European Social economy comprises 2 million enterprises and represents 10% of all European enterprises, while employing over 14 million paid employees (6.5% of the working population in the EU. Despite this, the EU’s Innovation Union, derived from the Europe 2020 Strategy, pays little attention to the role of this important sector in driving and supporting the Innovation Union.  In the 2014-2020 programming period, significant EU investment is attached to supporting  Regional Policy (€352 billion) and Research and Innovation policy (H2020, close to €80 billion). Across these packages, investing in innovation is a key objective. The 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is expected to prioritise the EU’s continued drive to support innovation-oriented growth. The social economy should form a critical part of this drive.

At the same time, more than 120 regions have developed their Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3). This workshop will explore how to combine the efforts of S3 and the social economy to optimise efforts in achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This vision is already recognised by many EU regions. The time is ripe to better define and position the role of the social economy in the EU’s future S3 agenda. The workshop seeks to find common links between the EU’s social economy and S3, and how these can foster and optimise new directions for EU entrepreneurship.

Invited speakers will expose the needs and challenges they are facing to improve a better cooperation among the social economy enterprises in Europe in order to strengthen the social economy sector. The speakers will also explore the S3 as a tool to foster that cooperation.
We need to better understand good practices from different regions in this field. In addition, we need to break silos between social economy and innovation regional policies such as S3, and demonstrate that S3 may be used as a very open strategy to develop not only “traditional” sectors, but some transversal ones, such as the social economy.

Together with organisers (Social Economy Europe and ERRIN), the workshop seeks to explore the potential and demand for improving linkages and networks between different regions who are seeking to optimise their innovation potential through combining S3 and the social economy. Most importantly, social economy organisations will be invited to share examples of current practice in this area and to explore future potential for joining efforts through, for example, engaging in innovation-driven, inter-regional projects, and thematic platforms.

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