Central Macedonia has a long experience in bottom-up strategic planning and stakeholder involvement. A series of pilot projects were designed and executed collaboratively and some of them scaled-up and funded by the Regional Operational Programme. The region concentrates a significant number of entrepreneurs, institutions and actors that can actively take part in planning and implementing innovation strategies. It has a number of excellent and well known Research facilities with a huge number of research projects, and publications, but at the same time the vast majority of enterprises are small, with limited access and links to Research, and global value chains mainly due to its socioeconomic past. That leads to moderate innovation capacity, exploitation or research outputs and finally inability to sustain competitiveness.
The development of our mindset through this extremely tough times is dual: implement crisis management tools to ease financial problems and societal challenges that have arisen due to financial crisis and capital controls, and at the same time, plan, vision and execute long term strategic actions in order to guide the region in a period characterized by a sustainable business model, lower unemployment rates, and a more coherent and prosperous society. Our Vision for the next decade could be condensed in the following: we want the Region to be one of the leading entrepreneurial and innovative regions in South Eastern Europe, based on RTDI, empowering the ecosystem, strengthening the links between the industry, research, government and society, and finally increase the development of new, or the improvement of existing tradeable products and services to be able to compete in the global markets sustainably. This will be creating value that will eventually increase income and decrease brain drain. We are trying to move from the Passive and Reactive model to a more Pre-active (prepare) but mainly to a more Proactive (create) one. Parallel to our vision and action plans we have designed a supporting mechanism called One Stop Liaison Office, with three main axes: (1) Monitoring and Evaluating RIS3 strategy and results, (2) Continued EDP and (3) Facilitating intra and interregional links and collaborations. The mechanism has already been finalized and its initiation will be starting on 20th December 2018.
One of the main goals of the region is to heighten systemic innovation capacity, improve connections between Market & Research, whilst increasing business critical mass through clusters, joint ventures both inside and outside of the area. This has been implemented through our regional Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) that focuses on four priorities: Agri-food, Tourism, Textile & Clothing and Construction Materials. The SMEs in the region need support in order to increase funding sources and investments, embody RTDI activities to upsurge competitiveness, and access global markets. Moreover they need to develop new forms of cooperation and networking at national and international level in order to build and exploit economies of scale.
The Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) tool has been used already to some extent but not well organized and coordinated. Through our One Stop Liaison Office Mechanism, we will be able to perform more systematic EDPs by interacting with stakeholders and further identifying their needs, and again perform as facilitators.
Our main strategy is the regional participation and co-creation of a number of S3 sub-platforms focusing on Agri-Food. The main goal is to collaborate with other regions in perspective of starting a partnership for co-investments in developing new products, and services that will be competing in the Global Value Chains. The region has been actively involved in three existing platforms and working hard to create a new one. These three platforms are: High tech farming, Nutritional ingredients, and Traceability and big Data and the one the region is developing focuses on Personalized Nutrition. The proposal is about creating a European partnership, to explore niches that have the potential to generate new innovative products and services that could be drivers in Global Value Chains. These niches can emerge from the cross-fertilization of traditional agro-food sectors and technologies and science such as Food technologies, ICT, etc. For instance, one of the first common pilot projects of the High Tech Farming Platform has been initiated with the participation the American Farm School in Thessaloniki. It focuses on establishing and operating a pilot farm for table grapes where technologies offered by technology providers within the consortium, will be tested in the field, and grape producers will seek technology solutions to the problems they face. Similar demonstration farms with focus on different types of crop such as rice will also be established in the near future.
The region wants to act as a bridge between external and local actors mainly to support SMEs in developing critical mass and entering global markets. The above, along with a number of other initiatives (e.g. CERN collaboration) represent a way to help the local ecosystem to create new links with international stakeholders, and to help regional actor, entering new markets and improve their social, cultural and economic activities, through diversification.