Inno4Sports places itself in the context of socio economic transformations in Europe that open up new dimensions for the capitalisation of sports ecosystems. The potentials of Sport ecosystems have started to be been recognized at EU level as drivers for innovation and growth with a high potential for cross-sectoral spill-overs and interlinkages with various societal and economic fields. Still, at regional levels, they remain underdeveloped, due to existing inconsistencies and an underrepresentation of the potentials created by sports innovation within RIS3 and regional development programmes.
Inno4Sports brings together five regions that all share the ambition to address a common objective, namely to improve the performance and efficiency of development programmes that are able to support sports clusterisation processes based on quadruple helix cooperation, and by doing so, promote the innovative value chains of sports. Taking into account the different regional contexts (e.g. development levels, available expertise on clusterisation processes), specific points to address have been identified by focussing on 4 thematic sub objectives; the creation of opportunities for market access, the exploration of cross-over cooperation, the development of harmonisation processes with regional development programmes and the creation of interlinkages with consumer needs and societal trends. By deepening cluster integration, through an intensive process of interregional learning, knowledge exchange and lasting inter-cluster cooperation processes, all partners set out to reach their ambitions.
As a new initiative, Inno4Sports, targets a topic that has not yet been tackled before in such concreteness. With the inclusion of EPSI as Advisory Partner to the project, a strong dissemination platform is included that will bring the project’s findings closer to the attention of not only regional, national, but also EU level policy makers to generate a multitude of future spin-offs.
Research and innovation
The OP South Program aims to develop the region to an innovative top region, where innovation is the key to smart and sustainable growth. Besides EU, national and other regional policies, the OP largely relies on the RIS3 developed by the 3 Southern provinces (NL), linking economic and societal opportunities and challenges. The OP priorities are Innovation (boosting R+D+I infrastructure and capacity; stimulating investment in R+D instruments) and Low carbon economy. The overall budget of 321,6 million EUR comprises ERDF, additional public and private co-financing. To create a structure strengthening mechanism (stimulating cross sectoral cooperation, attracting (risk) capital and new companies), methods such as: clusters, living labs; social innovation; the use of design are used. The OP provides a framework for creating and keeping productive the innovation ecosystems of various thematic fields (among others: sports). The OP implementation is geared by the projects proposed by members of steady and also topical triple and quadruple helix cooperations. While regional projects to be financed by the OP are ample, quality projects and projects from special thematic fields with cross-sectoral relevance (e.g. sports) are needed to maximize the financing scheme’s utility to the benefit of the N-Brabant innovation eco-system. The S&T Foundation aims to influence the strategy of the OP through the development of tangible projects for which Inno4Sports provides the learning context.
The regional OP covers the ‘Regional competitiveness and employment’ EU objective with a total budget of 2,2 billion (1,3 billion ERDF). The OP is composed of five priorities + TA, with a notable support provided for research, technology transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship. The priority concerned by Inno4Sports is Priority 1: Development of the knowledge-based economy, R&D&I and the information society covering around 17% of the total OP budget. The priority is fully in line with IP1b. Focusing on actions linked to the promotion of research, innovation, the development and dissemination of technologies and the information society the priority is to boost the region's technological convergence to the European Union. In P1 the goal is to foster the cooperation between companies and Research & Tech organisations via R&D, and Innovation projects led by RTO’s, with the active participation of SMEs. The calls (launched annually) target 1) the promotion of R&D activities led by SMSs; 2) the support for the creation of innovative companies, and 3.) for innovative public enterprises 4.), the transfer of knowledge and cooperation between companies and research centres. Existing instruments (calls) need to be improved to make them more supportive of sports innovation activities, especially those aiming to develop products and services with cross-sectorial relevance (tourism, health promotion and active aging). Selection criteria for projects should also be revised in this light.
The OP with a budget of nearly 8 813,2 million EUR (67% ERDF and 33% ESF) aims to stimulate the economies of the six less developed regions in Hungary. Its most important priorities cover the competitiveness of SMEs, R&D&I, and employment. The OP also aims to develop the tourism industry, enterprises' energy efficiency, ICT. It also oversees renewable energy and energy efficiency in enterprises. The OP attains to give a boost to SME innovation activities and Hungarian research institutes, while improving cooperation among private and public research centres. The priority concerned is P2. Research, technological development, and innovation Measure 2.5 Supporting R&D investments (II.) – cooperation and networking with 342 million EUR assigned for the related call(s). As there is a separate measure (2.4) fostering SME innovation investments M 2.5 can fully target the support of innovation cooperation and networking as backbone of the innovation eco-systems/ clusters producing projects aligned with RIS3. Nevertheless, Measure 2.5 and the related calls do not promote efficiently the target driven cooperation of public research institutes/universities and SMEs. The calls are not supportive enough regarding the market access of innovative products and services either. It is only an additionally supported activity according to the call application rules. Another weakness is failing to foster cross-sectoral innovation achievements, where sports innovation would have a high relevance.
The Regional Operational Programme for Lodzkie Region consists of 11 mono-funded PAs. The thematic objectives range from TO1 to TO10. The total OP budget is 2,256 million EUR, (72% ERDF and 28% ESF). Around 30% of the total financing is dedicated to innovation and related areas (competitiveness, innovation and R&D, innovation transfer, cooperation). The OP supports regional innovation policy under Priority 1: "Research, development and knowledge commercialisation" as well as Priority 2: "Innovative and competitive economy”. The actions in Inno4Sports will address Measure I.2 Business investment in research and innovation, Sub-measure I.2.2 R&D projects of the companies. M1.2.2. considers the necessity of close cooperation of the innovation chain actors in open and close innovation frameworks.
The main issue to be treated is that no cluster coordinated R&D activities can be supported by the measure concerned, as clusters are not on the list of beneficiaries. Improvements are expected regarding ROP regulations to allow regional cluster organizations to apply for founding for R&D activities. Additionally, the companies and institutions and the future members of the VERDE cluster should get more means to support their research actions. Setting a preference for particular thematic fields such as sport and health in the selection of projects for support would be a crucial improvement for the ROP and the Quadruple Helix cooperation could also be integrated as requirement in calls.
The RIS3 named as Lapland’s Arctic Specialisation Programme was published in 2014 by the Regional Council of Lapland (RCL). RIS3 focuses on the resources and business opportunities of Lapland’s smart specialization. The key target groups are mainly authorities and regional R&D&I organisations. RIS3 recognises the role of Lapland as an arctic living environment, in which development efforts are constantly pursued in interaction with inhabitants.
The key objective is to develop business opportunities leading to benefits for all. Another aim is to provide full employment and to ensure the proper innovation and business environment for SMEs in new innovative businesses such as sports. In addition, RIS 3 was created to set up platforms stimulating innovation and to boost the use of smart technologies as key to emerging future industries.
The RIS3 for Lapland needs revision to better support the evolution of the innovation ecosystems and innovation-focused clusterization – RIS3 is to be brought in harmony with the latest trends in smart specialization. Besides, a special focus is to be given to the industries providing the biggest cumulative impact for growth and new jobs. Sports recognised as one of the regional emerging industries perform breakthrough innovations and this way provide real potential for the new entrepreneurship and businesses in Lapland. Education and inno-friendly business environment combined should support the sports industry to bloom.