The aim of the arena is to foster the perspective of eco-innovation in regional development activities and to attract more resources.
During the development of the Smart Specialization Strategy of the Region of Östergötland (East Sweden Business Region), one strength of the region was found in the area of eco-innovations, environmental technology and other business solutions to sustainability challenges. This area was labelled as “Business models and arenas for sustainable system solutions”. To further initiate and coordinate activities in the area, an arena of regional support actors formed a meeting place where different actors meet and interact. Members of the arena are the Region of Östergötland, the County Administrative Board, Linköping University, Almi Företagspartner AB, East Sweden Energy Agency and the cluster initiatives Cleantech Östergötland and Vreta Kluster.
The task for the arena is to foster the perspective of eco-innovation in regional development activities, to attract more resources in the form of financing and projects, and to co-ordinate and discuss further developments and project ideas. Individual companies are not supported directly by the arena but rather through the initiated projects. Examples of recent projects are “Green Growth (Växthus)” and “Solar power for the future (Framtidens solel)”. Through the arena, companies also get the opportunity to participate at events hosted by the actors in the arena.
To strengthen the support system for eco-innovation, the arena actively influences regional policy and provides input to different regional strategies and action plans.
There is no assigned budget but all activities are financed via the members own resources or project funding. Each of the seven organisations have one representative that participates at the meetings that take place approximately five times/year.
Evidence of success
The arena is established in the Smart specialization strategy of the region and used for networking, information sharing and co-ordination. The most significant success is that it has initiated several projects and activities. This has led to many companies (more than 100) being directly or indirectly supported in their development of more sustainable solutions. The aim of the arena is not to run the projects but rather to initiate and coordinate actions for sustainable system solutions.
Potential for learning or transfer
An important success factor for the arena is that it uses complementary skills and resources of several support actors to overcome innovation and market barriers for environmentally driven companies. This complementarity approach has facilitated learning, brought continuity in support activities and helped in co-financing several projects. Through the implementation of those projects, a large toolbox have been developed for how to stimulate strategy development as well as development and diffusion of eco-innovations in existing firms and start-ups.
The smart specialization arena has gained increased attention among other business support actors leading to a mainstreaming of sustainability in the whole support system. Still there is a challenge in understanding the uniqueness of eco-innovation and reaching out to an even larger number of companies.
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