A regional and local perspective – why place-based research and innovation ecosystems are important

To achieve and maximise the impact of EU programmes related to research and innovation, regional and local innovation ecosystems are crucial. Innovation happens in places and there are specific local conditions which make such innovation ecosystems flourish.

A wide range of stakeholders – academia, industry, the public sector, and civil society – need to be involved in collaborative projects. Innovation ecosystems bring together stakeholders from different sectors and with different skills, which will improve the sourcing of new knowledge, allow for the development of more relevant products and services, and provide space for testing of new technologies to build acceptance.

ERRIN’s expertise lies in the close collaboration with our members and in our ability to provide concrete input based on experience and expertise.

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Placed-based innovation ecosystems

Building an effective European research and innovation policy depend on strong interconnected research and innovation ecosystems embedded in regions and cities. Innovation happens in places and there are specific local conditions that enable ecosystems to flourish. ERRIN supports enhancing local and regional ecosystems and working towards achieving a less fragmented European innovation ecosystem.

European research and innovation policy and programmes


Our main focus is the EU framework programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020 and its successor Horizon Europe. However, certain aspects of research and innovation – education, uptake, scale-up, etc. – are funded by a variety of EU programmes, which means that we also work on programmes such as cohesion policy (S3 and Interregional Innovation Investment initiative), Connecting Europe Facility, Creative Europe, Digital Europe, Erasmus+, InvestEU, LIFE, Innovation Fund, Single Market.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe plays a key role in providing solutions for the environmental, social, and economic transformations needed to tackle the challenges faced by regions and cities across the Union, and as a result, it will have a profound impact on improving the lives of Europe’s citizens.

These solutions will differ across Europe depending on the regional, local, and social context. Therefore, a place-based perspective built on excellence and collaboration between a range of stakeholders is crucial to develop sustainable and impactful innovations with a wide public acceptance. Europe’s competitiveness depends on our ability to combine economic development with sustainable and inclusive solutions to our societal challenges.

To further increase the impact and efficiency of Horizon Europe funding, coordination between research and innovation agendas on a local, regional, national and European level, as well as between the public and private sector are needed. To do so, further work should be done on creating practical complementarities between S3 strategies, S3 partnerships, European Partnerships and how these link to the clusters in Horizon Europe.

Image source: European Commission

Highlighted policy documents - Horizon Europe

Addressing common challenges with ecosystem thinking

Applying an ecosystem approach

Ecosystem thinking and effective quadruple helix cooperation should be a key element in pillar 2 of Horizon Europe. Such an approach could be implemented by inserting requirements for consortia to include partners from a wider spectrum of stakeholder groups, to facilitate the involvement of the public sector and end-users. This does not necessarily mean that consortia should become larger, but that it should stimulate new partner constellations and the participation of new actors with the aim to generate new sustainable and inclusive solutions to global challenges.

Demand-driven and bottom-up

Following the logic of the mission-oriented approach, the call definitions should be flexible to allow bottom-up proposals based on the needs of – and challenges faced by – the ecosystems and their end-users. This would also mean that projects are sufficiently demand-driven to ensure further scale-up and a wider uptake of innovative solutions.

Citizen involvement

Effective quadruple helix cooperation will boost demand-driven research and innovation and increase the involvement of citizens in research and innovation projects. A reflective process should be put in place at an early stage of developing research and innovation projects to determine when and how citizens should be to enhance societal impact.

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European Innovation Ecosystems

The new European Innovation Ecosystems action (EIE) provides a great opportunity to build and strengthen ecosystems as well as support ecosystem to ecosystem collaboration, which is not currently supported anywhere else on an EU level. This will provide access to complementary skills, infrastructure, and markets. Collaborating ecosystems can also form alliances to address various challenges at both EU and regional level.

In the development of the EIE, ERRIN has underlined the importance of supporting a wide ecosystem approach rather than single innovators or one-to-one collaboration as well as to ensure that supported actions consider how they can build on and complement existing programmes and strategic partnerships. ERRIN also proposed a set of actions that could be supported where our members see the most added value:  

Strengthening collaboration between excellent ecosystems to tackle shared challenges, further excel in a specific area or enhance complementarities by building value chains

Accelerating the maturity of emerging ecosystems by connecting them with more advanced ones

Support ecosystem connectors or multipliers at a regional level

ERRIN actively engaged in the consultation process, participating in the Commission stakeholder workshop with regions, the stakeholder questionnaire, and the final stakeholder conference organised by the Commission.

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