The EU Industry Days webinar Regions in Industrial Transition: Making digital work for SMEs in regional innovation ecosystems organized by Th!nk East Netherlands in the framework of the Vanguard Initiative, provided a valuable opportunity to demonstrate how European Regions are key drivers in the twin transition of greening and digitalization of the EU Industry.
Discussions allowed to reflect on aspects which are paramount such as how to boost regional innovation ecosystems, how to connect them to develop new European strategic value chains and, what can be the role of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) in the next EU programming period (2021-2027). The new European Funds (I3, Digital Europe, Horizon Europe, investments) can support play a pivotal role yet it is still fundamental to understand how to increase synergies between these European funds together with regional and national funds.
The event provided an insight into the importance of regional collaboration at the European level to accelerate the scaling of new technologies, products, and services. Mr Eddy van Hijum, Regional Minister Province Overijssel and Chair of Vanguard Initiative recalled that «regional smart specialisation should be - and to some degree already is - the cornerstone of Europe’s Industry Policy. Regions need to bring SME’s, (applied) new technology, and education & training together in smart clusters. Also, we have to learn from each other and work on common projects across borders, invited by European programs like Horizon, Interreg, Digital Europe, and the promising new I3-instrument.»
The first panel of the event looked at the regional transformation into industry 4.0 and focused on the opportunities for digital solutions by showcasing 2 industrial SMEs good practices: Van Raam Reha Bikes and Divitel. In the second panel, the discussion focused on innovation models developed in regions and between regions in the Vanguard Initiative pilots, to support the transition into Digital Industries and to explore how these innovations could be replicated elsewhere. Cristina Oyón, Director of Technology, Innovation, and Sustainability of the Spri-Emprendimiento, SPRI, Basque Country, and member of the EU Industrial Forum on behalf of the Vanguard Initiative, described the activities of the Basque Digital Innovation Hub aimed at making digital and sustainable technologies accessible for SMEs. Domenico Guida from Arter (Emilia Romagna region) presented the recently launched VI Pilot on Artificial Intelligence, which aims at bringing and supporting AI-enhanced innovation processes in companies.