Sixty EU Regions Get Ready for Joint Energy Projects

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Sixty EU regions which have set energy as a priority in their Smart Specialisation Strategies will now move to the practical phase – implementing pilot activities and defining business and funding plans.

Since 2015, sixty regions have been working through the Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy (S3PEnergy). This European Commission platform facilitates partnerships between EU regions that plan investments in energy innovation and assists them to use funding more effectively. Through collaboration of several Commission services, Energy Union, cohesion and innovation policies help contribute to local, regional, national and European efforts in the energy domain.

Five interregional partnerships on energy have been created so far in the domains of bio-energy, solar energy, marine renewable energy, smart grids and sustainable buildings.


Smart partnerships on energy

Fifty five entities from 45 regions and Member States, led by Andalucia (ES) and North Great Plain (HU) have engaged in the Sustainable Buildings partnership.

They have identified key opportunities for mutual collaboration in the fields of eco-construction, bioclimatism, insulation and integration of renewable energy in the buildings among others.  

The Lapland region (Finland) and Castilla y León (Spain) lead the Bio-energy partnership.

Formed by 25 regions and Member States, this interregional group is focusing on advancing forestry and agriculture power plants, as well as knowledge transfer on feedstock, installations and energy consumption among other matters.

Solar energy unites nine regions, under the Extremadura (ES) leadership, that work not only on research and development of new technologies but also on the promotion of electricity exports from solar technologies from Southern to Central and Northern European countries.

Large-scale deployment (market and industrialisation of solutions) is one of the key objectives of ten members of the Smart Grid partnership, led by Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (FR) and Basque Country (ES).

Marine renewable energy is at the core of the partnership of 16 regions and Member States, led by Scotland (UK) and Basque Country (ES), whose focus is identifying and solving the key industrial challenges of the sector.

High level event

During a high-level event in Brussels on 25 January  2018, key actors in the area of smart specialisation in energy presented the work done within the Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy (S3PEnergy).

Those actors included high-level representatives from the five partnerships, from services of the European Commission supporting this interregional collaboration –  Energy, Regional and Urban policy, Research and Innovation and the Joint Research Centre – and from other European bodies.

Dedicated to promoting clean energy through innovations in regions, and the role of Smart Specialisation, participants discussed the lessons learnt from interregional collaboration, as well as the challenges and avenues for action in the future.

Universities, regions, Commission services, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament joined the discussion on how to improve their contribution and their mutual collaboration to support the key European policies that interplay here, i.e. Energy Union and climate change, Innovation Union and regional policy.

Methodology and next steps

Smart Specialisation partnerships followed a methodology inspired in the so-called Vanguard initiative, a group of innovative regions committed to boost growth and industrial renewal based on their smart specialisation priorities.

First, they focused on learning and connecting and produced a work plan based on their common domains of specialisation, their complementary priorities, needs and assets, i.e. their existing industrial and research capacities in each region.

The S3PEnergy has been instrumental in this pro-active match-making through research and analysis. It provided a regional mapping of energy interests (interactive map) including an overview of core stakeholders and key areas for cooperation.

Partnerships will now focus on demonstration (implementation of pilot activities with monitoring and evaluation systems) and scaling-up (definition of business and funding plan).

The Platform will help to identify and combine EU funds to finance projects, in line with the EU's Energy Union strategy and the EU Plan in strategic investments in jobs and growth.

Furthermore, two of the partnerships, the Sustainable Building and the Marine renewable energy partnerships, were recently selected to receive tailored support under a new EU-funded pilot action for interregional innovation. 

Linking to the Strategic Energy Technology Plan

The S3P Energy will maintain and strengthen linkages with the Strategic Energy Technology Plan. Within that framework, the European Commission, European countries and stakeholders from research and industry are currently finalising implementation plans addressing the most important low carbon technologies.

Those plans identify concrete R&I activities that can be implemented through transnational cooperation by any interested actors. Regions could be potential partners or contributors for those projects.

The implementation plans onsolar energy and concentrated solar power, ocean energy, energy efficiency in building including heating and cooling solutions, renewable fuels and bioenergy and smart, resilient and secure energy system (including smart grids).

Those areas are relevant for the partnerships under Smart Specialisation and synergies should be ensured.

A recent JRC report monitored the progress made by EU Member States in two key indicators of the Integrated Strategic Energy Technology Plan Communication: the level of investment in R&I (both public and private) and trends in patents.


Introduced as a prerequisite to ensure effective Cohesion Policy spending in research and innovation, smart specialisation has required all regions to design investment strategies based on their own competitive assets.

To support regional and national authorities on how to develop and implement their smart specialisation strategies, the European Commission set up the Smart Specialisation Platform (S3Platform).

It facilitates mutual learning, data gathering, analysis, and networking opportunities for around 180 EU regions and 20 national governments.

Following the development of more than 120 regional and national research and innovation strategies, the S3Platform created Thematic Platforms to offer hands-on support and foster interregional partnerships based on matching smart specialisation priorities.

Two thirds of Member States and regions who designed a Smart Specialisation Strategy set energy as a priority. In 2015, the Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy (S3PEnergy) was launched to support the effective uptake of the Cohesion Policy funds for energy and to support the implementation of the smart specialisation strategies.

S3PEnergy benefits from joint contributions from DG Energy, DG Regional and Urban policy and DG Joint Research Centre. 

The project has been centred in providing expertise and methodological support to all the parties engaged in energy and innovation, and in promoting mutual transnational learning activities.