Today, the European Commission is launching a call for expressions of interest for thematic partnerships to pilot interregional innovation projects that support the response and recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. The aim of the call is to help regions catch the opportunities emerging from the crisis, develop resilience and build on green and digital transformation for the recovery of the most affected sectors, such as health and tourism.
Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, said: “Based on previous successful similar pilot actions to boost innovation and competitiveness at regional level, the launch of this call is yet another example of EU capacity and willingness to support local economies in such difficult time. The focus on health, tourism, sustainability and digitalisation is perfectly in line with Commission’s priorities and the needed response to counterattack the effects of the coronavirus crisis.”
Under this call, the European Commission seeks expressions of interest from transnational partnerships of regional authorities and other stakeholders as universities, research centres, clusters and SMEs willing to pilot interregional innovation partnerships aimed at facilitating the commercialisation and scale-up of interregional innovation projects and to incentivise business investment.
The call will support interregional partnerships in four thematic areas. First, the partnership for the development of the medical value chain is about working on medical products or devices to tackle the coronavirus at any level of the value chain, i.e. from conception to distribution. Second, the partnership on the safety and management of medical waste is linked to the topic of circular economy in the field of health. The third partnership is about projects that encourage sustainable and digital tourism. The fourth partnership focuses on developing hydrogen technologies in carbon-intensive regions, for instancethrough the conversion of existing coal mines, smelters or production facilities.
By the end of 2021, each selected partnership should have defined a set of actions to accelerate innovation uptake, commercialisation and scale-up of interregional investment projects. The selected partnerships should have also analysed the financial and legal obstacles to commercialisation and scale-up, and developed cooperation with other EU programmes and initiatives. In addition, the selected actions will have to collaborate with established partnerships under other areas that are covered by the three Thematic Smart Specialisation Platforms.
On 18 July 2017, the European Commission adopted the Communication “Strengthening innovation in Europe’s regions: towards resilient, inclusive and sustainable territorial growth strategies” (COM(2017)376 final). In this context, the pilot action on interregional innovation projects was proposed.
Following the Commission call for expression of interest, eight interregional partnerships* were selected in late 2017, with one or several coordinating regions in the lead. An additional partnership on batteries was introduced at a later stage.
The nine partnerships got the support from Commission’s special teams, involving experts from several thematic departments. The experts provided advice on how to best combine different EU funds to finance innovation projects and how to make the business and investment plan bankable.
In addition to this hands-on support from the Commission, each partnership could benefit from external advisory service up to a value of €100,000 via European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for demonstration, scale-up and commercialisation activities.
Given this positive experience, the Commission decided to use the same line to stimulate regions joining forces to react to the coronavirus pandemic.
The call will be open for 6 weeks, i.e. until 7 September 2020 (23h00 – Brussels time). The overall budget is €400,000 from the European Regional Development Fund to develop four thematic partnerships (up to €100,000 per partnership).
* Partnerships on 3D printing; bio-economy; cybersecurity; circular economy in the manufacturing sector; high-tech farming; marine renewable energy; sustainable buildings, traceability and big data in agri-food.An additional partnership on advanced materials for batteries was introduced later.