Last week the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform held its first events. Four thematic workshops brought together 40 Interreg Europe projects, and European Union (EU) level stakeholders and experts, with an aim to meet each other, learn about each other, inspire each other and stimulate each other.

The first thematic workshop was held on Monday, 26 June. It was organised by the Policy Learning Platform (PLP) on low carbon economy and focused on sustainable urban mobility planning. Workshop brought together representatives from nine Interreg Europe projects and EU level experts and policy makers. Two topics were highlighted by the participants as both challenging and promising to promote cleaner transport and alternative mobility behaviour, namely – cycling and ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS). The workshop provided an opportunity for the participants to find out more about these and other challenges related to sustainable urban mobility planning, and gave an insight into how they are addressed by Interreg Europe projects.

The second thematic workshop “Investing in health and wellbeing as an opportunity to implement innovative solutions, create growth and jobs while providing better services” was held on Wednesday, 28 June. The PLP on Research and Innovation brought together six Interreg Europe projects and European level stakeholders, including the European Commission. Participants discussed challenges and opportunities to facilitate the take-up of new services and speed up changes in the innovation ecosystems. Outcomes from the debate:

  • It is important to ensure the buy-in of the Managing Authorities to mobilise resources from the current cohesion policy programmes.
  • A new generation of innovation actors, like the Living Labs, are among the key drivers of the innovations and should be recognised as such and supported.
  • There is high potential of synergies with other programmes, like the ones launched by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT).
  • European Associations like ERRIN, ENOLL and AER contribute significantly to boost external capitalisation.

On Thursday, 29 June, colleagues from 11 resource efficiency projects met. The focus of the day was circular economy. Transition to circular economy requires a paradigm shift. We all need to realise that an economy based on linear model is no longer viable. In times of dwindling natural resources every regions has to have a vision - what environment do we want to live in? Circular economy is a very innovative field for which more an awareness and real action on individual, company, local and regional level is required. Regional level can play significant role but regions' efforts need to be taken in the context of wider national and EU level policies. An awareness raising and promotion of existing cases and solutions can help and encourage a wider action, especially in regions with less tradition in implementing innovation enabling the shift to circular economy. In addition, regions should recognise the power of cooperation in making further progress. It is time for action: don't wait, start doing!

The fourth thematic workshop was held on Friday, 30 June, and addressed SME internationalisation. 14 out of 33 Interreg Europe projects dedicated to SME competitiveness met to learn more about each other and exchange around the barriers and challenges for increasing internationalisation of SMEs. During the plenary and breakout sessions, the discussions focused on governance issues – mainly the necessity and difficulty to align the objectives and coordinate the initiatives of multiple actors supporting internationalisation of SMEs, and concrete instruments addressing the identified barriers to internationalisation. A series of topics were identified, which will be used as input for the coming activities of the Platform.

Expert discussions held during the Thursday and Friday workshops were streamed live and can be viewed on Facebook.

The most important outcome of the workshops was the positive feeling among the participants. Workshops were also an opportunity to discuss the support of the PLP. A clear demand was expressed for the Platform to continue support exchange of experiences between the Interreg Europe projects, and also to stimulate the exchange of interesting approaches and practices with other initiatives, programmes and non-Interreg Europe projects.

The next steps will be the launch of the online platform, the networking event in Milan on Research and Innovation and SME Competitiveness (19-20 October 2017) and the networking event on energy and resource efficiency in November in Sevilla. The Policy Learning Platform will also be present and active at the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels, on 10-12 October.

We thank you all for participation and contributions! Let’s stay in touch!