The Innovation Network District Kitzbühel (INK) is a pioneering initiative fostering innovation and entrepreneurship at the regional level. Established in response to a study highlighting the Kitzbühel district’s lack of innovation, the INK collaborates with diverse stakeholders, including businesses, research institutions, and the local community. Addressing challenges such as a shortage of skilled labor and a dependency on tourism in the region, the INK aims to transform Kitzbühel into an innovative and economically robust place. INK serves as a networking hub, facilitating events, consultations, workshops, and initiating open innovation projects. Innovation managers play a key role in providing professionalized knowledge and community work. The physical hub, START.N in Kitzbühel, supports individuals with innovative ideas. INK launches initiatives like LOOT for young entrepreneurs along with mentoring programs and regional entrepreneurship events. The network actively showcases innovations in existing businesses, promoting sustainability through a circular economy. This holistic approach contributes to creating a desirable workplace and economic environment, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across various industries. Integrated into regional management, INK ensures agile operations and effective networking to meet the needs of the target audience.
Presentation of the project
The district of Kitzbühel is known to be an economically strong tourism destination. However, a study analyzing the region’s sustainability in terms of economic development showed the district of Kitzbühel’s scarcity of innovation and digitalization. Other innovation-related issues the region is dealing with are the high costs of living space and the resulting brain-drain and lack of employees. Also, a want for higher education or research institutions causes young people to move to surrounding bigger cities in order to study. A major part of local enterprises is either operating in tourism, trade, or crafts. There are very few industrial companies with sufficient resources to pursue a higher level of innovation power.
Therefore, the regional development agency Regio-Tech Regionalentwicklungs-GmbH in cooperation with the local chamber of economy decided to initiate a platform for innovation. This platform promotes innovation through bringing the innovative regional companies together in a network and connecting with universities, research institutions and schools. In addition to supporting corporates, the INK itself regularly develops and implements innovative initiatives like Pitch Nights focusing on cooperation instead of financial investments, FuckUp Nights, Innovation Award, Mentoring Program or bringing entrepreneurship into schools via LOOT. Moreover, a dedicated physical space has been established as a local point for people with innovative ideas, exemplified by the START.N start-up center in Kitzbühel.
- Promoting innovation in regional SMEs as well as the development of startups and therefore set the local industry up for the future.
- Create higher-value jobs and therefore increase the attractivity of the region for labor-force.
- Connecting various stakeholders (companies of all size, startups, population, economy chamber and other regional players) to drive innovation of all sorts: Social innovation, technological innovation, incremental as well as radical innovation.
- Over 63 events reaching over 800 local individuals.
- Supporting and accompanying over 135 founders and companies
- LOOT workshops with approx. 130 students from five different school types
- 90% occupancy rate in the startup center within the first year
- Four Pitch Nights were organised and offered 15 companies a stage
- A regional Innovation Award was established and will be presented for the third time.
- Building a community and connecting over 250 women for female empowerment (TRAUDI)
- A main benefit of the innovation network is the creation of a strong network which connects relevant actors within the region à exchange, cooperations
- Functioning as a lighthouse for the national GAP strategy
LEADER plays a crucial role in empowering the project by providing essential financial resources. Additionally, it facilitates valuable network access, establishing connections not only within the immediate region but also fostering collaboration with other regions and projects.
Emblematic character of the project
In the long term, the project will help to diversify the region’s economy and thereby strengthen it. This results in a contribution for all population groups, fostering an sustainable environment for work and business as well as strengthening the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. By embedding the Innovation Network in regional management and LEADER, agile action and good regional networking of the innovation managers is ensured in order to meet the needs of the target group.
The multi-actor approach connects stakeholders from economy, science, politics and population on a regional level. This fosters innovation and the development of new services and products in existing businesses as well as the emergence of new companies. This was achieved through open innovation, direct support, networking, different events and workshop formats.
Importantly, the project’s model is transferable to other regions seeking to stimulate innovation through a network-based approach. When replicating the innovation network Bezirk Kitzbühel, the unique characteristics of each locality must be considered, particularly concerning key stakeholders. Nevertheless, the project’s activities hold promise for applicability in other regions facing similar challenges, providing a template for fostering innovation and sustainable economic development.
LAG Regionalmanagement regio³ Kitzbühel
Austria – Tyrol