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The role of spaces for innovation: key learnings

Date 07 February 2022
By Platform

Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform organised an online discussion on Making Innovation Visible: The Role of Spaces for Innovation on Friday 4 February 2022.  


The online discussion explored the role of physical spaces to anchor innovation in the regional fabric and making it visible to the broader civil society. These innovation spaces often aim to promote collaboration through serendipity, frequent face-to-face interactions, informal networks and to showcase regional innovative products and services. They provide amenities to users such as a coffee shop or a restaurant within the innovation space, leisure spaces, and co-working community spaces open to the public to retain its users with the objectives to promote formal and informal face-to-face interactions, the creation of networks, and the spread of tacit knowledge. These spaces for innovation are particularly relevant in more rural, mountain, or island regions in the context of COVID-19 to attract and retain hybrid workers from metropolitan areas.

In DIGITAL REGIONS, Einstein1 is a Digital Start-Up and innovation centre located in the Hof University campus of Applied Science working as an anchor space for start-ups and entrepreneurs in the city of Hof, Bavaria, Germany. The innovation centre offers multiple services to start-ups and entrepreneurs such as coworking spaces, office, and meeting spaces, networking opportunities, dedicated events and seminars, and support services (incubation) for entrepreneurs and start-ups. The innovation centre aims to foster a digital ecosystem focusing on digital and Big Data start-ups with potential applications for industrial, energy, and healthcare sectors. The Digital Start-Up Centre “Einstein1” highlights the positive spillover effects of being located within a large university campus both for the entrepreneurs and the university. Indeed, such initiatives can benefit from specialised knowledge, existing networks and university-industry linkages, as well as privileged access to specialised workforce, namely students and faculty. 

In NEXT2MET, the Digital Innovation Room Mecklenburg-Vorpommern consists of 6 digital innovation centres throughout the rural region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The initiative is coordinated by The Ministry of Energy, Infrastructure and Digitalisation and provides physical spaces for start-ups and creative and knowledge workers. The spaces’ users benefit from both physical infrastructures—including facilities and equipment—and soft skills through learning experience from senior entrepreneurs or more mature companies. The initiative highlights that animation is important through involving more than 3000 participants and offers workshops, coaching services, and networking events.

Key takeaways

During the online discussion, the participants shared insights for creating spaces for innovation such as to:

  • get stakeholders highly involved and build up local and regional communities,
  • dedicate resources to animate the spaces and organise events, workshops, seminars…
  • support start-ups in their growth through flexible office spaces and mentorship,
  • identify regional priority sectors and develop joint vision and mission with other regional spaces for innovation,
  • have multiple funding streams including through sponsors and companies,
  • locate within a university allows being an anchor for students and young entrepreneurs,
  • have a strong social media presence,
  • have something special for the physical space—rooftop, lights, unusual architecture, coffee shops, leisure spaces…

Other initiatives were shared during the online discussion such as:


During the online discussion, two external speakers held their presentation on this topic. the presentations can be found here:

Policy learning resources

Read the article on how to anchor the innovation process in cities?

Read the article on how to foster collaborative spaces in rural areas

Read the policy brief on


Have a look at the online discussion on Fablabs and Makerspaces (presentation and insights here).

If you have any specific questions related to the Making Innovation Visible: The Role of Spaces for Innovation, you can reach out to Policy Learning Platform experts directly via the policy helpdesk.

Image credit: SHREC
Innovation activity