Lead representatives of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) joined European Commissioners Mariya Gabriel and Elisa Ferreira for the launch of a call for expression of interest to establish 100 Regional Innovation Valleys in Europe. The launch took place on 28 March during a high-level event gathering EU territories that participate in the Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI) pilot action. The new initiative aims to advance European innovation ecosystems and better connect innovation players across Europe, including in regions lagging behind, with co-funding from both Horizon Europe and cohesion policy. This responds to the CoR's calls to address the innovation divide and to increase the coordination between different EU instruments supporting innovation ecosystems in Europe's regions.
The Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI) pilot action – set up jointly by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and the CoR one year ago – acts as a bridge between smart specialisation and other EU policies to promote innovation-driven territorial transformation in order to tackle key societal challenges and accelerate Europe's green and digital transitions. Building on these experiences, the European Commission now intends to take a step forward by establishing up to 100 regional innovation valleys that can benefit of co-funding from the European Innovation Ecosystems part of Horizon Europe and the Interregional Innovation Investment (I3) of the European Regional Development Fund. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, confirmed that the two funding calls, with the total worth of €170 million, will be launched on 17 May.
Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, underlined that for the first time Cohesion Policy and Horizon Europe funds are working closely together to support interregional innovation and to address the existing performance gap between more and less innovative EU regions, highlighted in the 8th Cohesion Report. Ms Ferreira invited the 74 current PRI territories to make full use of this opportunity and to prepare for the upcoming calls.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), said: "The Partnerships for Regional Innovation pilot action stands out as a very positive example of collaboration between the Commission, the CoR and the regions. The CoR was instrumental in mobilising 74 territories, and now we want to use the experience gained over the last year to give the regions an opportunity to develop interconnected deep tech valleys, in accordance with the Communication of the New Innovation Agenda for Europe."
Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Mayor of Gabrovo and Chair of the CoR's Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC), said: “The Partnerships for Regional Innovation and Regional Innovation Valleys should help the participating regions address not only the broader issues of climate change and digitalisation, but also more specific regional challenges of innovation and socio-economic transition. We need to attract more private funding for research and innovation in the regions and to strengthen synergies between the EU Horizon programme and the European Regional Development Fund. The call for Regional Innovation Valleys should go hand in hand with stimulating a culture of entrepreneurship and simplifying regulations applicable to small and medium-sized enterprises."
Former CoR President Markku Markkula (FI/EPP), President of Helsinki Region and and CoR rapporteur on EU Missions, underlined that “the necessary European-wide green and digital transformations cannot be built on implementing the innovation policy as usual. Innovation is, above all, a mindset issue targeted to open collaborative discovery. Political leadership from the top-down can't create favourable conditions for innovation. The regional innovation policy must strive for transformative, system-level societal innovation in enabling and accelerating the necessary changes. I encourage all the regions to prepare for the call to become Regional Innovation Valleys".
Emil Boc (RO/EPP), Mayor of Cluj-Napoca and Chair of the CoR's Commission for Territorial Cohesion and EU Budget (COTER), highlighted that "Partnerships for Regional Innovation are one of the best instruments to bring people, territories and communities together to boost innovation and create jobs in every part of the European Union. Working better together in different ways than before, this is the very essence of the Partnership for Regional Innovation. Yesterday the European Commission launched the Index for Regional Competitiveness, which again indicates that the most innovative regions in Europe perform up to 9 times better than the least innovative ones. Innovation is key to competitiveness and cohesion and creating attractive and sustainable living conditions for our citizens."
Other CoR members speaking in the high-level event organised in the European Commission's Berlaymont building included François Decoster (FR/Renew E.), Vice-President of the Hauts-de-France Region, and Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP), Member of Dalarna Regional Council. The Dalarna region will host the next Partnerships for Regional Innovation high-level event on 31 May.
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