Project summary

The IMPROVE project brings together partners from 8 regions with different background in terms of geographic area, economic development, innovation performance, more or less centralised administration system and responsibility for the management of the addressed policies, with the aim of improving the effectiveness of Structural Funds Programmes dedicated to build up R&D&I policies and support the implementation of Smart Specialisation Strategies.

The policy instruments addressed by the project are mainly Structural Funds Programmes, except for 2 Municipal Development Plans, which have the common goal of enhancing a knowledge-based regional/municipal economic growth. Thus, IMPROVE will positively contribute to regional smart, sustainable and inclusive development by strengthening the effectiveness of policies/programmes to support Research, Technological Development and Innovation in the participating regions.

IMPROVE is designed to foster the exchange of practices, experiences and knowledge and increase the capacities of partners and stakeholders involved, taking into consideration their profiles and regional interests. To this end it will address common challenges with regards to: 1) framework, policy mix and instruments for the delivery of R&D&I policies and the implementation of smart specialisation strategies 2) coordination with other Funds managed at regional/national/European level 3) transnational coordination 4) governance and 5) monitoring and evaluation.

The project will improve 8 policy instruments and ensure its long-term impact involving the managing authorities in the interregional learning process, both as partners and stakeholders. The project´s main activities are: 1) analysis of the regional state of the art regarding Structural Funds management and implementation 2) exchange of experiences by means of Peer Reviews, identification of Good Practices and Interregional Thematic Workshops and 3) transfer of knowledge and experiences to the regions.


from 1 Aug 2019
to 31 Jul 2023

Research and innovation


Lead Partner

What policy instruments does the project address?

Within the policy instrument “ERDF Operational Programme of Extremadura 2014-2020”, and under the Priority Axis 1 "Strengthening Research, Technological Development and Innovation", the focus of the project will be put on the Investment Priority 1(b).


Through this Investment Priority, and in line with the Smart Specialisation Strategy of Extremadura (RIS3), different types of operations are financed, always giving priority to the specialisation areas identified in the region, with the aim of:

- Attract and retain talent in the region.

- Encourage technology transfer, innovation and cooperation networks.

- Foster innovation.

- Invests in centres and resources for the promotion of innovation.

- Consolidate the most relevant research groups in Extremadura.


The correct implementation of these operations is of great importance for the region as the Operational Programme is the main instrument for the delivery of the R&D&i policies in the region, and often administrative burdens, lack of personnel or an isolated approach might put in risk the proper deployment of the OP.


In this sense, the improvement in the management and implementation of Structural Funds by means of the exchange of knowledge and experience with other regions/countries will increase the effectiveness of R&D&i support public policies on the basis of a better and more sustainable use of resources, better decision making processes and a more effective governance and evaluation of the actions undertaken.


Which partners are working on this?
  • Foundation FUNDECYT Science and Technology Park of Extremadura (FUNDECYT-PCTEX)

Given its regional industrial strengths (the industry plays a leading role in the regional economy with more than 17% of GDP and jobs) and in order to face economic and technological challenges, the Centre-Val de Loire (CVL) region has made industry renewal one of its top priority. To achieve this objective, CVL continuously seek to boost regional innovation capacity.


The first objective of the RIS3 is to improve the effectiveness of our regional ecosystem in order to increase the critical mass, visibility and attractiveness of the areas of specialization retained in our RIS3. We intend to better organize our ecosystem in order to support the development of our five smart specialization priorities.

More specifically, the RIS3 objective is to increase the critical mass, visibility and attractiveness of competence centres in the 5 priorities retained in the RIS3. The policy is directly linked with the CVL ERDF OP: Axis 1 Knowledge Society (TO1 directly linked with RIS3, investment priorities 1a and 1b).


The mid-term evaluation of the CVL RIS3 conducted in 2018 shown that there could be a real improvement on the coordination of the regional/national and European level funds and between ESIF and H2020 then FP9 funds. Furthermore, strengthen the steering of the RIS3 domains consistent with the management of the economic development ecosystem could foster more over the efficiency of the RIS3.

Which partners are working on this?
  • DEV’UP Centre-Val de Loire

Within the policy instrument “ERDF Operational Programme of Puglia 2014-2020”, and under the Priority Axis 1 "Strengthening Research, Technological Development and Innovation", the focus of the project will be put on the Investment Priority 1(b) “Increasing the innovative activity of firms”.


As the Operational Programme is the main instrument for the delivery of the R&D&i policies in the region, the correct implementation of these operations is of great importance for the region as often administrative burdens, lack of personnel or an isolated approach might put in risk the proper deployment of the OP.


In order to maximize the beneficial effects of the OP on the regional territory it is crucial to take the most of all the competences in the administrative offices and promote a smart approach in the use financial resources complementing different sources of financing.


Another relevant aspect is to improve the deployment of OP policies promoting synergic effects between policies supporting investment in research and innovation and those promoting employment. xParticularly important is the integration of Thematic Objective 1 and Thematic Objective 3; Competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (Action 3.1 - Interventions for the relaunch and investment propensity of the production system).

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Agency for Technology and Innovation

Gabrovo Municipality is responsible for local economic development and innovations in its territory. The main strategic goal of the Municipal plan is to stimulate the economic growth and to enhance the competitiveness of business.


The main priorities relate to innovations are:


Priority 1 Stimulating development of innovations and creation of conditions for partnerships.

Specific goal 1.1. Enhancement of knowledge and provision of information for development of innovations in priority economic sectors.

Specific goal 1.2. Development of business infrastructure and related networks to stimulate innovations with active participation of Technical University of Gabrovo.


Priority 2 Enlargement of the economic profile of Gabrovo municipality through encouragement of traditional and development of new economic activities.

Specific goal 2.1. Creation of appropriate conditions to recruit investments and to promote the opportunities and advantages of the municipality as a good place for business.


The municipal budget is limited to support innovations. More than 3200 companies operate in the region. Many of them are in the priority sectors of S3 and innovation leaders. OPs do not support Municipalities for economic development. The implementation of the Municipal plan related to innovations is insufficient. A new funding mechanism and involvement of new actors is needed.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Municipality of Gabrovo

Priority Axis 1 of the ROP aims to promote investments in research and innovation, to develop links and synergies between companies, research centres and higher education institutions and to promote investments in developing new products and services, facilitating technology transfer, […] creating open innovation groups and networks through smart specialisation […]. The Specific Objective is to increase the innovation in companies by supporting innovation and technology transfer entities in fields of Smart Specialisation.


Even if the region does not yet have a final version of the RIS3, for the implementation of PA1 a “Framework Document for Regional Smart Specialisation Strategy” (Concept note) has been elaborated following the EDP. The document is a simplified version of the S3, describing specialisation areas in general. There will be 4 types of projects financed through Priority Axis 1: Entities for Innovation &TT; STPs; Investments for SMEs implementing the result of research and innovation in partnership with TT organizations; Complex strategic projects in the field of Smart Specialisation.


Although the above operations are related to areas of smart specialisation, in order to achieve the target values connected to the result indicators there is an urgent need for a well working governance structure, facilitating the communication within the innovation ecosystem, improving the cooperation and commitment of all potential stakeholders from the quadruple helix model.

Which partners are working on this?
  • North-West Regional Development Agency

Main aim of this policy is to develop city of Tartu as knowledgeable, smart, entrepreneurial, inspiring, caring and creative city.

Tartu is an academic city which aims to increase its overall entrepreneurial activity and reduce the gap compared with capital, including raising its attractiveness both as entrepreneurship and living environment within Estonia and internationally. This policy aims to reach stated goals via several measures.

Policy has defined five strategic sub-sectors of which we are tackling two, especially the second:

3.1. Tartu as knowledgeable and academic city;

3.2. Tartu as smart entrepreneurial city;


Within strategic goal 3.2. there are following sub-objectives:

1. Development of innovation and growth capacity of entrepreneurship

2. Development of human resource

3. Development of business support system & infrastructure

4. Support for internationalization of entrepreneurship

5. Development of entrepreneurial culture and reputation of entrepreneurship


In order to reach the desired outcome where Tartu has competitive and sustainable enterprises, high-tech economy and is the best place to start a business and attractive investment environment we has defined Structural Funds (SF) as key instrument to develop R&D&I. Smart and efficient use of SF is vital for long-term success of policy and city. Policy in hand is aligned with national Smart Specialization Strategy and structural funds programmes, but could be improved to be fully impactful.


Which partners are working on this?
  • Tartu Science Park Foundation

Finland's structural funds programme 2014-2020 has five priority axes and 13 specific objectives. The priority axes are: 1) Competitiveness of SME’s (ERDF), 2) Producing and using the latest information and knowledge (ERDF) 3) Employment and labour mobility (ESF) 4) Education, skills and lifelong learning (ESF) and 5) Social inclusion and combating poverty (ESF).


Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland is the Managing Authority and regional state organisations and municipal Regional Councils intermediate bodies. The JOP is created on national level, priorities and requirements are valid for the entire country despite the fact that 2/3 of Finland is sparsely populated with different challenges. Region-specific governance models should be improved; micro-sized companies and organisations in vast region with sparse population need different kind of support than the companies and big universities in capital region.


Lapland’s ESIF allocation declined to 2014-2020 MFF, while the permanent challenges remain. Simultaneously, ESIF technical assistance declined even more sharply due to national decisions, leading to personnel cuts at the level of ESIF intermediate bodies, reducing the resources for project development support. Furthermore, strict national interpretation of ie. the de minimis and no profit rules leave organisations with limited possibilities to carry out tangible, ERDF funded actions with a genuine connection to the product development of the SME’s.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Council of Lapland

The Regional Operational Program (ROP), Centro2020, is specially oriented for the reinforcement of the companies’ competitiveness and for the job creation, by promoting an economy based on knowledge and enhancing the transfer of knowledge between the scientific and technological system and the regional economic fabric. Therefore, TO1 (strengthening research, technological development and innovation) and TO3 (enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises) have a huge importance in this Program, accounting for almost half of the total budget (47%: 38,9% TO3, 8,1% TO1).


These TOs are also the main ones where the Smart Specialisation Strategy of Centro Region (Centro RIS3) is used for evaluating the eligibility and/or regional merit of applicant projects. Therefore, Centro 2020 is a key tool in the implementation of the Centro RIS3 that is used as a rationalizing element of the investments made.


The way this Program is managed is therefore primordial to assure the efficiency of the implementation of R&D&I policies and instruments. Nevertheless, the alignment with regional RIS3 priorities is evaluated in one out of four criteria, and its weight is of 30% at the most (this weight ranges from 3% to 30%).


It is important to improve the way these TOs are managed in order to, not only achieve a better absorption of funds by regional actors, but also guarantee the pursuit of the objectives defined with the regional smart specialisation strategy.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Coordination and Development Commission of Centro