BSR S3 Ecosystem Platform project aims to influence, improve knowledge and raise discussion among regional, national and EU-level innovation policy makers and experts of the opportunities, challenges and needed capacities related to the development of inter-regional innovation cooperation based on joint strategic fields in the Baltic Sea Region.
Driving a new approach to inter-regional cooperation in the BSR
Smart specialisation (S3) is said to be the European Union’s most ambitious regional innovation policy program with the aim to boost European competitiveness. Since 2014, EU-member regions have created and implemented Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) including selection of key economic priority fields that guide the efficient use of EU Funds in the regions. These regional strategies are updated over time with the aim to correspond to the changes in regional and global innovation environment. Engagement of research, business, public sector and representatives of civil society is a key to efficient RIS3 implementation.
In the new EU programming period 2021-2027, the European Commission emphasises the role of S3 as a strategic tool in developing more effective inter-regional innovation cooperation. Among others, the post-2020 period will launch a new inter-regional innovation investment (I3) funding mechanism to boost inter-regional activities towards joint investments aiming to realise inter-regional smart specialisation. Also the new EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) action plan aims to support the development of inter-regional value chains across the strongest areas in the BSR, such as bioeconomy, circular economy, health, blue growth and digitalisation. To support this, the ERDF Managing Authorities in the BSR are currently seeking possibilities to embed EUSBSR into new mainstream structural fund programmes in the BSR.
The Baltic Sea macro-region with the EUSBSR as a supporting framework has a momentum to influence conditions enabling a place-based approach for the development of thematic innovation partnerships and inter-regional value chains for sustainable innovation performance, and as a macro-region build connections to global value chains.
Studies on value chain mapping, smart specialisation and inter-regional cooperation
As part of the Platform, three studies have been completed:
1) first-stage value chain mapping analysis of the Circular Bioeconomy in the BSR
2) an accompanying value chain mapping manual
3) Smart Specialisation in the Baltic Sea Region – Learning towards Macro-regional Specialisation
The value chain mapping report and manual describes a method for identifying relevant value chains across regions in a selected field. The report and the manual are based on pilot exercise of the first stage analysis of the BSR’s circular bioeconomy value chain, undertaken within the BSR S3 Ecosystem Platform project.
The third study is based on interviews with nine BSR regions: Central Finland, Hamburg, Helsinki-Uusimaa, Lithuania, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Päijät-Häme, Tampere Region, Trøndelag and Västerbotten. It describes their regional S3 processes, good practices and inter-regional tools and practices tested in Interreg projects.
According to the study, EU Interreg projects have been a good way to strengthen regional capacities, share and learn from other regions to support regional innovation strategy and S3 implementation. Some projects have built thematic networks (RDI2Club and BIOREGIO), some have developed and piloted methodologies to strengthen regional S3 (LARS, EmpInno) and inter-regional S3 (GoSmart BSR), while others have focused on joint S3-releated challenges and organised study visits and inter-regional innovation camps to find new perspectives and solutions to the challenges (SmartUp BSR and BSR Stars S3). There have also been projects which have adopted a strong influencing towards shaping future EU-level policies regarding thematic inter-regional cooperation (ClusterFY and S34Growth). The experiences from these projects linked with regional smart specialisation processes have provided:
1) experiences from cooperating with regions with related S3 priorities
2) various methods related to identifying partners with mutual or complementary needs and interests
3) practices that support longer-term partnership- and trust building.
Furthermore, the findings of the study indicate that the basis for the development of strategic inter-regional S3 is built on a successful stakeholder involvement process (so-called Entrepreneurial Discovery Process), good S3 governance, awareness of innovation ecosystems and sufficient flexibility to adapt to new developments at the regional level. This ability to renew is very critical especially in the post-Covid recovery context. For example companies in many regions are forced to re-evaluate their connections to global supply chains in this new context.
Innovation Camps and online workshops during spring 2021
During first half of 2021, the BSR S3 Ecosystem Platform has organised a series of webinars and Innovation Camps with the aim of reaching out to a number of regional, national and EU innovation policy makers as well as innovation practitioners to discuss the opportunities, challenges and needed capacities related to the development of inter-regional innovation cooperation. The ultimate goal of this process was to raise discussion on S3-focused inter-regional cooperation and the relevance of value chain mapping.
First workshop was organised in January with EU innovation and funding policy experts. The second workshop in February gathered regional and national innovation policy/S3 experts from across the BSR. The discussion in both workshops highlighted the need for:
– political will and motivation
– good governance related to regional S3 process and interaction with industry and other innovation stakeholders
– leadership skills, including a mind-set that allows a pioneering role, testing and risk taking
– a political and financial framework that enables resources for this work at the regional level.
These elements are needed for the building of long-term strategic innovation cooperation and partnerships that can eventually lead to joint investments. The regions have an important role in strengthening the commitment of all actors, including the business sector, to move forward with selected strategic direction with inter-regional cooperation. A crucial point is the need for more strategic planning of single projects. For example one of the core challenges in current inter-regional cooperation is the gap between demonstration and scale-up as most inter-regional projects do not reach the scale-up phase.
BSR Directors’ Network
The Platform coordinates a so-called “BSR Directors’ Network” comprising of a voluntary group of BSR regions, represented by senior regional Directors who have a key responsibility for overseeing strategic direction for innovation policy and use of EU funding in their regions.
Platform partners: Region Västerbotten (Sweden),The Baltic Institute of Finland (Finland), Aalto University (Finland), Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Finland), Hamburg Institute of International Economics (Germany), Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (Lithuania) and Trondelag County Authority (Norway), St. Petersburg State Healthcare Institution “Medical Information and Analytical Centre” (Russia). The Russian partner “State Medical Information and Analytical Centre” focuses on developing and utilising value chain mapping principles in the healthcare sector for the development of seamless healthcare services in St.Petersburg.