Guidance notes (EN) 8
One of the selection criteria for projects of the INTERREG IVB NWE is the adoption of innovative approaches to tackle territorial challenges in the North-West Europe. As this applies to projects of all Programme priorities, innovation appears as a transversal requirement. In addition to that, the Programme opens up opportunities to projects that address innovation thematically (priority 1) by contributing to the development of the NWE knowledge-based economy and by capitalising on the capacity for innovation in North-West Europe.
8.1 How is innovation understood?
Innovation is about positive and sustainable changes in thinking, in products, in processes and in services. It is typically understood as the successful introduction of something new and useful, for example introducing new methods, techniques, or practices or new/altered products and services. It is invention that gets out to the world.
Innovation is conceived in a variety of contexts, including in relation to technology, commerce, social systems, economic development, and policy construction. In economic terms, it aims to increase the value of a product or process (often driven by consumer demand). Whereas in the organisational context, innovation is linked to performance and growth through improvements in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitive positioning, market share etc.
The strategy for innovation needs to engage diverse actors. This is because the innovation process involves not only the business sector but also public authorities at different levels. At the regional level, the capacity to innovate requires close collaboration between different agents, public, private, research centres, citizens and varied stakeholders.
Within the NWE Programme, innovation does not necessary mean technological solutions as such, but a partnership’s collaboration providing added value in order to generate a positive impact on the state-of-knowledge on the issue in question or how it is typically addressed.
8.2 Why now?
Innovation is currently at the heart of policy goals at national and EU level alike. The EU Cohesion Policy for the period 2007-2013, the Lisbon-Gothenburg Strategy and the Territorial Agenda of the EU are all promoting a balanced and sustainable development of the territory, making Europe and its regions more attractive places to invest and work, improving knowledge and innovation for growth, and creating more and better jobs.
8.3 What does the Programme require?
As mentioned before, all projects regardless of their thematic focus need to demonstrate that they adopt an innovative approach to tackle the territorial challenges of NWE. An innovative approach may be the result of capitalising on previously acquired technical knowledge or on previously-funded activities. It may also be testing new approaches which have proven successful elsewhere. Such fresh thinking can be reflected in the proposed action plan and in the project design and implementation.
In practice, one way to demonstrate an innovative approach is to include experimental piloting of new approaches with a view to their future mainstreaming or their introduction to a particular policy agenda. The involvement of specific stakeholders, use of different techniques or examination of the issue from an unconventional but useful perspective may provide the necessary degree of creativity. The form of transnational cooperation and interaction presents much scope in developing an innovative approach. Investment projects are not necessarily innovative by definition. They need to follow or be embedded in an innovative approach and must not simply reflect general practise.
Overall, it is important to explain why the project breaks new ground, why tackling the particular issue is original, and how the approach itself is inventive, throughout each phase: planning and design, implementation and construction, promotion and publicity etc.
8.4 What about projects focusing on priority 1:
In addition to the above, projects falling under priority 1 need to address innovation thematically by developing the NWE knowledge-based economy and by capitalising on our capacity for innovation.
A particularly high potential for innovation is offered by the horizontal coordination of actors outside the normal value-added chains. Attention should therefore be given to the integration of different economic sectors, technologies and services. One of the most important challenges, in this respect, is the development of effective and internationally competitive innovation systems within the regions, particularly in rural areas. The possibility to innovate often arises at interfaces where different perspectives and opinions are exchanged. For NWE, one of the core interfaces for growth could be the interconnection of technological sectors with creative industries.
The specific focus of this priority will be on three main issues:
(a) To promote greater entrepreneurship and facilitate the translation of innovation and knowledge into products, processes and services;
(b) To develop new and strengthen existing growth clusters and SME networks; and
(c) To strengthen the institutional and territorial framework for innovation and the transfer of knowledge in NWE through transnational cooperation.
For regional and local authorities pursuing the Lisbon-Gothenburg objectives, it is an important task to establish structures and services directed to those active in the field of technological and economic innovation. Improvements in the governance of ‘knowledge networks’ in transnational areas and across national borders are crucial if the full potential of ‘knowledge regions’ or ‘knowledge networks’ is to be extracted. It is important that the appropriate institutional and financial framework is in place for actors to engage in innovation and knowledge transfer which will support sustainable economic growth in NWE.
Please note the Programme will not support either research and development activities which are not linked to actions or demonstration projects or purely academic networking. Project activities should be clearly linked to territorial development and not be merely focused on networking within the specific scientific/business sector, for which the interregional cooperation strand might be more appropriate.
- IVB Operational Programme – chapter 4.1 priority 1: Developing the NWE knowledge-based economy by capitalising on our capacity for innovation, p. 60-65 and chapter 4.2 Quality requirements for future projects, section ‘Tangible and innovative results’, p. 85 available at www.nweurope.eu