Cross-border Regions of Spain and Portugal explore collaborations to strengthen and connect their mutual industrial and innovation ecosystems towards sustainability

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Becoming the first ever carbon neutral continent or mainstreaming the digital transition to deliver smart grids and mobility solutions are key EU priorities. They are also critical challenges for the economic, social and environmental sustainability of EU local territories.

The New European Innovation Agenda proposes a better integration of European and national initiatives to address these objectives. It also suggests strengthening the interconnection of regional and local innovation ecosystems to fully exploit the respective capacities and to support systemic transformation towards sustainability.

From left to right: Pablo Cortés Achedad (Secretario General de Universidad, Investigación e Innovación, Junta de Andalucía, Spain), Ana Abrunhosa (Minister of Territorial Cohesion, Portugal), Mikel Landabaso (Director, Innovation & Growth, JRC), Isabel Ferreira (Secretary of State for the Development of Inland Regions, Portugal)

The way forward needs to be systemic to face the complexity of the problems; to overcome policy fragmentation and the rigid limits of administrative departments; to improve coordination among government layers; to use the historical public investment in innovation (Next Generation EU, the new Structural Funds, Horizon Europe, and national investment in Research and Innovation), to prepare our industry and society to the new economy which is green, digital and resilient. This is exactly what is being proposed by the Partnerships for Regional Innovation approach (PRI) of the New European Innovation Agenda.

In this context, Portuguese Minister for Territorial Cohesion, Ana Abrunhosa, together with research and innovation authorities from eight Portuguese and Spanish border regions met in Seville with the innovation policy research team of the Joint Research Centre (JRC). They explored how to evaluate innovation policies, how to improve the process of discovery of regional opportunities and how to enhance interregional cooperation in areas of common interest building on a toolbox of policy solutions: the PRI Playbook.    

For example, the mining industry of raw materials across the Spanish and Portuguese border is a unique asset that is critical to achieving EU strategic autonomy. It is also an essential element of the value chain of highly valuable industrial and technological sectors such as digital. Connecting the dots between the interrelated European industrial and innovation ecosystems may require multi-level government and administrative collaboration, education and employment policies or the combination of different funds. Such toolbox of policy solutions, that go beyond innovation policies, is currently being prototyped and co-created by the JRC and the Committee of the Regions through a pilot action on Partnerships for Regional Innovation. PRI is part of the NEIA and aims to prepare the ground to co-fund actions in 2023, beginning 2024, for which a key success factor will be the identification by the regions of areas of similar specialisation and complementary capabilities.
JRC researchers also shared with regional managing authorities their work related to EU policy evaluation  as well as presented the new JRC public pilot version of the Territorial Economic Data viewer (TEDv), a territorial data-monitoring tool on different R&I funds to support policy cycle.