The Vanguard Initiative (VI) workshop organised in the framework of the EWRC, provided a valuable opportunity to discuss how European Regions are key drivers in the digital transition in the presence of Ms Denisa Perrin, Deputy Head of Unit EU and place-based Innovation Ecosystems at the European Commission. The VI Consortium included the VI regions of East Netherlands, Baden Württemberg, Slovenia, East and North Finland, Asturias, Scotland, Emilia Romagna, and South Netherlands.
Opened by the keynote speeches of Mr Eddy van Hijum, Regional Minister Province Overijssel and Chair of Vanguard Initiative, followed by Mr. Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise for the Scottish Government, 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.
In this context, the two new VI pilots launched at the beginning of this year were showcased: Smart Health and Artificial Intelligence. Mr. Stephan Satijn, Regional Minister for Economy of the Province of Limburg in South Netherlands described the challenges and the importance of a pilot focusing on health. South Netherlands created a strong ecosystem, built on the triple helix, where actors can share their expertise on digitalisation, innovation in healthcare, and healthy food solutions with European partners and build together innovative solutions.
Ms Alexandra Fezer, Senior Project Manager, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum, Baden Wuerttemberg then focused on AI applications in real use cases to sustain and stimulate the demonstration and deployment of AI technologies to better equip European SMEs with future-ready tools and processes and support the adoption of AI technologies pooling stakeholders’ knowledge, competencies and capacities available to accelerate the innovation processes of companies.
While Mrs Perrin outlined how the Horizon Europe and EIE calls will provide opportunities for the VI regions and their pilots, concrete examples of the VI collaboration through its pilot activities allowed to reflect on policy issues and aspects which are paramount to achieve interregional value chains to spur the digital transition. VI regions presented concrete examples and good practices on how regional Smart Specialisation Strategies can support the development of regional innovation ecosystems, and what strategy and initiatives should be implemented by a region to accelerate the digital transition of its regional innovation ecosystem.
Indeed, Ms Morena Diazzi, General Director for Knowledge-Economy, Labour and Enterprises, Emilia-Romagna Region illustrated the initiatives carried out in her region where local and regional authorities have a key role in implementing investment programmes in order to meet the challenging targets of the digital and green transition. While Mrs Eva Pando General Director of the Institute of Economic Development of the Principality of Asturias outlined the good practices implemented in the frame of the 3DP pilot to be able to internationalize and connect their digital ecosystems. Finally, Ms Nina Meglič, Head of project management, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Štajerska, gave a Business perspective on aspects touching upon the I3 call and described how Smart Specialisation is organised in Slovenia and how it’s integrated into inter-regional value chains.