South Moravia eyes global recognition after winning EU entrepreneurship award

26 Jul 2023 | News

The south-eastern Czech region and the city of Brno have spent the past 20 years building an innovation ecosystem and now hope to take this recognition of success further

South Moravia and Brno's representation at the European Entrepreneurial Region 2024 awards in Brussels this month. From left to right: Petr Chladek, director of the South Moravian Innovation Centre (JIC), Anna Putnová, Brno city councillor for innovation and cooperation with research organisations, and Jan Grolich, governor of the South Moravian region. 

The Czech region of South Moravia and its city of Brno are looking to take their innovation brand global after recently being named European Entrepreneurial Region 2024, a first for the country.

Brno is one of three European cities to be given the award, alongside the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy and the Vila Nova de Famalicão municipality in Portugal, with the Polish region Małopolska given a special mention.

South Moravia’s recognition came for its efforts to create a “home for globally successful entrepreneurs.” For the region’s governor, Jan Grolich, this wider vision is important.

The city of Brno is planning to reconstruct its long-standing marketing strategy to move the focus away from businesses and institutions and onto the region’s people, with the aim of demonstrating the city’s potential to the world. “We want to show our people that we are really a high-tech region that is rich in innovation,” Grolich said. “If we work on this, it will show to the world that we have good companies and good universities.”

The region has already established itself as an innovation hub, both domestically and on a European level. It is classified as a “strong innovator” on the European Innovation Scoreboard, the second highest category. This puts it in the same bracket as two of Austria’s three regions and above many other northern and western European regions. Closer to home, only Prague is classed higher on the Scoreboard as an innovation leader.

Data from the European Regional Innovation Scoreboard shows the performance of the Czech regions. South Moravia is grouped together with Vysočina under the name Jihovýchod, with the bulk of the innovation coming from South Moravia.


Grolich puts South Moravia’s success down to two key factors. The first is the presence of three strong universities in Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology, and Mendel University in Brno. He said that these institutions have built up a strong relationship with entrepreneurs over the years, creating links between science and industry.

The second factor is the performance of the South Moravian Innovation Centre (JIC), which Grolich describes as “the best” in Czechia. “Every koruna invested in the JIC is at least doubled because of their really good work and effort,” he said.

JIC was set up around 20 years ago and since then has become an example to other innovation centres around the country, with even representatives from the capital keen to learn from it. Well-known companies such as the online travel agency and office-focused software and electronic hardware company Y Soft have received support from the JIC in the past, and about 3,500 students from local universities have gone through JIC programmes.

The centre’s director Petr Chladek who was one of those who travelled to Brussels to receive the EU award, said it represents the hard work of a whole community of people involved in the process, from business owners to scientists.

“We want strong and globally successful companies to grow in the South Moravia Region,” he said.

“They make the region economically stable, increase its prestige abroad and create new jobs for qualified people. I believe that such companies can help people all over the world to face global challenges and, at the same time, strengthen the role of Europe on the international stage.”

Brno is a ‘normal European city’

For South Moravia and Brno to achieve the goal of figuring on the world’s innovation stage, it will first be necessary to dust off the stigma of being a region from central and eastern Europe, which tends to be overshadowed by the EU’s best performing regions in the north and west.

Grolich is aware of this issue. Czechia as a whole came under the European spotlight last year during its six-month stint hosting the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“During [that period], visitors from all over the EU came to Brno,” Grolich said. “Many were surprised to find that it is a safe and clean city because we are ‘eastern’. We are a normal European city,” he said.

He hopes that the European Entrepreneurial Region – which he admitted he didn’t realise the prestige of, and was surprised the story featured on prime time Czech TV – can help change western Europe’s perception of his region.

“Entrepreneurs who are thinking of investing here in Brno and this area, they will see that it really has meaning and the ecosystem really works,” he said.

Innovation starts at school

In South Moravia, the people involved in its innovation ecosystem are not resting on their laurels following the award. Plans are in the works for a collaboration between some of the biggest tech companies in the region, public authorities, and the two biggest universities to create a project to encourage school leavers to study technology and maths-related subjects.

It is part of Grolich’s vision to begin building the innovation ecosystem with the region’s young school pupils. He wants greater interaction between the businesses and the schools to give pupils a more realistic and inspiring idea of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“We want to show the students the newest [developments] in this area and show them in a practical and interesting way, not only from the textbook but from real science,” he said. “We want to show them how it works in a business and that it can be very interesting, not only to study but also as a job.”

The idea is to build up a large pool of local talent to combine with attracting workers from abroad. “Companies here are only limited by the people. They need more people to grow,” Grolich said.

Elsewhere, this year in November will mark the third year of Brno’s Velvet Innovation conference. The name is a reference to the Velvet Revolution at the end of the 1980s when the people of Czechoslovakia rose up against the Communist government. The idea is for a similar revolutionary change to take place in Czech innovation.

And South Moravia is building a stronger presence in Brussels too. Earlier this year Vendula Nováčková, head of office of the Representation of the South Moravian Region to the EU, became a member of the management board of the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN). South Moravia itself is still the only Czech region that is a member of ERRIN. 

Grolich seems optimistic about the region’s chances of becoming a real global innovation hub. “I hope this will pay off in a few years,” he said.

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