EU peers discuss digitalisation and technologies in light of depopulation challenges

Peer review
By Platform

In September 2020, the Policy Learning Platform organised an online peer review to assist the Regional Development Agency (IAF) of the Government of Aragon in their policy challenge. 

Aragon faces a similar challenge to many other regions in Europe – depopulation, which causes regional imbalances. The region of Aragon has experienced a negative growth in population since 1990. Therefore, IAF, the public regional development agency, reached out to the Platform to receive expert advice on how to tackle this problem. 

The solutions were sought by focusing on traditional sectors - how to promote digitalization and key enabling technologies (KET) in traditional economic sectors such as agri-food and forestry. The topics discussed were: 

  • Development of local competences and capacity for training and analysis of business models of agri-food or forestry sector digitalization, TIC, KET implementation.
  • Implementing innovation actions related to the digitalization and modernization of agri-food and forestry sectors via TIC, IoT, KET, etc.
  • Regional funding programs and EU funding for agri-food and forestry sectors supporting innovation in SMEs for digitalization and KET development in rural areas.
  • Planning new ERDF objectives and actions for 2021-2027 and development of new Smart Specialization Strategy related to agri-food and forestry. 


People attending online conference

Peers from across Europe

Alongside Luc Schermber, Rene Tonnisson and Mart Veliste, our experts for SME competitiveness, brilliant peers were invited and shared relevant experiences and policy advice:

  • Rodrigo Gomez, Head of ICT and Knowledge management department, Cesefor Foundation, Castilla y León (Spain)
  • Marino Cavallo, Head of Research Innovation and management of EU projects, City of Bologna (Italy)
  • Esteban Pelayo, Director, European Association of Development Agencies(EURADA), Brussels (Belgium)


For example, it was recommended to create clusters of activities based on the traditional sectors of the economy and try to re-design the industrial process in these sectors in a new perspective. This could be done by  promoting the link between food quality, circular economy and blockchain technologies; by implementing IoT for smart logistics and optimization of the supply chain; and to use of the public investment leverage for the modernization and digitalization of the sector and the improvement of the digital skills of employees. 

Furthermore, it was also recommended to strengthen public-private partnerships in planning and implementation of ERDF measures and to mobilise private investments in infrastructure with public funds.

Find all the detailed recommendations in the follow-up report.

Following the peer review, the host organisation started a consultation process with the other stakeholders and government departments involved in the implementation of policies in the topics included in this peer review. This consultation process has the objective of discussing all the recommendations provided by the peers and assess the possibility of drafting action plans to implement some of the recommendation provided by the peers.

The host organisation hopes to continue cooperation with the peers to go deeper and receive more information in some of the good practices and recommendations presented. The peer review process will also be used as input in the development of the new Smart Specialisation Strategy and the ERDF objectives for the next planning period of 2021-2027 in Aragon.

Are you interested in a peer review for your region? Apply here.

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