The Vanguard Initiative celebrates its 10-Year Anniversary, leading by example to take European Regional Collaboration a significant Step Forward

The Vanguard Initiative celebrates its 10-Year Anniversary, leading by example to take European Regional Collaboration a significant Step Forward

Mathieu Didry 4 minutes

On 5 December, the Vanguard Initiative (VI) organised a 10-year Anniversary conference in Brussels to celebrate a decade of fostering innovation, collaboration, and industrial growth across Europe. The event served as a platform to share VI’s insights on its achievements and milestones. It reached greater significance as VI Regional Ministers signed a Letter of Intent to officially launch 'VInnovate,' a novel financial instrument developed at Vanguard regional level to foster SME participation in innovation projects. VInnovate first call is set to be launched during the first quarter of 2024.

A Decade of Industrial Ambitions, Political Leadership, and Leading by Example

Michiel SchefferThe event opened with a message from Kris Peeters, current Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and one of the founding fathers of VI as former Minister President of Flanders. Peeters highlighted the crucial principles embedded in the DNA of the Vanguard Initiative: strong industrial ambitions, political leadership, and leading by example in agreed areas of cooperation. He emphasized the role VI will play in the years to come, especially in the context of the twin transition and the implementation of the net-zero industry act.

Speakers at the 10-year anniversary conference, including Michiel Scheffer, President of the Board of the European Innovation Council, lauded the VI as a vital network. Scheffer underscored the imperative to translate research into innovation, aligning with the goals of the Vanguard regions.

‘We need to concentrate more efforts to translate research into innovation, which is exactly what the Vanguard regions want, and what the EIC influence can help to achieve. So let’s get to leverage new technologies that lead to new models.’


Antonio CunhaAntonio Cunha, President of the Norte Regional Coordination and Development Commission (Portugal), recalled the audience that a decade ago, industry held importance, but today the EU recognizes that industry is not only crucial for the economy and employment but also poses a question of sovereignty.

Cunha underscored the value of regional partnerships, considering the essential role of VI as a platform dedicated to innovation, specifically focusing on industry and fostering networks among industrial regions. He highlighted how Vanguard provides the Norte Region with the opportunity to collaborate with highly industrialised regions, facilitating mutual learning.

‘Revitalizing the European economy will require to uncover the significance of regional collaboration


Connecting Innovation Ecosystems

Petra Püchner, Baden-Württemberg Commissioner for Europe of the Minister of Economic Affairs, Labour, and Tourism (Germany), highlighted the challenges faced by larger regions in connecting with others, acknowledging the post-pandemic realization of the need for a common market and collaboration in innovation ecosystems.

Birgitta Sacredeus, Committee of the Regions member and member of Dalarna County Council (Sweden) also stressed the value of innovation ecosystems, emphasizing VI's crucial role in this regard by fostering collaboration and providing impetus to both industry and political leadership. The VI pilot projects have proven highly beneficial: they address key questions such as determining the appropriate structure, identifying suitable partners, and deciding on regions for collaboration. Through such activities, VI regions engage in a reciprocal learning process, exchanging knowledge and insights.

‘The VI focus remains on understanding how to establish and support political impetus while addressing the necessary requirements on the ground.

Panel 1 - VI 10-year Anniversary Conference

While Bogdan Chelariu representing North-East Romania Regional Development Agency, expressed concerns about the future, particularly regarding the taxonomy and renewal of industry and finance. He highlighted the outdated principles of current financial instruments and called for a reevaluation of their effectiveness.

Püchner echoed such concerns by highlighting the lack of funds and the complexity introduced by new EU regulations. She shared insights into the struggles of companies navigating the transition, citing the example of a project in her region, waiting for two years for funding.

Panel 2 - VI 10-year Anniversary Conference

As the need for cross-regional efforts to address such challenges was a recurring theme, Erwin Hoogland, Regional Minister for the Economy and International Affairs, East Netherlands, opened the launch ceremony of VInnovate, emphasizing the three key concepts: regional ownership, tailormade solutions, and leveraging opportunities. He positioned VInnovate as a pivotal step in the European financing landscape, setting an example for the multi-annual financial framework after 2027.


A Superior Level of Maturity

Marc Lemaitre

Marc Lemaitre, Director-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission, celebrated VI's achievements during a High-level Dinner. He commended the establishment of VInnovate as a testament to VI's maturity, expressing the Commission's commitment to supporting such initiatives and exploring synergies between European instruments.

As the Vanguard Initiative embarks on this new chapter, it stands as a beacon of collaboration and innovation, poised to make a lasting impact on the European industrial landscape. The launch of VInnovate signifies not only a milestone for VI but also a leap forward for interregional cooperation in driving Europe's industrial renaissance.


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