The Interreg Europe project Inno4Sports, and the ClusSport Consortium of the Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation Partnership organised back-to-back events from 25 to 28 March 2019, in Valencia, Spain. 

Inno4Sports, sport for growth and healthy and vital communities, aims at creating sport ecosystems to promote regional socio-economic development.  It brings together five regions to review and design regional innovation policies to create better sports innovation ecosystems, notably through clusterisation and quadruple helix cooperation, involving stakeholders from the private sector, public organisations, universities, and civil society. 

Meanwhile the ClusSport partnership, one of some twenty such partnerships supported by the Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation (S3P-Industry), includes 10 European regions and their clusters, of which 4 regions are also partners in Inno4Sports.

The ClusSport partnership is supported by the ReConfirm project, (Regional Cooperation Networks for Industrial Modernisation), a DG GROW funded initiative, managed via EASME. They assist the partnership through mapping exercises, collaboration Labs, and strategic workshops to develop action plans, to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) and create a pipeline of co-investment projects on sport innovation across Europe. 

Inno4Sports Interreg Event in Valencia, Spain. Source: IBV

The events held in Valencia, allowed partners to leveraging interregional cooperation: the Inno4Sports Interreg Event, the Knowledge Capitalisation Seminar (KCS), and the ClusSport Partnership Meeting facilitated participants to build on their interregional experiences to create better sports innovation ecosystems. 

The Interreg project event in Valencia brought together some 25 European representatives including regional and state stakeholders who shared their experiences on sports industry and smart cities, cross-sector involvement with health, tourism, and urban planning, and the importance of clusters and quadruple helix arrangements as project enablers, notably securing the engagement of SMEs in sport innovation ecosystems. The event included on-site visits as Valencia is a good case of a city that has become a benchmark for innovation in Sports. 

As highlighted in the Policy Learning Platform policy brief on finding synergies between S3P-Industry and Interreg Europe Project, while Interreg Europe projects offer regions the possibility to benchmark and create the necessary capacity building to be ready for smarter investments, members of the S3P-Industry partnerships focus on identifying and implementing co-investment opportunities.

Many regions are active in both communities, and the similarities in stakeholder groups and thematic interests are good starting points for identifying opportunities for innovation-led interregional cooperation. Experiences such as the Valencia events are especially relevant to other such combinations between Interreg Europe and the S3P Industrial Modernisation partnerships. Furthermore, the sports sector offers many possibilities for regions to capitalise on interregional learning as this complex sector requires cross-sectoral interlinkages with diverse economic sectors to contribute to positive social and innovation outcomes.

Caroline Guillet, a partnership broker  working on the ReConfirm project with ClusSport,  said that 'Inno4Sport is greatly supporting ClusSport. It has reinforced the relationships between partners and has already brought more regions into the partnership. More importantly, new projects are arising thanks to Inno4Sport and are likely to be deployed across more  ClusSport regions, acting either as research or innovation  providers or user testbeds.'

Rene Wijlens, Cluster Manager at Sports and Technology Foundation in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and lead partner of the Interreg Europe project Inno4Sport, describes well the synergies between the Interreg Europe Project and the thematic area of sport to the Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation. He points out that 'ClusSport and Inno4Sport both aim at improving the innovation ecosystem by influencing policy. Inno4Sport supports regions to influence and create bottom up policy instruments based on stakeholders’ needs. Meanwhile ClusSport guides the main streams of the regional programmes top-down; responding to regional needs.'

Image credit: Pexels.com