Common Statement of the Inno4Sports consortium :
For the past two years, Inno4Sports partners have been sharing good practices and preparing their Action Plans for the years 2021-2022, all focusing on finding good practices to support their regional sport innovation ecosystems. The covid-19 pandemic brought the regions together in a new way, when suddenly all were facing the same new situation through lockdown of society.
It seems however, that the development of Action Plans has not gone to waste at all. Due to the pandemic and the lockdown situation, all kind of stakeholders are aware that sports and vitality are more important than ever and partner regions see that their plans to support innovation activities in the field of sports and vitality are just as important as before, if not more.
Due to the lockdown, sports facilities and services have closed which is a big challenge for organisations and businesses responsible for that, and who are struggling to survive. The restrictions are starting to be slightly loosened, in some regions the customers are already slowly returning to the services, but even with customers returning, many sports organisations and businesses are hardly covering their expenses. However, the partners estimate for it to take a long time before the situation will return to what it was early 2020.
In each of the regions the Covid-19 effects are present. Economic impact on the sports sector is big and there is a lot of uncertainty about the future. E.g. in South-Netherlands uncertainty in the economy has been seen also putting investments and innovation activities on halt, when companies hesitate to invest.
The sport tourism sector has been strongly impacted due to the lockdown situation., and in Valencia and Lapland it is expected to take a long time for tourism to return to normal. Both regions see innovation in sport tourism products and services as an important and necessary aspect to start to recover. In Lapland many tourism companies have already started to create new products targeted to the Finnish market.
Another important impact is seen on the sports events. In all regions also sports events have been cancelled and it is expected that larger sport events will be banned for a long time. E.g. in Valencia it is estimated to take up to two years before international sports events can be held normally, which also has a significant impact on the local economy.
As mentioned, the uncertainty about the new normal is a big factor. No one knows how long it will take to battle covid-19, but it can change the societies and people’s sport habits permanently. The next challenge for actors in the field of sports is to adapt to the “new normal”. In Valencia and other regions, there has been an increase on people looking for new ways to exercise with the help of online services and technology.
In their Action Plans, all Inno4Sports partners are aiming to strengthen their regional sport innovation ecosystems, which support the development of innovations to answer to the new economy of sports and vitality. The interregional collaboration will also play a role when finding solutions to help businesses rebuild themselves after the pandemic situation.
What is challenging now is to convince regional decision makers on the importance of investing into sports and vitality in these difficult times. This also means that there is a need to change the targeting of the innovation funds. In the crisis innovation funds have been created to solve covid-19 emergency, meaning providing medical supplies (e.g. Valencia region). But now it is time to invest for the longer term needs of the society.
Inno4Sports partners are certain that public investments in sports and sports innovation can:
- on one hand, help to fight the pandemic in long term, when a physically active population poses less strain to the health care system, and
- on the other hand, help the economy to recover from the pandemic situation.