When thinking about some of the buzzing cleantech clusters around the world, the Basque Country doesn’t often come to mind. However, since visiting the region for Cleantech Group’s bi-annual European Advisory Board Meeting, which this time was hosted in partnership with Innobasque, I have had a rapid about-face, and so should you all.
As I crossed over one of the entrance bridges to Bilbao, the main Basque municipality, one couldn’t help but notice the gigantic curved titanium exterior of the Guggenheim Museum pitted against the new high-rise Iberdrola Towers. Both act as iconic symbols of the region’s transformation from an Industrial town to an innovation hub over the past two decades.
Some of the statistics are astonishing. According to the OECD Review of Regional Innovation in the Basque Country, over 70% of the regions R&D is conducted by SMEs (firms under 250 employees), compared to under 20% for the UK. Further, the number of firms initiating R&D activities increased from 110 in 1998 to 343 in 2007. The region is also home to two Technology Corporations, Tecnalia and IK4 Research Alliance, which have over 3,000 employees with 750 cleantech dedicated researchers
The cities regeneration has also created much …