ISSUE N.5 (January-June 2014)
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Good practices from...
Peer Reviews third round
Although we have entered the last year of SMART EUROPE and the results are already visible, we have still many activities in the pipeline! Some regions have managed to embed the peer review recommendations in their policies. In other regions the peer reviews have been used to design the Smart Specialisation Strategies and the new operational programmes. As the chair of the Monitoring Board it is quite satisfactory to see that SMART EUROPE had found its way to policy plans all over Europe.
In the following months we will be working on the next phase. The peer review recommendations included good practice suggestions from other regions: these good practices will be exchanged in depth and -if feasible- transferred from one region to another. For example, Flevoland will exchange experiences about the development of incubators with Manchester and Veneto. Several partners aim to import the Demola good practice from Finland (www.demola.fi) which was highlighted in the previous newsletter. I expect these exchanges will lead to new projects in the SMART EUROPE regions.
Finally, I take the occasion to invite you to the final conference Growing connections in Almere, Flevoland, on the 4th of November 2014. We will organise this conference together with the INTERREG IVC project GreenInfraNet.
Jan Nico Appelman
Deputy Kings Commissioner Province of Flevoland
Chair of the SMART EUROPE Monitoring Board
Partnership Province of Flevoland Lead Partner www.flevoland.nl
Assembly of European Regions www.aer.eu
Manchester Metropolitan University www.mmucfe.co.uk
Veneto Region www.regione.veneto.it
Veneto Innovazione www.venetoinnovazione.it
Province of Bologna www.provincia.bologna.it
szak Alfld Regional Development Agency www.eszakalfold.hu
Maramures County Council www.cjmaramures.ro
Almi Foretagspartner Mitt AB www.almi.se/mitt
Patras Science Park S.A. www.psp.org.gr
The Baltic Institute of Finland www.baltic.org
Avila County Council www.diputacionavila.es
Sor Trondelag County Autority www.stfk.no
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Between the 19th and the 21st of March 2014, all SMART EUROPE partners gathered in Manchester for a series of meetings to share results, ideas, suggestions and to take part in a conference and workshop organised by Manchester Metropolitan University, the UK partner in the project.
On the first day, the Steering Committee and Monitoring Board was held at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry which gave partners the possibility to exchange proposals and opinions on important issues regarding the current state-of-play of the project and suggest next steps forward.
On the second day, a dissemination conference and a workshop on the theme Creating the Conditions for Smarter Cooperation in Manchester & beyond took place at Manchester Central conference halls. The morning session included an overview on the initial outcomes of the SMART EUROPE project, an introduction to the funding opportunities within the new programming period 2014-2020 and the presentation of some ideas about how the new programmes could be connected to implementing some of the peer review recommendations.
During the afternoon session, some of the participants took part in an Action Learning workshop, an innovative and useful methodology used by MMUs Centre for Enterprise to support business owners to find solutions to business related issues. The technique was shown to be a useful tool to help partners themselves overcome any barriers they may face in the implementation of peer review recommendations. Alongside this, another group of partners held a discussion on the new opportunities available and shared ideas and plans for the future of SMART EUROPE.
Thematic focus. The SMART EUROPE meeting and conference in Manchester: 3 days of debate and exchange to bring the
SMART ideas ahead.
After two days of meetings and workshops, all partners met for a final morning of what turned out to be a series of very exciting and lively discussions focussed around good practice exchanges. Presentations were given by Bologna Province on the specifics of their Business Angels model and also Demola from Tampere (Finland) gave an extensive overview of the work carried out in their region to rethink innovation. Both were shown to have great success in generating new innovative start ups, as well as growth potential.
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The three-days meeting, essential to share points-of-view on the development of SMART EUROPE, turned out to be an invaluable opportunity to look beyond the project and to experience innovative problem-solving solutions, such as the Action Learning methodology, which positively impressed the participants.
In addition, a number of partners had private discussions in groups on how to further develop their own exchanges: Avila, Sr-Trndelag and Mid Sweden discussed in more depth the opportunities for developing joint learning in the fields of sustainable tourism, accessible tourism and agrofood; Sr-Trndelag discussed with MMU a future visit by MMU to Trondheim to develop a high growth programme for businesses; Flevoland, Veneto and Manchester had discussions on a future fact finding mission to explore more fully the incubation activities in Manchester and the North West of England. Manchester and other partners also spoke in more detail with Demola and started to think of ways to import the practice to their regions. Implementation is the next phase of Smart Europe and so the coming months will see a large amount of activities in relation to the further development of good practice exchanges which will involve a number of visits between the partners to enable them to fully implement the identified practices.
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A new formula for SMART workshops: the Action Learning methodology
During the conference in Manchester, the participants had the opportunity to take part to two Action Learning workshops.
The Action Learning methodology is an innovative instrument of learning through concrete problem solving. Small groups of people discuss about real issues through open questions and try to overcome those which were previously considered barriers to achieve a goal. An Action Learning session is based on the GROW scheme:
- Goal: where we are going;- Reality: what will help us achieving the goal;- Options: what alternatives are available;- Way forward: what will be the next actions.
A volunteer presents a real case study, following the above mentioned scheme and the other participants can ask open questions. Giving suggestions is not allowed; however, before the end of the session, participants are allowed to say what they would do if they were in the situation of the person who presented the case study. This process helps to become more aware of the level of knowledge on a particular problem, to expand the participants thinking and problem solving skills, and to develop new ideas. The purposes of this methodology are both learning and overcoming barriers towards a goal. An Action Learning session is always facilitated by a coach who helps the group to focus on the key points and to reflect and learn from the process.
The Action Learning experience of Sara and Giulia: a new perspective for their activities!In Manchester, Sara DellElce and Giulia Righetti (Province of Bologna) volunteered to present their case study. The coaching session, restricted to 6 partners and relatively short, was aimed at capturing an issue related to the drivers of innovation in the Region, the so called innovation anchors.Sara and Giulia explained that the Province of Bologna is trying to reinforce the cooperation at local level with other stakeholders and to respond to the needs of creative industries, also by setting up a special branch of its Business Angels Network office.The Action Learning methodology was effective: already after few minutes of open questions, they had found new and unexpected ideas for the development and improvement of the initiatives in their area.In particular, during the session, Sara and Giulia understood the importance to focus more on matchmaking, to build on experiences coming from other regions, to involve entrepreneurs more actively and to provide a feedback on the implemented activities. All these inputs have been useful to come back home with a more investigative and smart spirit! concluded Sara and Giulia.
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The Action Learning experience of Hans and Elle: Its like a tangle that gets unravelled
Also the partners from Flevoland Elle Verstraelen and Hans Koole volunteered to present their case studies. Hans and Elle placed their complex policy issues out in the open and the peers asked them open-ended questions. This way of questioning made Hans and Elle aware that solutions were often already in their heads.
For the two participants, it was not easy to share with others issues in which they had personal goals and interests. The environment of an Action Learning session is therefore important. For Elle the safe and open environment that was created was like a gift: a gift to the region which can benefit from new ideas, but also a personal gift in terms of new insights.
An example of a question that was put on the table in Hans workshop was why he thought the achieved results were insufficient. This made Hans realise that he had knew the answer for months already, but had not taken any action so far. By answering open-minded questions you get a better view on your own role, but it is also very helpful to know what steps you have to take and to look back at the steps youve already taken.
At the beginning of the session, the peers asked many questions in order to clarify the issue. It takes time to come to the core
of the problem, but once you get there, the questions from the peers make you think about your own solution. Hans and Elle are convinced that this methodology can also be used in collegial or even in a private setting.
Action Learning works when there are clear rules on the division of roles, a good setting, trust and someone who supervises the process. It is essential that the peers respect the rules and do not give any advice. This might be weird at first, but after a short time you feel the potential of these open-minded questions. It is surprising to experience how peers understand the background of your situation and ask the right questions. Its like a tangle that gets unravelled and unconscious thoughts are made explicit.
The parallel with the SMART EUROPE project, which also uses a peer-to-peer method, is also interesting. Hans and Elle are convinced that peer-to-peer methods are more successful by asking the right questions than by saying what you should or should not do.
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ERASMUS +: a resource for the implementation of the SMART EUROPE strategies
The start of the new ERASMUS+ programme in 2014 has brought new opportunities for Smart Europe partners to work together on areas that support some of the recom-mendations in the peer reviews that relate to innovation in education, training and learning. With this in mind, Russell Yates and Jennie Shorley from Manchester Metropolitan gave an overview of the new funding programme opportu-nities and asked partners to think about where they could use elements of the programme to support key recommen-dations in their peer reviews.
They also indicated to partners where MMU was already taking advantage of some of the keys strands of funding in ERASMUS+ to implement some of the recommenda-tions from the Manchester Peer Review. ERASMUS+ can be used to support staff or learners through placements and exchanges in other EU countries, to improve the skills of young people, to make organisations and SMEs more in-ternational, to develop staff and organisational learning. For example, MMU is working with a number of partners to develop a Knowledge Alliance (Key Action 2) proposal to
More information on ERASMUS+ can be found on the dedicated
identify and develop a framework for capturing and measuring innovation competencies amongst staff in SMEs. However projects could also be as simple as a weeks youth exchange activity for young people to boost learning about entrepreneurship, or building links between schools to boost learning in English or other languages useful for the domestic economy.
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Good practices from
BAN Bologna is a regional network established in 2001 connecting informal investors (Business Angels) to companies and/or business projects. It is member of both the EBAN (European Business Angels Network) and IBAN (Italian Business Angels Network) wider networks and actively cooperates with them. BAN Bologna facilitates the match between entrepreneurs and investors to support the implementation of new business ideas and, consequently, the development of start-ups and early stage companies. The Province of Bologna is leading this project, which involves also representatives of the main local economic stakeholders (Aster, ConfCommercio Imprese per lItalia - Ascom Bologna, Confartigianato Bologna, Bologna Lega Coop and Unindustria) as a result of an excellent collaboration between public and private bodies.
Which is the main activity of BAN? Who are the key beneficiaries?
BAN involves both people with good business ideas but lacking financial resources and managerial skills, and people who are willing to invest capital and to provide technical and managerial support to new entrepreneurs. We call the matches between them marriages. BAN does not participate directly in the equity of companies, but provides a friendly and reliable environment for both entrepreneurs and investors. BAN promotes the culture of risk capital and facilitates the creation and development of companies.
Which results and outputs has the practice achieved?
Among the 450 business projects submitted, about 55 of them have been accredited, while 53 (out of 75 who applied) are the accredited Business Angels. By now, we have had 5 official marriages (among which 1 Business Angel withdrawed). Furthermore, many more contacts have been established between Business Angels and businesses. Although the results may not seem of great impact, I would point out that one of the main objectives of this initiative is to introduce the concept of innovative finance in the area. BAN did a very good job in terms of establishing a network with other stakeholders (both
public and private), and has also participated to many initiatives on innovative finance in Italy and in Europe. Furthermore, BAN cooperates actively with other organisations to assess and monitor the economic and productive environment.
What are your plans for the future?
Thanks to the project SMART EUROPE and the in-depth analysis of the Peer Review, we have decided to create BAN Creative, a specific section on creative industries within BAN Bologna. Cultural and Creative Industries have been our focus in SMART EUROPE and BAN Creative is a direct result of the project. We have found out that creative entrepreneurs have some peculiarities. For instance, they are often very focused on their creativity and are not familiar with more practical issues. Therefore, they need specific training, especially in business planning and for the economic and financial aspects. Furthermore, they face difficulties in accessing traditional credit and in dealing with the complicated bureaucratic procedures. In this particular category of business, it might be helpful to involve Angel-guides with good management skills, but who do not necessarily have to invest large sums of money.
Bologna: The Business Angels Network helps ideas come true
Graziano PrantoniBorn in 1953, Graziano Prantoni began his political commitment in the early 80s in the Education field. From 1990 till 1999 he joined the City Council of Castel San Pietro Terme (a Municipality in the province of Bologna) becoming later on deputy Mayor and then Mayor. He is currently member of the Metropolitan Conference of the Presidency office, of the Commission of the Ministry of Environment for the Sustainable Cities and vice Chairman of the Conference of the Local Health Agency in Imola. He is also, as member of the National Council of Italian Municipalities, President of the Centre Cities friends of Childhood and Adolescence and of the National Association Cities of Honey. From 2004 till 2009 he was also Councillor for Road access and Mobility at the Province of Bologna.
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Which actions are you planning to take to set up BAN Creative?
First of all, we want to enlarge the team involving new members from both public and private organisations. In addition, following the advice of the Vice President of IBAN (Italian Business Angels Network) Tomaso Marzotto Caotorta, we are planning to activate tailored training courses addressed to a certain number of entrepreneurs in companies that could become our case studies, involving also members of BAN and other institutions dealing with creative companies in the area. The promotion of BAN Creative could then be extended to other bodies that host or manage programmes addressed to creative businesses. At the same time, thanks to the network of local banks coordinated by the Province of Bologna, specific tools designed to financially support creative companies and other accompanying actions could be further investigated and tested.
Which are, in your opinion, the critical factors or the barriers that could hinder the development of your project?
I dont think there are any. We just need to find a solution to some practical issues. For instance, how the Business Angels can participate in the companies equity. From the legal point of view, the most common type of business is the Limited Liability Company (LLC). Recent reforms have allowed entrepreneurs to start a LLC with a capital of min. 1 euro. This offers the possibility to creative entrepreneurs, who often have limited financial resources, to take advantage of the opportunities that the Business Angels Network can provide.
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Peer Reviews third round
The peer review in Avila focused on how to innovate the tourism sector to make it more attractive for foreign tourists and to increase the number of people visiting the county, thereby creating new jobs.
Tourism is already an important sector for the local economy, but most of the demand comes from the domestic market. Furthermore, this sector is affected by high seasonal variability, with a lot of visits during the weekends and festivities, but with very few overnights in the working days or in low season. In order to create stable and sustainable jobs in this sector, these problems need to be tackled.
Holidays in Spain means for most foreign tourists only warm sunny beaches, while few of them are curious to explore the inner land. Finding that added value which makes inner tourism attractive is a major challenge for the Avila county, with its medieval walls and palaces, its Romanesque and Gothic churches, the different landscapes and excellent gastronomy.Between the 7th and 11th of October 2013, the peer reviewers came to Avila to help this county to find out how to fully exploit its potential. The team was composed by professionals with different backgrounds from szak-Alfld (coordinating the group), Sr-Trndelag, Manchester Metropolitan University and Maramures. The
Innovating tourism to create new jobs
atmosphere was friendly, facilitating an intense mutual learning process. The reviewers attended formal meetings in the mornings and on-site visits in the afternoons, both in the capital and in the province at Gredos Mountains. After all these visits and meetings, on the last day, they presented a first draft of recommendations.
Above all, the experts suggested to update the strategy and the offer, focusing on internationalisation, language skills, integrated diversified packages based on experiences rather than products, more sustainable transport within the province and cooperation between companies and the University. Monitoring the data on arrivals might also prove helpful to better identify the tourist profiles and their needs, while developing IT apps enables the best use of the social media channels to promote Avila as holiday destination.
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Peer Reviews third round
In Mid Sweden entrepreneurs are generally satisfied with the way their business is running and, therefore, less motivated in undertaking innovative activities. However, innovation is a vector for sustainable growth, whereas the lack of innovation makes companies more vulnerable to technological or economic changes.
In this context, to establish a trust relationship between entrepreneurs and the innovation system becomes vital, so the peer review in Mid Sweden focused on identifying the missing link between entrepreneurs and the innovation system to improve the effectiveness of regional innovation policies. In particular, the region was interested in better understanding how to reach out to wider groups of companies and support them locally to engage in networks discussing investment strategies on markets, competences and innovation.
Strengthening innovative partnerships in Mid Sweden
The programme of the peer review week (27-31 May 2013) consisted of meetings with several organisations, among which the Mid Sweden University, two science parks and the municipality, which illustrated how they support both start-ups and established companies. The peer team also interviewed some companies with different backgrounds and from different sectors, which explained the support they asked for and actually received from the region. After all these meetings, the reviewers presented to the regional representatives a report containing the specific recommendations.
The most important recommendations received from the peers were to better clarify the role of the different actors of the innovation system and better structure the partnerships (e.g. through soft agreements), to improve the synergies between the different sectors and make new crossovers between traditional sectors and new technologies. More in general, the peer reviewers recommended to build on the regions strengths and to increase the promotion of the region.
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Peer Reviews third round
Between the 8th and 13th September 2013, experts from the partner regions Flevoland (NL), szak-Alfld (HU) and Mid Sweden (SE) came to Maramures to explore the innovation system in the county and elaborate recommendations.
The peer review focus was on evaluating the innovation potential of the Maramures county. The reviewers focused especially on the instruments to boost start-ups and job creation in the innovative sector and to financially support the innovative companies. They were also very interested in the methods to stimulate the regional decision-makers to commit to the regional innovation strategy.
In Maramures, several factors hamper job creation, like the inadequate investments in infrastructures, the brain drain, an excessive bureaucracy and the high level of taxes. On the other hand, the region holds an important tradition in University research, relatively low labour costs and a positive attitude of the workforce in a well structured manufacturing sector.
Continuing on the innovation path in Maramures!
The most useful recommendation received from the peer reviewers was to increase the cooperation between the different organisations and levels (public, private, academic) to boost innovation and economic growth.
No waste of time in Maramures: within the County Council, a working group including all the stakeholders is already working on the first draft of the Action Plan.
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Growing connections: the SMART EUROPE final conference in Flevoland ing connections: the SMART EUROPE final conference in Flevoland
The final conference of SMART EUROPE will be organised together with the INTERREG IVC project GreenInfraNet on the 4th of November 2014 in Almere, Flevoland (Netherlands). In the plenary part of the conference, the results of the projects will be presented, followed by a political debate, so the interaction with the audience will be guaranteed! There will be a workshop for both projects, as well as a good practice market and time for networking at the end of the day.
GreenInfraNet is a project on green infrastructure and on how biodiversity can be safeguarded while integrating different forms of land use. The province of Flevoland is lead partner of this project as well. Both SMART EUROPE and GreenInfraNet investigate how different fields of policy can be integrated and how they can reinforce each other. Therefore, the motto of the conference is: Growing connections which refers both to the connections between policy fields and to the connections between European regions.
In the same week, our partner Assembly of European Regions (AER) will have its committee meetings in the
neighbouring province Gelderland. This will represent a good opportunity for members of the AER to participate to both events, sharing their views and experiences and feeding the discussion among European stakeholders on the results obtained by SMART EUROPE and GreenInfraNet.
For those who want to stay a bit longer in Flevoland, on the 5th of November there will be a study visit to the Lepelaarsplassen, a nature reserve in Flevoland and to the Making of the Floriade an exhibition about the upcoming World Horticulture Exhibition in Almere.
The Flevoland team will be very happy with your participation in these events!
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The Photo Contest INNOVENS 2013. Innovation through your lens was launched within the project SMART EUROPE to showcase innovative companies around Europe with the potential of generating job opportunities in their local economies.
Between April and December 2013, the participants registered and uploaded their pictures on the projects website. Afterwards, the members of the SMART EUROPE monitoring board ranked the photos, giving to the best ideas the opportunity to be promoted through the SMART EUROPE communication channels. Furthermore, the winner will join all the partners in Flevoland to attend the final conference and will be awarded with a special present.
So, here are the three SMARTest ideas of the SMART EUROPE photo contest! Find out their stories at WWW.SMART-EUROPE.EU
2013 to be launched Apgfgdgdril 30thPhoto contest Innovens: and the winner is...013 to be launched Apgfgdgdril 30th
1- Matire grise contre la crise - cnrs lyon 1 university
2 - Onyx solar walkable pv floor - onyx solar
3 - the smartest house of the netherlands - smart homes
Action PlansAll partners
Final conference Almere, November 4, 2014
Follow us on SMART EUROPE website
Province of Flevoland Lelystad-The Netherlands
Bob Pels firstname.lastname@example.org
Karin Maatje email@example.com
Veneto Innovazione SPA Venice-Italy
Maria Sole DOrazio firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTENTS OF ISSUE 6:- Financing tools for innovative start-ups- Good practices from SMART EUROPE- Flash information from the fourth round of Peer Reviews- SMART EUROPE Action Plans
SMART EUROPE is a project co-financed by the ERDF Made possible by the INTERREG IVC