How international conferences in Latvia can benefit from the high vibes of the innovation culture

Companies or organizations that want to secure their future economic success have to leave 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 curate practical examples and suggestions for new content and knowledge exchange from the treasure trove of great ideas in Latvia.

Foto: LIAA incubator Valmiera

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.
  2. Extensive support for start-ups and numerous practical examples of the resulting successful business ideas.
  3. A pronounced digital economy and new services for conferences that always offer new ideas for formats and application solutions.

Regarding 1)

The provision of a practical support culture on the part of the government and the municipalities helps simplify the creation of an innovative ecosystem. This can be seen in the example of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA), whose main task 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 – and currently maintains 15 business incubators across Latvia and a 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. Elements of mentoring, counselling, start-up assistance and more help overcoming obstacles in the starter careers.

Idea No.1 for practical implementation

Conference organizers can tap into this experience and the broad network of policy-making to learn from and develop their own support culture.

Regarding 2)

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 organizations, and has developed a distinguishing feature as an ideal location for new businesses in Latvia.

The municipality of Valmieras concentrates among other on supporting entrepreneurs and the relocation of companies with many measures. For example, tax rebates are granted 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 creativity horizon is expanded and new solutions are specifically sought that help companies and create opportunities for students and startups. The close cooperation and the regular exchange between the city, university and the business incubator therefore play a decisive role and are supported by an efficient network on a regional and national basis. The Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of course the Investment and Development Agency are also involved in optimizing state, municipal and private initiatives.

Jurgis Prieditis, head of incubator Valmiera courtesy. Foto: LIAA Valmiera

The incubator and the municipality are very interrelated. 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 is linked to the expectation of a certain turnover after a maximum of 3 years of funding. The main objective is to continuously improve the total number of successfully completed projects.

Jurgis has concluded more than 58 contracts since 2018, of which the listed 36 projects are still working on their ideas – the package of measures also provides co-working workplaces. In order to strengthen the sense of community, networking events for the start-ups and the local industry and business world are particularly important. The incubator works closely with the Augstskola University of Applied Sciences – at regular meetings it is discussed on 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 is responsible for its own community events concepts and organizes about 4 such events a year. One of the first success stories that arose from the support of the Valmiera Incubator (explanation: in operation since 2017, 3 years maximum funding period – so the first companies are now establishing themselves in the market) is a startup for wooden memory sticks.

The company, EWART WOODS, capitalizes on the importance of an important key industry in Latvia – logging and processing. They design creative prototypes of innovative products that they test in their community before going into production. 12 employees now work in the young company and are doing so very successfully. Forests cover 41% of the area of ​​the Baltic country. Working with wood is in the genes of Latvians and has been refined over the generations. Traditional skills in woodworking combined with innovative and interesting products is the goal of the young start-up, which has set itself the goal of developing functional and well-formed wood design. They have cultivated a special know-how for personalized products.

Idea No. 2 for practical implementation

Conference participants can exchange ideas with representatives of the official bodies of Valmiera and the incubator and organize visits to the incubator. Both the working environment and management, atmosphere, remote work opportunities and exchange with the startups can be very enriching and imply completely new ideas. 

Idea No. 3 for practical implementation

Conference organizers 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, if necessary, develop business relationships. 

Regarding 3)

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.