Kick-Off Meeting and first Study Visits in Apulia (Italy)
The competitiveness of SMEs and their resilience with respect to the global economic turmoil is certainly strongly linked to their capacity to innovate. However, innovation dynamics aren’t only dependent on R&D and technological change, but often rely on less evident, less formalized and more difficult to assess factors, mainly involving organizational and relational dimensions. This is relevant both for those regions in which medium and low-tech sectors and very small/micro businesses lead the local economy and for those territories with a strong presence of economic sectors related to social innovation, less dependent on formal R&D.
The common challenge faced by project partners, coming from 7 regions across Europe, is that of devising new tools and indicators that allow them to better understand and assess non-R&D-driven innovation dynamics, with a strong emphasis on the direct involvement of the policy beneficiaries in the process of policy design, monitoring and evaluation.
The overall project objective is therefore to improve the capability of public policy-makers to develop efficient policies supporting non-formal, soft and open innovation processes in the regional actors, with a focus on non-R&D -driven and social innovation.
The main outputs are:
• 7 Study Visits, 4 Thematic Workshops, 1 Interregional Learning Meeting;
• 7 policy instruments improved through the development and implementation of 7 Action Plans;
• 14 Good Practices shared in the Policy Learning Platform, 4 Brief Technical Notes, 5 videostorytelling, 2 videos presenting the project and its results, published on the project website.
Research and innovation
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”.
However, the promotion of social innovation is an objective horizontal to policies implemented under other Priority Axes of the OP.
As the Operational Programme is the main instrument for the delivery of the R&D&I policies in the region in the priority areas identified by the regional Smart Specialization Strategy, the ability to understand in depth the effects of regional policies on innovation dynamics, including soft and non-formal types of innovation, is crucial for activating a process of continuous improvement.
As a matter of fact, while non-R&D based and social innovation are of outmost relevance in Puglia region, the tools and indicators currently available for measuring the effects of innovation policies are mainly oriented towards the measurement of technological innovation, both in terms of input, output and results.
In order to measure the effectiveness of these policies it is decisive to find an applicable set of indicators which is able to describe the complexity of policies promoting non-R&D-driven and social innovation , and to test a participative monitoring and evaluation model, involving the different stakeholders.
Objective of the policy instrument is to promote private R&D investment, strengthening the links and interactions between business and research sectors, in particular promoting investment in product and service development, technology; also promote demand, networking, clustering and open innovation according to the smart specialization strategy, support technological and applied science research, implementation of pilot activities and preliminary product validation actions.
One of the priorities of Lithuanian Smart specialization strategy is Inclusive society, which involves social innovations and creative industry sectors. Companies from these sectors participate in the same calls as the companies from more traditional "technological" sectors and the problem is that traditional innovation indicators seem not to be suitable to understand the process of innovation generation and to evaluate the non technological innovations. Thus, it is very important to develop new evaluation models, instruments and indicators-sets, which would improve the management procedures within the policy instrument (designing calls for projects, designing evaluation criteria etc.)
Within the policy instrument addressed, the focus will be put in the improvement of the methods for assessing the impact of regional innovation policies in the framework of the Thematic Objective 1 "Strengthening Research, Technological Development and Innovation".
Through this TO, different types of operations are financed with the aim of attract and retain talent in the region, encourage technology transfer, innovation and cooperation networks, foster and promote innovation, among others.
This is directly in line with the four scopes of activity set in the RIS3 and linked to a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, the specialised talent that will be needed to promote the strategic areas of the region, the strengthening of the business network necessary to ensure the desired levels of competitiveness in global markets, and the infrastructures that provide the structural support for the development of the region.
But the assessment of the operations deployed in the region have the limitation of traditional indicators that are less effective when trying to understand the effectiveness of very complex innovation strategies such as smart specialisation strategies.
Therefore, the implementation of new evaluation models and indicators are of great importance to better understand and measure non-tech innovation dynamics, which are often overlooked by current monitoring and evaluation systems and that are of strategic value in regions with a low innovation profile.
The OP ERDF is the main instrument for the implementation of the N-NLs Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS3).
Focus was brought into the RIS3 by designating societal challenges. These challenges were relatively broadly defined and considered a starting point. The eventual focus would be brought during implementation, as the result of a continuous process of entrepreneurial discovery.
This particular approach, without sectoral demarcation beforehand, allows for discovering specific niches, areas in which the N-NLs can be most effective in delivering solutions to challenges. It allows as well for each stakeholder most effectively contribute to and benefit from the continuation of the collaborative process.
In line with the design of the RIS3, the focus of the OP ERDF has thus far been on fostering innovation around the RIS3 challenges. As a consequence, its support instruments have been relatively generic.
Aims are twofold:
1. for the policy instrument to become more specific, to find parameters, beyond usual sectoral demarcation, to effectively target niche areas once there is sufficient empirical evidence showing the potential.
2. to use detailed information about the participation of firms in collaborative innovation processes, to develop instruments that are able to target softer innovation processes, in particular those that cut across organizational or disciplinary boundaries.
The key objective is to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises through in-company innovation and investment.
The instrument is delivered primarily through Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices but depending on the sectors other public agencies such as BIM for the marine sector and Bord Bia for Food are also involved.
Objective: Strengthening research, technological development and innovation and also strengthening the competitiveness of SMEs.
The priority in this area will create a business environment conducive to research and innovation. Key elements include strengthening the activities of research and innovation and improving knowledge transfer between public and private sectors and supporting SMEs. Investments will focus on its efforts to implement the results of R & D, innovation, higher added value and productivity and in this way to expand and internationalization.
Priority o Measure Concerned: The policy instrument addressed forms parts of regional innovation strategies
The regional strategic programme is a statutory regional development programme. It states the regional development objectives, which are based on the characteristics and opportunities specific to the region and describes and consolidates EU, national, supraregional and regional level strategies as well as the municipal and local level strategies. Programme has multisectoral overall approach but it is divided in specific focus areas. Programme steers the use of EU funds and other resources allocated to the region.
POKAT 2021 is the North Karelia Regional Strategic Programme for the 2018–2021 period. Its vision is: smart specialisation, an oil-free region and life-long participation. The core of smart specialisation is formed by two international-level expertise areas for economic development: forest bioeconomy and technologies & materials. Aim is to become non-reliant on fossil fuels: the region seeks to be at the forefront of sustainable and resource-smart production and use of renewable energies. Life-long participation is about seeing the ageing population as an opportunity rather than as a challenge.
North Karelia has started an ambitious plan to improve the monitoring system of the performance of Regional Strategic Programme POKAT2021. Basic set of indicators fail to recognize social innovations and change in organisational level. This is an especially important aspect to study in development processes that take longer than project´s implementation period.