sense of community, networking events for the start-ups , local industry and business world are particularly important. The incubator works closely with the Augstskola University of Applied Sciences - they have regular meetings to discuss how the students can best be integrated into the program.
A new event format that results from this cooperation is planned for November, a “Champions Dinner” - students, startups and entrepreneurs jointly work on solutions to specific problems.
Each of the 15 incubators in the country organises about 4 of its own community events a year.
One of the first success stories that arose from the support of the Valmiera Incubator, after the 3 years of funding, is a startup for wooden memory sticks.
The company, EWART WOODS, capitalises on an important key industry in Latvia - logging and processing. They design creative prototypes of innovative products which are then tested in their community before going into production. The success of this young company is such that they now employ 12 workers.
As forests cover 41% of the area of the Baltic country, working with wood is in the genes of Latvians and has been refined over generations. These Traditional skills in woodworking, combined with innovative and interesting products is the goal of the young start-up, to develop functional and well-formed wood design. They have cultivated a special know-how for personalised products. .
Our second practical idea is that conference participants can exchange ideas with representatives of the official bodies of Valmiera and the incubator and organise visits to the incubator.
Both the working environment and management, atmosphere, remote work opportunities and exchange with these startups can be very enriching and inspire new ideas.
3. A pronounced digital economy with new services for conferences that always offer new ideas for both formats and application solutions.
Various examples from the digital economy in Latvia can be found here at the Meet Latvia Showcase, we will report in more detail on new services for conferences.
Interesting solutions for “phygital” events and the “Roadgames” App with new ideas for gamified city rallies are two examples here.
Our third idea is that conference organisers can refer directly to related clusters (e.g. wood processing and forest industry) and look specifically for start-ups and projects in order to exchange ideas and, potentially, develop business relationships.
LIAA - Investment and Development Agency of Latvia
With the brand “Magnetic Latvia”, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) works to increase export and competitiveness of Latvian companies, facilitate foreign investment and implement tourism development and innovation policies.
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