Transregional cooperation Transregional cooperation

Good practice / The Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy

The Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA, France) has put in place the Flexgrid programme in line with its Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) to respond to the energy transition challenges through the development of smart grids technologies and services. The programme is based on a portfolio of more than 50 projects focusing on a set of energy challenges that strengthen the region's energy flexibility. It was developed by local and regional authorities, research bodies, clusters and industries (more than 300 companies, including innovative SMEs), and is steered and coordinated by the regional energy cluster (Capenergies) on behalf of the regional authority.

Identifying needs, selecting projects, securing funding, and coordinating the whole programme represented a real challenge as it requires a complex implementation strategy. One key element of the success factor is the structuring of the ecosystem at regional level. Flexgrid covers the entire value chain and gathers all types of regional smart grids stakeholders under one single programme. Several committees are setup to implement and coordinate the programme: a strategic committee, an operational one, a coordination committee, and three local ones. In addition, a steering committee is established for each single project of the programme. They all report to the operational committee on a regular basis. Thus, the smart grids / energy field represents a strategic domain of specialisation in PACA, while developing and benefiting from the region's critical mass of knowledge and economic activity in the field.

The results achieved so far are both organizational and strategic: calls for projects have been launched in order to identify local projects to be included in the Flexgrid programme, the set-up of various committees has contributed to an increased coordination and involvement among actors into one partnership, and the provision of the initial budget has attracted additional public and private investors towards the synergetic use of several funds. Flexgrid will mobilize more than €150 million of investment from public and private partners (68 % from local and regional investors). The funding sources come from private partners, local public authorities, European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF TO1 for research and innovation and TO4 for network infrastructure with 8 M€ specifically dedicated to smart grids projects), or other national (ADEME, PIA) or European (Horizon 2020, Urban Innovative Actions, etc.) funding opportunities.

In addition, the solutions encountered contribute greatly to fostering innovation and supporting economic activity. Each project targets specific objectives at local level, which will provide new solutions for increased energy supply security and flexibility: photovoltaic self-production and self-consumption, solutions for high energy consumption companies, synergies between renewable energies, charging and discharging management for electric vehicles, territorial energy optimization and territorial flexibilities. This will allow for the production of 1180 MW of renewable energy and 230 MW for heating and cooling networks. It should lead to the creation of approximately 6,200 jobs.

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S3P Energy smart cases


The food-processing industry is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the EU and employs about 4.5 million people, of which more than 48% work in SMEs1. The Partnership on Smart Sensors 4 Agri-Food was created in April 2017 to foster the digitalisation of the agri-food industry and thus the transition towards Industry 4.0. The aims are to set-up a platform facilitating the access to and implementation of smart electronic systems in the agri-food industry and enabling the transition of the agri-food industry towards Big Data and the Internet of Things. The Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food partnership is at the cross-road between the Thematic Platform for Agri-food and Industrial Modernisation. Recently, interactions between the "Smart Sensor 4 Agri-food" partnership and the "Photonics" partnership registered under the Industrial Modernisation Platform have been promoted.

Led by Flanders' FOOD the cluster for the agri-food industry in Flanders and co-led by Wagralim Wallonia's agri-food cluster, the partnership gathers a total of 20 agri-food, nano-electronic and ICT cluster organisations and relevant research and technology organisations (RTOs). Their participation is supported by regional or national authorities, with the participation of 13 EU regions and 2 EU countries. Following a bottom-up approach, the partnership is driven by the common interests of stakeholders in that field.

The Smart Specialisation framework has facilitated the identification of partners and their key strengths as well as the potential for cross-sectoral and cross-regional investments. The partnership has followed a gradual and steady structure-building process. It has received letters of support from the respective regional authorities; some regions - such as Flanders and Brittany - see it as a real opportunity to consolidate the internationalisation of their economy within the S3 framework. Moreover, the partnership has received support from the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) to draft the scoping note2, hence mapping partners' domains of expertise and proposing a roadmap for the future development of the S3 partnership. In addition, the partnership has received two types of funding that contribute to the elaboration and consolidation of its activities. On the one hand, 8 members of the partnership - gathering food and electronic/ICT cluster organisations and related RTO’s - are participating to a two-year COSME project entitled Connsensys that started in November 2018. With a budget of about 467,000 € and an estimated grant of 320,000€, the project intends to i) develop a cluster partnership agreement, including a partnership strategy and implementation roadmap in the thematic area of  industry 4.0 for the agri-food industry; ii) establish an interregional network of living labs and organise study visits; iii) set-up interregional demo cases and elaborate generic business models; and iv) create awareness towards the agri-food industry and build a strong cross-sectoral and cross-border community.

Additionally, the partnership received a grant of about 5 million euros for the S3FOOD INNOSUP project that started in May 2019 and will run for three years. 12 of the Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food regions are involved via the clusters. The COSME project, Connsensys is a more strategic project where the vision and implementation roadmap will be defined and a network of shared, open access living labs will be created. Through the S3FOOD project, the partnership will roll-out this strategy by consolidating current interregional industrial value chains and developing new cross-sectoral initiatives. It also entails the provision of adequate training and support to stakeholders in relation to data collection, data analytics / valorisation and management to address the challenges and needs of agri-food SME’s in relation to their transition towards industry 4.0. The SMEs will engage in cross border collaborations and can apply for vouchers to undertake feasibility studies, implementation and/or demonstration projects related to their industry 4.0 transition.

The partnership is dynamic and fast-growing. It benefits from in-house knowledge, a strong network of partners, a professional attitude as well as the ability to address societal and technological needs. At this point the partnership is establishing a dynamic governance structure and some members have shown their commitment to reinforce the network, share and exchange knowledge in view of joint investments.

Through the project proposals and intensive discussions a solid trust-based relationship has emerged among partners. Moreover, collaboration in both projects further supports and strengthens the partnership. To guarantee its sustainability in the long run, the partnership needs to further share responsibilities among partners (application for grants, animation of a website, organisation of meetings, etc.) and ensure cross fertilisation with companies from other sectors at international level.


Further information:

Good practice / The Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy

The City of Helsinki and City of Vantaa located in the Helsinki-Uusimaa Region (Finland) aims to become carbon neutral respectively by 2035 and by 2050. In line with the regional council's Smart specialisation strategy (S3), the Climate street project has facilitated cost-effective investment in solar power and has served a wide range of territorial actors.

The implementation's success can be seen at three levels. First, having a user-orientated approach has enabled the involvement of all stakeholders in the project - including the civil society, businesses, research institutions and the public authority – as well as the production of local public good. When planning how to curb the region's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), actors' requirements were considered with attention so that all members of the quadruple helix could benefit, especially SMEs with little resources, favouring easy turnkey solutions. Service design was deployed to learn the needs of the local entrepreneurs and residents and find solutions that, at the same time, benefit them and reduce GHG-emissions.

Second, energy consumption and GHG emissions were reduced within the territory covered by the project. On average, the carbon footprint was reduced by 12% and is expected to reduce even more when the energy efficiency plans are executed. Besides, the first solar panels[1] were implemented by a housing company in the city centre of Helsinki, with an annual production capacity of 6 500 kWh.

Third, the project has benefited housing companies and a wide range of businesses:

- 10 local businesses developed climate smart services and products;       
- 10 businesses tested the efficiency of their product and services via Climate Streets;     
- 10 businesses and 17 housing companies were given energy efficiency guidance.          Furthermore, innovative devices that measure or reduce energy consumption were tested and are being developed further.

The project was implemented through diverse complementary actions that reached all targeted audiences with the direct involvement of the users. A housing company called the Chairpersons Club acted as mediator to support firms' decision-making process and put in place a wide range of incentives. Free solar surveys were offered to the housing companies and other properties to find out the profitability of a solar panel investment[2]. The survey reports include economic calculations, a ready-made form for tendering, installation and dimensioning suggestions. Moreover, workshops were put in place to promote the development of climate smart business[3] with local entrepreneurs. With reference to residents, they were given energy efficiency guidance with a personal climate trainer. A Smart Gadgets event was also organised to present innovative devices that measure carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption in households.

Considering its high impact potential, the Climate Street project has developed a free-access tool kit so that its sustainable model can be used by other interested territories.


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S3P Energy smart cases

[1] As there is no solar panel production in Finland , they were purchased by a Finnish company (Solarvoima) to a German one (Blue Cells ) and the panels were produced in Korea.

[2] One company used ESCO-financing for energy efficiency improvement.

[3] Examples of climate smart business include energy efficient lightning in business premises, planning and executing more sustainable food services in local restaurants, reducing waste food in grocery stores, collecting and using space efficiency data to increase the usage of the build environment.

Led by the region of Andalusia, the goal of the Traceability and Big data (TBD) partnership – operating under the Smart Specialisation Platform on Agri-Food is to encourage the creation of an ecosystem to support innovation and digitization of the agri-food sector in Europe. The objective of TBD thematic partnership is to encourage, motivate and facilitate the incorporation of the necessary digital technologies in agri-food sector value chains to make progress towards digital economy by developing new business models and market opportunities. The newly created innovation ecosystem involves regional authorities from more than 18 regions in 9 countries, 4 regional clusters both in the ICT and agri-food sectors, knowledge organisations and consumers associations. The partnership is focusing on four working areas of the value chains: Lifecycles”, “Smart monitoring & competitiveness", “Consumer experience and operators inclusion in decision-making processes”. "Cross-cutting topics include open data, interoperability, data governance and information security".

What are the benefits so far?

Since its creation at 2016 the development of the Thematic Partnership on TBD has been following the methodological process Learn -> Connect -> Demonstrate -> Commercialise. Even though it is too early to estimate the possible impact and tangible outcomes of the overall work in economic results, we can already identify important benefits of this interregional collaboration around the selected theme such as:

  • It has positioned a strategic issue for the Agri-food sector in Europe
  • It has mobilised 19 regions at European level
  • It has launched a powerful interregional cooperation network where several actors pull together resources to make progress in related smart specialisation strategies
  • It has mobilised a support ecosystem in the domain of traceability and big data in the agri-food sector at a regional level in each of the participating and associated regions

Governance setting to make an impact

The partnership has to face the challenge of efficient collaboration between stakeholders of the quadruple helix including 18 partner regions. In order to achieve their goals in the selected four distinct working areas, the leading and co-leading regions have defined and are implementing a well-structured Governance and Management Framework that regulates decision making and operation of the partnership, as well as the roles and responsibilities of partners. Each one of the selected topics of interest (working area) becomes a "sub-partnership" under the leadership of the defined co-leading regions that will work closely with the interested participant regions to produce a Working Plan for each working area.

The selected governance model has already provided a number of benefits in the development of the dynamics of the partnership such as:

  • Better focusing of regions to selected sub-areas of the Traceability and Big Data selected theme according their interests and strong regional capabilities
  • More regions are actively participating in leading or co-leading roles taking responsibilities and initiatives in producing results
  • Multiplier effect: each one of the four "sub-partnerships" are working in the definition of their own scoping note with objectives, framework and challenges and the identification of joint pilots (objectives, needs, funding and resources)
  • Regional innovation eco-systems are developing around each one of the defined "sub-partnerships"
  • Important horizontal issues of the partnership are defined and handled effectively in the level of leading & co-leading regions of the global partnership. These include: overall governance and coordination, strategic connectivity in EU level, capacity building-training-mentoring, communication and dissemination etc.

More information

S3 Platform - Traceability and Big Data Partnership

The Smart specialisation platform (S3P) supports interregional partnerships by promoting regions' complementary competences, infrastructure sharing, and the development of joint investment projects, along shared RIS3 priorities. In this regard, in September 2017, a partnership on digitalisation and safety for tourism was launched under the Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation.

The newly established partnership allies the interests of more developed as well as less developed territories and favours the exchange of experience and knowledge between partners. It is constituted by 1 country and 7 regions, i.e. Slovenia, the regions of Lapland (Finland), Andalusia, Castile and León, Catalonia, Valencia (Spain), Lazio and Tuscany (Italy) and is supported by the Network of European regions for sustainable and competitive tourism (NECSTouR). Thanks to its cross-sectoral nature, - notably in the realm of sport, culture, well-being, local food production – it holds great promise towards strengthening regions' inclusion in value chains.

On account of its economic and employment potential[1], Tourism often appears as a key S3 priority domain. The partnership seeks to enable stakeholders to better identify and respond to the needs of businesses in the tourism sector, notably addressing under-served needs of small and micro-sized companies. At the current stage, the partnership considers two joint investment projects: the creation of an "Interregional tourism data centre" as well as the "Tourism of tomorrow Lab" that will mutually reinforce each other. The former intends, inter alia, to collect and analyse data that can help companies boost their competitiveness. The Lab, on the other hand, will bring together stakeholders from businesses, universities and governments and play the role of a one stop shop to facilitate the integration of digital capabilities within tourism businesses and provide training activities.

More information

S3 Platform - Tourism Partnership


[1] In 2014, 2.3 million enterprises belonged to the tourism industries and employed an estimated 12.3 million persons within the EU ;

Good practice / The Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy

Launched in April 2016 by the Brittany Region, the SMILE project acts as an industrial catalyst for energy transition and network upgrading. Thanks to the development of a series of pilot projects deploying and testing innovative smart grids technologies over a large and densely populated area (27 133 km2 – 3,4 M population), the scheme offers innovative market solutions, and will provide concrete examples of business models validation, regulatory innovations, awareness raising and mobilization of prosumers in the smart grids field.

This ambitious project takes into account the fragile energy situation of Brittany, mainly due to a very low domestic production of electricity, and the weakness of the supplying network with a risk of total blackout during severe winters. Another important challenge that the region faces is related to the democratization and decentralisation of the energy systems. These processes entail great changes at many levels, from the regulatory framework to the market as well as the acceptability by the final users. It also implies the involvement of different policy and decision-making levels, including the local level.

To ensure adequate project governance and operate with flexibility and responsiveness, a non-profit umbrella structure was set up. The association is composed of one hundred and sixty members from both public and private organizations and is co-chaired by the French Regions of Bretagne and Pays de la Loire. The governance is also supported by the chambers of commerce of both regions, two competitiveness clusters as well as representatives of local authorities, large companies and SMEs, universities and financial institutions. Moreover, the SMILE Smart grids association can count on the support of three groups of experts: a technical and scientific group composed of leading research centres, a second group working on financial instruments and a third one composed of representatives from different social and economic stakeholders as well as civil society (development agencies, consumer associations…). The groups' dynamic draws on tried and tested cooperation between the two regions and benefits from the complementary characteristics and assets of its diversified territory. It is also aided by a vibrant industrial and economic ecosystem centred on smart grids.

The most successful element of the SMILE project is the involvement of all stakeholders, especially consumers, who need to understand the interest and advantages - both social and economic - of smart grids. In this context, public acceptability relates to data management and privacy, which are at the core of smart grids development. Without social acceptance, existing technological solutions cannot be validated and go through a process of market uptake.

The Project is fulfilling a wide range of goals, including spurring innovation, combating climate change, and fuelling community engagement. Here are some of the achievements that can be highlighted so far:

  • Four sub-projects were approved for funding in July 2017 that responded to the following criteria:
    i) partnership-based; ii) demonstrating mature technologies; iii) energy data exchanges; iv) viable economic model and with sound legal, technical, financial and territorial components).
  • A Cyber secured energy data platform (PRIDE)
  • A large scale “collective self-consumption” project (RennesGrids)
  • An Energetic performance and competitiveness tools for firms (ATL-EN-TIC)
  • A Smart island, supplied entirely by tidal energy (Ouessant)
  • 3 Transmission / Distribution System Operator projects - Twelve local authorities involved (urban / peri-urban / rural)
  • About 30 projects approved with a first phase in November 2017

Future perspectives:

  • 12 more local governments to be involved (urban / suburban / rural)
  • Environmental and socio-economic analysis to be carried out and shared among stakeholders and at national level.


More information

S3 Platform - S3P Energy smart cases


Good practice / The Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy

The Sustainable Construction Programme (PICSA) is being developed by the Regional Government of Andalusia as part of the region's Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) priorities. The programme was put in place to tackle two important issues facing the region. Firstly, the region had experienced major difficulties in the construction sector following the 2007 financial crisis, with a substantial drop of its GDP and employment share. Secondly, energy efficiency was detected as an S3 priority, since buildings are one of the main energy consumers in Andalusia. Prior to the launch of the programme, an estimated 2 million buildings required significant energy-related improvements.

Since its inception in 2014, the programme has had three main lines of work: a) a Development Plan for the Sustainable Construction and Rehabilitation of Andalusia; b) an incentive scheme led by the Andalusian Energy Agency involving 8.000 collaborating companies in the management process (mostly SMEs); and c) a financing line through revolving funds for companies.

PICSA's Development Plan for the Sustainable Construction and Rehabilitation of Andalusia has followed the S3 methodology to identify 90 measures and lines of work to create and consolidate a new model in the construction sector. This process involved the creation of the “Sustainable Construction Roundtable”, a participative process which brought together more than 70 experts from different disciplines to pool their knowledge and experience around six different themes related to construction: competitiveness, supply and demand, efficiency and renewable energy, innovation, employment and legislation.

In its initial phase (2014-2015), the incentive scheme counted 164 million euros and required a very low level of investment from participants (400 euros) to encourage the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. The PICSA programme is now endowed with 529 million euros budget from the Andalusian Regional Government and EU budgets to use by 2020. Notably, a considerable part of these funds originate from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) allocated to Thematic Objective 1 (research and innovation) and Thematic Objective 4 (low carbon economy) as well as from Andalusian regional funds.

The PICSA programme's concept has undergone several reviews to overcome possible shortcomings in its implementation. Following the first phase of implementation, an evaluation process was carried out and a series of lessons drawn from the analysis were taken into account in the design of the new incentive scheme launched in 2016. The main areas for improvement highlighted were:

  • Improving the training of collaborating companies regarding the documentation requirements for the justification of expenditure;
  • Carrying out pre and post analysis of the energy impact of actions undertaken through requiring pre and post certificates;
  • Facilitating financing tools; and
  • Facilitating the verification process of expenditure.

PICSA is considered as an interesting example as it is addressing the region's construction sector deficiencies. The design of a catalogue of energy improvement measures allows potential beneficiaries to know, from the start, what actions can be carried out to save energy; and the design of a simplified and 100% computerised procedure is another element of success. Different milestones can be outlined:

  • Economic recovery of the construction sector: 36,419 actions resulting from PICSA implementation, 242 million euros of investment and 8,247 collaborating partner companies.
  • Generation and maintenance of employment: 20,000 direct jobs created in the implementation and management of PICSA actions (mostly in the design and installation of sustainable construction solutions), more than 60% of companies have generated new job positions, 22% of collaborating companies formed working relationships with other companies participating in the programme and 43% of collaborating companies - from within and also form outside Andalusia - carry out other types of actions different to those included in PICSA.
  • Energy efficiency improvements: 36,322 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe)/year of energy saved through programme implementation and 85,964 of tones of CO2 savings.
  • Reduction of the energy bill: more than 280 million euros saved by different groups of energy consumers.
  • Focus on energy poverty alleviation: almost 23% of the incentives used to improve the housing quality of over 7,000 low income families.
  • The programme received the 2015 REGIOSTARS award by the European Commission under the sustainable growth category. Building on its early success, in 2016 the region of Andalusia emerged as the leader of the Sustainable Buildings partnership within the framework of the Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy (S3PEnergy) that gathers more than 55 stakeholders from a wide range of European regions and member states. Within the partnership, it is also leading a pilot project for the development of a "Smart Campus".


More information

S3 Platform website

About the partnership

In the context of the Thematic Smart Specialisation Platform on Agri-food, the Region of Tuscany has initiated in June 2016 the partnership on High Technology Farming. Several other EU regions and countries, among them South Holland, North-East Romania and Estonia, have joined the initiative since its inception. In October 2017, the Partnership was integrated in DG REGIO's Smart Pilot scheme that supports interregional cooperation for innovative projects. In June 2018, it comprised 23 EU regions and one EU country. The partnership also counts with the participation of over 80 universities or research centres, 163 companies and 160 end-users' representatives in different countries.

The main objective of the partnership is to develop joint activities for accelerating the adoption of high and new technologies that can improve the performance of farming practices and farm management. Specific objectives are: adoption of advanced agri-technologies in small and family farms; new solutions for early detection of pests and diseases; improvement of livestock health and well-being. The partnership aims at improving farmers' quality of life as well as the creation of new professional skill sets required by developments in farming and in the agri-tech industry. Four specific thematic areas for collaboration are identified: (1) Horticulture, tree nursery, viticulture and fruits, (2) Livestock, (3) Arable, cereals, vegetables (outdoor), and (4) Protected cultivation.

Partners meet on a regular basis. During the last technical meeting in February 2018, the partnership discussed bottlenecks/obstacles to collaboration (mainly focused on financial instruments and governance), action plan and services/support needed. Moreover, three specific business cases were explored in depth:

  1. Technology adoption in small and family farms (led by Tuscany)
  2. Agriculture alert-system for weeds and diseases (led by Flanders)
  3. Integration of sensors to monitor and improve livestock conditions (led by North Brabant)

The experience of the lead region – Tuscany

The Region of Tuscany has promoted the partnership because it believes that shifting towards Precision Farming is of the utmost importance for its agricultural system. It seeks to enhance its position within global value chains in the area of high technology farming. It also seeks to improve administrative capacity, to create synergies with other territories, and to better focus on programmes and projects. The discussion about inter-regional shared investments strengthens the networking among innovation stakeholders. At the same time, inter-regional planning and road-mapping enhance opportunities for further collaboration among regions and investment pipelines.

Participation in the Thematic Smart Specialisation Platform on Agri-food has enabled an organisational change at the level of regional ministries with an improved communication on smart specialisation. It also allowed for a behavioural change among regional officers with more effective collaboration among various operational programmes in the lead region In the operational phases, it led to a better integration and complementarities in EARDF and ERDF operations, and a more focused discussion in the RIS3 regional coordination task force. The Tuscany RIS3 governance is based on two entities, an internal coordination task force and an external observation group formed by the main regional stakeholders in innovation. In both entities, joint investment opportunities provided by inter-regional cooperation are examined and discussed, then synergies within regional programmes are taken into consideration and integrated initiatives are fostered. Similarly, regional officials working in the agricultural department have had the chance to explore the specific opportunities offered by the smart specialisation strategy roadmaps and related programming and thus contribute in a more structured way to trans-regional cooperation in smart specialisation at European levels.


The experience of the partnership

A number of relevant positive outcomes have been mentioned by the partnership:

  • The partnership allowed for a better understanding of different scientific, business and innovative aspects related to high tech farming.
  • Mapping and identification of complementarities among the regions participating in the partnerships contributed to a better understanding of technologies and actors active in the field (end-users, advisors, tech providers, researchers, etc.).
  • During the scoping and mapping phases, the regions were able to collect information on capacities as well as needs of the regional actors (across the technology sectors).
  • The mapping of competencies at regional level contributed to a better involvement of stakeholders from different business sectors. In addition to business actors, a number of clusters are directly involved in the development of business cases.
  • Some partner regions have explored options for the funding and support for innovative projects with an interregional dimension (e.g. Tuscany has promoted a focus on Precision Agriculture).

In terms of working milestones, the partnership has finalised the scoping note and found an agreement on the working areas. Currently, the partnership is mapping the competencies in terms of regional capabilities and connectivity within and outside the partner regions. It is also carrying out Global Value Chain analysis and reaching out to research and business stakeholders (matching of business opportunities). Also, Governance of the Partnership and specific roles of partner regions are under discussion. Finally, the partnership is planning to include issues such as project design, business plan preparation, funding mix and monitoring and evaluation frameworks into its action plan.

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Constituted of eight countries - Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland - , the Baltic Sea macro regions share common features and challenges.

The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) builds on a long tradition of cooperation in the field of innovation among the constituent countries. Various transnational R&I collaborations and mechanisms for co-financing of activities have been tested within this framework. Nonetheless, to accelerate transnational collaboration, institutions need to align their efforts more effectively to achieve synergies. The Smart Specialisation framework has supported the Baltic Sea regions in their effort to reinforce their position and visibility within global value chains.

The Baltic Sea Region Management Authorities Network facilitates transnational collaboration related to Smart Specialisation through joint projects and a shared funding system. Their overall aim is to strengthen macro-regional cooperation across European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) projects. Since 2011, based on the initiative of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) group of national coordinators, four networks have been developed between the Managing Authorities and relevant Policy Area Coordinators,

The ERDF MA Network strives to coordinate ERDF regional/national Operational Programmes' measures and calls in order to support transnational Smart Specialisation activities addressing the priorities of the EUSBSR. Since its establishment, it has agreed to start a pilot exploring how to jointly fund a collaborative activity in S3. To identify and select relevant projects for coordinated financial support from ERDF, the MA Network works in close cooperation with BSR Policy Area Innovation and agree on themes of common interest embedded in Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3). They jointly develop concrete methods for coordination among operational programmes towards interregional Smart Specialisation projects, joint or targeted calls as well as for setting relevant selection criteria to the EUSBSR.

In 2017, the ERDF MA network initiated a pilot project called “Cleaner Growth” based on S3, aiming to develop transnational collaboration proposals to help regions implementing S3 strategies focusing on clean-tech. Out of the five project proposals, the MA network has chosen two pioneer projects under the Clean Growth umbrella:

- "Jointly Entering New Markets" seeking to widen the workforce's knowledge-base, capacity and skills to entering new challenging markets

- and "Commercializing Forest-Based Protein – Verification and Improvement of Protein Quality" aiming to convert low-value forest based residues to a valuable protein source for fish agriculture.

In 2018, project ideas in two new themes for collaboration on Blue Growth and Digitalisation were presented.

The ERDF MA-network:

  • Provides an alternative transnational collaboration structure as a complement to Interreg or other funding instruments
  • Facilitates matchmaking between transnational collaboration proposals from regional/national ESIF programmes
  • Strengthens transnational innovation collaboration in S3 to develop longer-term transnational/interregional innovation partnerships
  • Supports the scaling up of successful S3 activities enhancing the benefit and results for
    bigger impact in the BSR.


More information

Policy Area Innovation website


The Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy

Along the lines of the European Commission Communication of July 2017 on "Strengthening Innovation in Europe's Regions: Strategies for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth, interregional collaboration contributes to reshaping EU-wide value chains and moving towards a more effective regional innovation and growth policy. Through this collaboration, participating regions and Member States are to exploit complementary regional research and innovation capabilities, while building up necessary capacities, overcoming scale issues and lack of critical mass. They are also expected to improve the existing business environment by identifying barriers to innovation, new investment opportunities or skills needed.

Based on a bottom-up approach, the Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy has facilitated the creation of the Solar Energy Partnership. The Smart Specialisation Solar Energy Partnership offers interactive and participatory opportunities for interregional cooperation among regions and Member States that have selected solar energy as a priority in their Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3).

The Extremadura regional government presented its application as partnership leader at the kick-off meeting of the Solar Energy Partnership in May 2017, with the close involvement of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), in cooperation with the Directorate-Generals for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), Energy (DG ENER) and in collaboration with eight other EU regions, sharing solar energy priorities in Europe.

Since then, the JRC and the Smart Specialisation Platform in particular, has provided methodological support and guidance to the Solar Energy Partnership and the leading region of Extremadura to a great extent. The JRC has developed a manual for the scoping and mapping exercise (for stakeholders with the relevant competences) and matching (of business opportunities) phases of the partnership. Furthermore, the JRC has proposed an evaluation framework to facilitate the monitoring process and assess the partnership's progress.

Concentrated Solar Power as the Partnership Focus

Among the different thematic areas in solar energy, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) was identified by a wide range of regions as a key theme to be further developed. In this area, the objectives are two-fold, namely (i) to generate and export solar electricity from Extremadura to other Member States so that they can achieve their renewable energy targets and (ii) to provide an R&D centre dedicated to the Research and Development of the Concentrated Solar Power technology, other solar technologies and energy storage, as well as allowing their testing and implementation.

How has Smart Specialisation made a difference?

The establishment of the Solar Energy Partnership has provided Extremadura with the opportunity to make a two-fold contribution to European policy objectives: both within the territorial development field and towards the implementation of the energy union strategy.

The region of Extremadura became a member of the S3PEnergy given the region's identification of Energy as one of its core priority areas of its RIS3. The region's particular interest in solar energy resulted in the region's leadership of the Solar Energy partnership. Becoming a key member of the Solar Energy partnership enabled Extremadura to execute its RIS3 with the involvement of other regions in Europe. For example, through the partnership, Extremadura paired with its neighbouring region (Alentejo) in the development of the First Of A Kind (FOAK) plant and the solar energy research facilities. Moreover, through the partnership, Extremadura internationalised its strategy to develop solar energy technologies by involving other regions in Europe which could be potential up-takers of the renewable energy produced in their planned CSP plant. 

Furthermore, through the advancement of research in the field of solar technologies and also the ambition to make solar electricity cross-border trade projects 'bankable', the partnership is supporting the following three priorities of the energy union. Firstly, by increasing the share of solar energy in the energy mix, the partnership hopes to contribute to the decarbonisation of Europe's energy systems. Besides, strengthening cross-border transmission, electricity networks will improve the integration of the EU's electricity market. Furthermore, the value proposition to match renewable generation, where solar energy is most abundant, with European demand hubs for such energy, will also increase security of energy supply in the union. 

Next steps

The next important step involves financial issues. The region has developed a multi-level financial framework to combine municipal, regional and national financial sources, together with private investment, as well as a wide range of European funding sources including, the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, Horizon 2020, Interreg, Life as well as FI-COMPASS initiatives.

A particular example of the type of funding sourced has been the Spanish-Portugese trans-border programme "Poctep". The combined funds have been used to open a call for a study on the development of joint Extremadura-Alentejo FOAK plant project (the project comprises a CSP commercial plant and also includes a centre for CSP technology testing). The results of the study are not yet available; however, they are expected to act as a guideline for the development of an action plan for the FOAK project.


More information:

[1] European Commission (2017), Strengthening Innovation in Europe's Regions: Strategies for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth, COM(2017)376 final

Addressing new European challenges

Increasingly becoming a cornerstone of our economy and society, the Internet is being used by 315 million citizens on a daily basis over Europe, across all areas of the digital society - i.e. health, commerce, mobility, finance, energy, entertainment, etc. At the same time, cybersecurity's risks are dramatically increasing (such as cyber-espionage, cyber-crime, compromising use of personal data) while cybersecurity incidents disrupt essential services or may undermine public confidence in the digital economy and society. Business-wise, cybersecurity is a highly growing market - among the fastest growing segments of the ICT sector - and represents an economic opportunity at EU level, notably as regards to the creation of new technological products and services. At the same time, the fragmentation of the  European cybersecurity market makes it hard for local companies to compete at European and global level and results in the outflow of talent and know-how. In this context, European regions that have been active in the area of cybersecurity during the last 5 years and selected it as a priority of their Regional Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) - have decided to choose an interregional ecosystem development approach. These regions use the thematic Smart Specialisation approach to facilitate the development of cybersecurity innovation ecosystems and value chains in the EU, with the active involvement of the regional triple helices such as RTOs, training centres, service operators, incubators, SMEs and established large companies.


A partnership dedicated to boost Cybersecurity business sector

Launched in 2018, the « European Cyber Valleys interregional S3 thematic partnership and related European Commission pilot action, gathers four EU regions and one Member State: Brittany (FR) in the leading role, North Rhine Westphalia (GE), Central Finland (FI), Castilla y Leon (ES) and Estonia (EE), together with more than 35 representatives of the regional/national quadruple helices. Research centres and universities, the industry sector and public agencies have been involved from the beginning. The partnership is coordinated by Brittany with the technical support and expertise of the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO). The overall aim of the partnership is to use interregional cooperation as a means of upscaling the regional cybersecurity ecosystems and identifying solutions at EU level to overcome common challenges such as market fragmentation, investment funding, commercialisation and upskilling.

Addressing bottlenecks hammering the development of a European cybersecurity market

After completing the first phase of better identification of European cybersecurity capabilities through tailored mapping of the local ecosystems, the partnership is currently focusing on supporting local SMEs and start-ups' access to markets. The following needs have been identified in order to address key challenges that hammer the development of the European cybersecurity market:

  • Increase visibility and credibility of local solutions in Europe
  • Full access to European market: acceleration services (mentoring and training on marketing strategies)
  • Scalability: link to potential customers and networking

With the aim to bridge the gap between technology and business, the European Cyber Valleys partnership has decided to implement an Interregional accelerator programme towards a "smart commercialisation strategy". This programme follows a tailored and integrated approach to support businesses. It includes a set of scale-ups schemes, activities and services that increase their marketing skills and business and industrial development, as well as facilitate their access to finance. Some of the interregional acceleration services provided (training and mentoring) include the following:

  • Go-to-market strategy: business intelligence, business model & pricing strategy
  • Sales "soft" skills: mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs (best practices)
  • Sales "hard" tools: setting a network of re-sellers/network of sales, integrators
  • Consulting on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Network & Information Systems (NIS) Directive application in the different countries
  • Consulting on finance and tax
  • Consulting on Intellectual Property strategy
  • Improved access to finance.

So far, the « European Cyber Valleys » S3P partnership and pilot action are demonstrating that training platforms, business models or demonstrators for SMEs developed at regional level are able to provide sound European solutions.

More information: