European & place-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. Supporting collaboration between different stakeholders – public administrations, universities, research organisations, companies, clusters and civil society – at regional level to strengthen ecosystems, as well as collaboration between ecosystems, are both essential to reach that goal.
Innovation ecosystems in context
The current multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) places increasing importance on the place-based dimension and includes several programmes and instruments that are developed around ecosystem thinking requiring the engagement of multiple stakeholders and embracing quadruple helix or quintuple helix collaboration. Digital Innovation Hubs (Digital Europe Programme), European Innovation Ecosystems Action (Horizon Europe) and Interregional Innovation Investments (ERDF), are examples of such developments. ERRIN has actively contributed to all these instruments.
Furthermore, the EU Missions have been selected as one of the main priorities of the ERRIN network and active work on them is ongoing because of their strong ecosystem approach, as ambitious time-bound targets require new collaborative models and enhance stronger collaboration among ecosystem actors. Especially the four Green Deal missions have a clear place-based dimension and propose implementation mechanisms that require multi-stakeholder collaboration. For example, the Cities Mission proposes a ‘climate city contract’ that should bring together the key stakeholders within the city as well as the levels of government – all working towards climate neutrality by 2030. The Ocean and Waters Mission proposes area-based lighthouses and demonstrators that also require new collaborative approaches.
ERRIN also follows with interest the work currently underway in the framework of the renewed ERA and the ERA Forum for Transition to put forward a coherent strategy for involving all stakeholders in strengthening Europe's research and innovation policy. In this context, a dedicated joint policy action on ERA Hubs is under development. The objective of this action is to maximise value from knowledge creation, circulation, use, by strengthening territorial cohesion, place-based growth and regional development. Ideally, ERA Hubs could support organisations – and people – who are able to bring together different stakeholders, join up public and private spheres, break existing silos – also when it comes to synergies and complementarities between funding programmes. Read ERRIN's written input for the Forum for Transition on the ERA Hubs roll-out here.
New European Innovation Agenda
On 5 July 2022, the European Commission adopted the new European Innovation Agenda that aims at positioning Europe at the forefront of the new wave of deep tech innovation through 25 dedicated actions under five flagships. One of the five flagships – the flagship three – puts an emphasis on regional innovation and will strengthen ecosystem thinking and help connect regional ecosystems across Europe. This flagship three raises several actions such as creation of 100 Regional Innovation Valleys. The Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI) Pilot, in which 47 ERRIN members are currently taking part, is another promising action mentioned that aims to strengthen regional smart specialisation strategies by expanding their scope to sustainable transition and broadening stakeholder engagement. This flagship is also expected to support Member States in fostering innovation in all regions through the integrated use of cohesion policy and Horizon Europe instruments. In this context, the focus is also placed on tackling the innovation divide, which remains a challenge for enabling the full R&I potential of Europe.
The Innovation Agenda puts a strong emphasis on “deep tech”. At the same time, many barriers to innovation are linked to bringing different sectors, disciplines – and people together. Therefore, further links should be created with EU Missions, which can be an excellent means to enhance regional innovation and implement a place-based ecosystem approach in practice.