Vanguard Initiative Annual Political Meeting: Regional Ministers and Representatives shape the Network’s Future Strategic Direction

Vanguard Initiative Annual Political Meeting: Regional Ministers and Representatives shape the Network’s Future Strategic Direction

Ryan Titley 3 minutes

On 21st November 2019 in Brussels, the Vanguard Initiative’s Annual Political Meeting (APM) took place, with Regional Ministers and senior representatives from Vanguard Initiative’s 36 Member Regions meeting to give renewed direction to the Vanguard Initiative’s work programme, with a particular focus on financing, policy influencing and communication. 

Since its start 5 years ago, the Vanguard Initiative has grown from an informal network of 10 European regions to a legally-constituted and professionally managed network of 36 members; the newest member region – Aragon - having been approved by the APM yesterday.  Delegates took note of the successes of the Vanguard Initiative, particularly in policy influencing and the progress of its pilot projects. 

Through interactive discussions, inspired by best practices from across Vanguard Initiative’s member regions – including CivTech in Scotland, and Micro Test-Beds in Baden-Württemberg, delegates were able to express their views on future priorities for the Vanguard Initiative to take forward in the short and medium-term.  They also endorsed proposals for a set of Regional Conferences in 2020, to help better connect policy makers from across EU regions, responsible for the practical delivery of smart specialisation strategies in those regions. 

The Regional Conferences will take place across European regions, as follows:

  • Wales & Randstad:  Cardiff, 25th and 26th March 2020 (click here to register)
  • Örebro June 2020 (TBC)
  • Piemonte September 2020 (TBC)
  • Baden-Württemberg November 2020 (TBC)

During an open discussion with senior EU institutional representatives, delegates were also able to discuss the role of Vanguard Initiative member regions in shaping a modernised EU industrial policy.  Since the Vanguard Initiative was established, there has been an increasing recognition of the role of regions in enhancing Europe’s competitiveness, most recently with the Committee of the Regions’ opinion “Place-based approach to the EU industrial strategy”, presented at the APM by Zuid-Holland Minister Jeannette Baljeu.  This regional role was echoed by panel members as well as the seven regions who intervened to share their experiences, priorities and strengths.

During the subsequent discussion, participants highlighted:

  • The strong alignment between the work of the Vanguard Initiative and the European Commission’s goals for industrial transition
  • The need to think differently about our regional competitiveness – within Europe it’s a good driver for innovation, but we need to think about competing globally.
  • How important Vanguard Initiative’s work has been in helping to address challenges around governance and collaboration – for example in developing the idea for interregional innovation investments (Component 5) and, more recently, the proposal for a Vanguard multi-regional fund, using flexibility to move 5% finances from ERDF operational programmes.

Based on these discussions, the Vanguard Initiative is developing a core narrative to help in its communications efforts towards EU institutions in particular.  This is especially helpful for the Vanguard Initiative’s policy influencing work, but also forms part of our wider strategic communications activity: Telling the Vanguard Story. Ministers were also able to hear about progress with this programme of work, in particular the development of core messages, and a new video, featuring Directors from Vanguard Initiative member regions, focusing on the Added Value of the Vanguard Initiative. This video will be placed soon on the website, but for now can be accessed here, with password “vanguard”.

Member regions also voted on key issues for the future governance of the network, including the concluding elements of the new Shared Funding Model, the 2020 Budget, administrative changes to the Statutes and Internal Rules and electing the Board Members for 2020, who will be:



Basque Country

East Netherlands





In the absence of a nomination for Chair and Treasurer, the new Board will determine how these functions will be carried out.

Representing the outgoing Chair, Maria Korner-Westin of Skåne closed the conference, highlighting the important role that Vanguard Initiative will need to have in supporting the new European Commission’s ambitions for industrial and societal transformation.  Being at the forefront of delivering and shaping this agenda will enhance employment, productivity and innovation in our member regions.