Commission takes step towards 100 regional innovation valleys

News article |

At the ‘Partnerships for Regional Innovation -- From playbook to implementation’ conference, the Commission has launched a call for expression of interest for Regional Innovation Valleys to advance European innovation ecosystems and better connect innovation players across Europe, including in regions lagging behind; address pressing societal challenges; and foster stronger cohesion.

As a flagship initiative under the New European Innovation Agenda, the Regional Innovation Valleys will focus on addressing the innovation divide by harnessing deep-tech innovation.  The aim is to identify up to 100 regions committed to better coordinating their research and innovation investments and policies and to collaborating on inter-regional innovation projects. This initiative is endorsed by the European Committee of the Regions.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “With the Regional Innovation Valleys we aim to establish a community of regions that meet local challenges and needs whilst contributing to the Union's strategic priorities. Committing to become a Regional Innovation Valley means building resilience in the face of global competition. We call on regions to join forces and develop a robust European innovation ecosystem.”

Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform, added: “Innovation is Europe's best response to the challenges of the green and digital transitions. For the first time, Cohesion Policy Funds and the Horizon Europe programme work closely together to support interregional cooperation for innovation. I am looking forward to interested EU regions applying for this important opportunity, to reduce the innovation divide and build a stronger, more cohesive and competitive Union.”

The Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI), the largest regional innovation policy lab in Europe, aim to connect and strengthen innovation ecosystems across the EU which have different performance levels.

The conference 'From playbook to implementation’ gathered representatives from the 74 territories who volunteered to co-develop a hands-on approach to turn innovation policy science into practice. Commissioner Gabriel, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira and European Committee of the Regions, Vice-President Markku Markkula, opened the conference “From playbook to implementation” and gave the stage to the scientific underpinnings that are inspiring the interregional cooperation behind Partnerships for Regional Innovation.

The initiative Partnerships for Regional Innovation was launched by the Commission and the European Committee of the Regions in 2022 to help address the New European Innovation agenda ambition to connect and strengthen innovation ecosystems of different performance level to exploit complementary strengths. It builds on the smart specialisation (S3) experience to direct local and regional innovation efforts towards addressing pressing challenges such as fossil fuels reliance, food security or the digital transformation.

Fueled by a new publication by PRI scientific committee (The Square: Putting place-based innovation policy for sustainability at the centre of policy making), leading innovation policy experts, and EU regional and national political leaders are discussing operational ways to mobilise and coordinate all levels of government, exploit synergies across funds and serve local needs while contributing to common goals.

These discussions are informing the criteria to identify and constitute candidate networks of regions of similar specialisation and complementary capabilities as a factor of success for two upcoming calls for proposals on 17 May 2023 under the European Innovation Ecosystems (EIE) part of Horizon Europe, and the Interregional Innovative Investments (I3) of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). With a focus on addressing the innovation divide, a total of €170 million is allocated, €100 million and €70 million respectively.

The New European Innovation Agenda aims to position Europe at the forefront of the new wave of deep-tech innovation and start-ups. It will help Europe to develop new technologies to address the most pressing societal challenges, and to bring them on the market.