IDEPA and SODENA awarded as the best European Development Agencies of 2017

The best development agencies of Europe are IDEPA from Asturias and SODENA from Navarra. Both Spanish agencies have won the Awards of the European Development Agencies as a recognition of their activities to support economic growth in their territories. They have successfully implemented two mechanisms supporting start-ups in the fields of Industry 4.0 and Agrofood, respectively. The annual awards of the European Association of Development Agencies, celebrated last Thursday 21st of June, recognised as well the best practices of Ljubljana Development agency from Slovenia and ASTER from Italy for their initiatives in creative industries and cooperation between researchers and companies.

The annual awards promote at the European initiatives with high level impact implemented by public development agencies to support the economic growth and competitiveness of companies in their territories. The 3rd edition of the Best European Development Agency Awards was celebrated in the headquarters of IGRETEC, the development agency of Charleroi. The ceremony took place with the presence of Mr Slawomir Tokarski, Director of Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing of DG Grow of the European Commission and it was chaired by Ms Roberta Dall’Olio, from ERVET, as President of Eurada. During the ceremony, Mr Tokarski explained initiatives of the European Commission for innovation, which are useful for economic development practitioners, and emphasised the relevance of the platform for industrial modernisation and the importance of the measures taken to support social enterprises.

In this 2017 edition, the Awards were available to any European Development Agency of Europe (not only EURADA members). It gathered 16 applications from 8 countries. This award is well considered by the winners because the jury is composed exclusively by the colleagues of profession. The jury are economic development practitioners which have provided a professional assessment to the activities proposed by their colleagues. All the winners have submitted exceptional activities carried out by their development agencies which support the economic growth of a territory. This serves as an example for other development agencies. The awards have recognised innovativeness, impact and transferability of the activities carried out by the agencies.

The Best Development Agency of Europe Award in the member’s category went to IDEPA, from Asturias because of their initiative Open lnnovation 4.0. The Award was received by Mr Isaac Pola, Regional Minister of Employment, Industry and Tourism and President of IDEPA. The jurors considered it as the most innovative and its tool as the most effective. This initiative started in 2017 with the support of the European Center for Business and Innovation (CEEI). The jury considers that this project is “the most innovative” because it allows the acceleration and traction to the market of emerging companies thanks to the cooperation with large consolidated companies. Last year, seven large companies based in Asturias presented different technological challenges and 44 emerging companies (start-ups) proposed 64 solutions that allowed the creation of seven tractor start-up company binomials to face various challenges. In total, proposals were developed that generated more than 420 000 euros of investment in joint business projects. During the Award ceremony, Mr Pola highlighted the importance of this recognition and stressed that IDEPA is the main driving force for economic and business activity in the region. The regional minister also highlighted the success of the Open Innovation 4.0 program, the initiative carried out jointly with the European Center for Business and Innovation (CEEI Asturias) that motivated the award.

SODENA from Navarra has been awarded because of Orizont, the first leading agri-food accelerator. The award was received by its director Ms Pilar Irigoien, who explained that Orizont was created in 2015 to promote research and innovation with an advanced financial instrument. The initiative has already promoted 18 projects in its first three editions (6 for each call), with over 800 start-up applications coming from different countries. The supported companies come from a wide diversity of agri-food subsectors and suppliers. Orizont provides financial support (up to 110 000€), tailored training for startups, mentoring on business opportunities and proactive networking. Ms Irigoien said “This award is a recognition of the great work that the entire Sodena team and of all the companies and agents that make up Orizont do“.

The jurors have considered important to recognise ASTER, the Development Agency from Emilia Romagna for the initiative Spark to establish cooperation between researchers and companies. It was considered as well as an outstanding best practice. The award was received by Ms Irene Comiti from ASTER.

The event had as well the presence of Ms Lilijana Madjar, Director of the Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region (RRA LUR). This agency from Slovenia got recognition of outstanding best practice due to the creation of the Regional Creative Economy Center (RCKE). The jurors took into consideration the novelties of this initiatives in comparison with other current practices, as well as the impact already achieved and the possibility of transferring those initiatives to other territories. During the award ceremony Ms Madjar emphasized the importance of promoting the development of a cultural and creative sector based on expression of creativity, co-shaping and co-production with various partners and civil society: “Combining bottom-up and top-down approaches is key to the operation RCKE, because creativity can only bloom in this sort of the ecosystem. In the Regional Center for Creative Economy, we do not only work on a project, but we fully address the development of a creative economy in the region, and above all, we strive to transfer the knowledge and experience of the Center to other regions in Slovenia and beyond“.

Notable finalists of the edition of 2017, worthy of mention, were the best practices presented by the Regional Development Agency of Murcia (INFO), lzmir Development Agency (IZKA), Regional Development Agency of Sisak Moslavina county (SIMORA), Science Foundation and Technology Park of Extremadura (Fundecyt-PCTEX) and Agentia Pentru Dezvoltare Regionala Nord- Est.

The two winners of the previous two editions were agencies from The Netherlands and Finland. In 2016 Kainuun Etu won the Award with a project that proved to have increased its customer base through the creation of a one-stop-shop service with a single system to support companies. This initiative of the Finnish development agency multiplied by 300% the assistance to companies.

In 2015, the award went to Oost NV, recognising the Food Ambassador initiative of Food Valley created in The Netherlands to connect internationalization, human capital and innovation. In addition, the Ambassador programmes contribute to attracting talent to the territory by providing a grant to young international researchers for working during a year in local food companies.

Founded in 1992, the European Association of Development Agencies brings together professionals working on regional economic development in Europe. Through our large network of 75 members in 22 countries of the European Union and beyond, regional development agencies (RDAs) and their economic development practitioners can network, advocate, and participate at a European Union wide level. EURADA is their designated meeting place allowing interaction with other regional economic development practitioners. EURADA, as a network and connector, offers opportunities by bringing together highly skilled professionals, who answer the specific needs of firms. EURADA plays a role in Europe’s economic growth and job creation.

IDEPA – Open Innovation 4.0

Summary written by EURADA

Open Innovation 4.0 program by the Regional Development Agency of Asturias (IDEPA)

Innovative aspects:

Open Innovation 4.0 is a powerful initiative launched by IDEPA in collaboration with technology-based incubator and accelerator CEEI Asturias. The initiative enhances the Open Innovation paradigm by designing an innovative methodology in an area that deserves the most interest, as it is the Industry 4.0 and digitalisation.

It allows the acceleration and traction to the market of innovative young companies through an Open innovation process in which they will interact with other more consolidated companies to cope with in a series of technological challenges on Industry 4.0, tackling the challenges of digitalisation. This program adapts to the needs of regional development in which RDAs put the focus.


QUANTITATIVE: 64 proposed solutions (applications) from 44 young companies/entrepreneurs in the form of products, services or projects for the challenges identified in the framework of industry 4.0,  7 start-up selected and participating in acceleration programme, 7 tractor companies reinforced to identify and develop technological challenges in 40, and 421.461,58 € joint business project investment.

QUALITATIVE: 1 defined and sustainable methodology for design and develop Open Innovation programmes, 7 co-operation projects on-going in high and visible 4.0 areas for 7 tractor companies, and 7 start-ups and an Entrepreneurs Consortium.


The initiative has already attracted the interest of several regions and has been identified as good practice debated and presented in several national and international forums. Open Innovation 4.0 is a program absolutely adapted to the needs of regional development in which RDAs put the focus, and it is also adaptable, both in dimension and industry approach to the different regional realities.

Who is involved (beneficiary and stakeholders)?

CEEI Asturias and the 7 tractor companies are involved in this initiative with them, as well as other key agents in the territory such as: Government, companies, University, Technological Centers, clusters, etc.

Tractor companies and start-ups are the final beneficiaries of this program. Open Innovation 4.0 supports them to establish in a systematic way their open innovation processes and achieve their first representative customer, to make them more competitive and smarter.

Visit the website



Summary written by EURADA

Acceleration process Orizont by Sociedad de Desarrollo de Navarra, S.L. (Sodena)

Innovative aspects:

This financial instrument, called Orizont, accelerates start-ups of all agrifood subsectors of local, national or international origin at an early stage of development using a scalable business proposal.

It is based on four pillars:

  1. Financial support by which each project can receive up to 110,000 euros.
  2. Training from the European Business and Innovation Center of Navarra (CEIN) throughout the acceleration process.
  3. Advice on business opportunities, entry into the market, development of the business plan, etc.
  4. Encouragement of networking and mentoring of projects with more than 30 reference companies in the agrifood sector.


639 start-ups were interested in participating in the first three editions of Orizont with national and international origin. They are the leading accelerator in Spain according to the latest report of Funcas (Foundation of Savings Banks).


The pillars of Orizont are economic support, advice, perseverance and strengthening relationships between all the companies of our ecosystem. They seem sure that with these premises, most of the accelerated projects can be carried out and can succeed in any field and sector.

Who is involved (beneficiary and stakeholders)?

The entire ecosystem can be a beneficiary of the work that is done using this accelerator, starting from the entrepreneurs themselves to consolidated companies and even the agrifood sector itself.

Orizont English Information

Fact Sheet Orizont

Visit the website

Contact with SODENA





Summary written by EURADA


Innovative aspects:

SPARK represents a new way to handle the relation between research and enterprises as it empowers researchers to think about research activities results from a market point of view, thanks to the use of the Business Model Canvas. It foresees the involvement of different actors of the innovation ecosystem working together to highlight and release the market potential of industrial research results. Most of SPARK’s success is due to its complementarity approach to solving real problems, as it involves people from very diverse contexts, allowing for an exchange of knowledge and points of view among them, leading to a common goal: writing a business model for industrial research projects. This tool shortens the time to market of research results in terms of feedback and feasibility check with the industrial sector and the final users.

Business Model Canvas is a well-known tool for start-ups and businesses, but it’s quite unusual to researchers in their daily activities.


5 editions of SPARK involved 5 different innovation places: 190 actors from 121 organizations -of which 54 are researchers, 71 are from 66 companies, 22 people are from innovation centres, 25 are from end users and civil society representative organizations and 18 are staff from ASTER.

The SPARK tool has also inspired participants to replicate the experience and create spin off actions.


SPARK is easily transferable as it requires the combination of elements or “ingredients” usually available in all contexts: research actors with research results, companies, sectoral experts, start-ups, end users, interest groups.

ASTER itself has experimented the transferability of the model to different sectors related to the regional S3 priorities: Health, Building and Constructions, Mechanics and Mechatronics, Cultural and Creative Industries, and Agrifood.

Who is involved (beneficiary and stakeholders)?

The stakeholders of their SPARK tool are researchers, who learn how to re-think and fine-tune industrial research projects, and businesses, which get to know new potential partners and have the possibility to test and become early adopters of a technology or product.

The beneficiaries are the end user and civil society representative organizations who contribute to orient the designing of new projects and services by providing their advice and address the potential application. And of course, the development agencies can enrich their offer towards the territory.

Visit the website

Web page dedicated to the Transinnov project

Contact with ASTER


Summary written by EURADA

Regional Creative Economy Center (RCKE) by the Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region

Innovative aspects:

The RCKE is a pioneer in the field of Creative Industries. Its modus operandi is to support the development of the creative sector and to create a spill over effect when cooperating with other sectors, based on the expression of creativity, creative methods, co-creation and co-production with different partners as well as civil society.

The Center is actively contributing to the improvement of the business environment, especially at the sector level (creative economy) with different activities: development of adequate political tool for CI, mapping and studying the potential of CI sector and awareness – rising and promotion of CI potential in boosting socio-economic.


7 Value Chains across different industrial sectors have been established in this time, namely Connecting Design and Industry, Sustainable transportation in the City and Healthcare, Platform for Arthritis Patients, and more. Over 100 workshops and training events realised for different target groups (private and public organisations), attended by more than 2,150 individuals. More than 100 consultations (e.g. legal advice for creative entrepreneurs, IPR Rights, Financing for CI, crowdfunding). The RCKE supports the study visits abroad and international integration for (1) policy makers and (2) creative entrepreneurs.


This innovation that is addressed to specific fields of creative industries can be applied on others to achieve results, which was proved in many occasions by RDA LUR (e.g. Creating a strategy of sustainable transportation in the city of Ljubljana, process grounded on participatory workshops with civil society, etc.). They want to replicate RCKE initiative in other 11 Slovenian regions (the interest of regions was confirmed, the steps to provide the financial sustainability of individual initiative is in progress).

Who is involved (beneficiary and stakeholders)?

The initiative focuses on Creative communities, Classic economic sectors, Decision makers and policy makers, Educational and research institutions, New industries, and Civil society. In order to provide quality programmes for the support of creative communities, they cooperate with different international stakeholders from this field. RCKE has successfully interconnected various creative communities and clusters in order to promote their cooperation. Therefore it is the initiator, connector and a platform for horizontal and vertical cooperation.

Visit the website of RRA LUR

Web page dedicated to the RCKE

Contact with RRA LUR


Notable finalists worthy of mention are:

Regional Development Agency of Murcia (Murcia, Spain)
Izmir Development Agency (IZKA) (Izmir, Turkey)
Regional Development Agency of Sisak Moslavina County SIMORA Ltd. (Sisak-Moslavina, Croatia)
Foundation FUNDECYT Science and Technology Park of Extremadura (Fundecyt-PCTEX) (Extremadura, Spain)
Agentia pentru Dezvoltare Regionala Nord-Est (Nord-East Region, Romania)

Cross-sectorial Model
Kainuun Etu from Finland won the 2016 edition of the European Development Agency of the Year Award, which recognizes best practices implemented by members of EURADA, those practices can then serve as examples for other European regional development agencies.

3 criteria were held for this year’s selection:
Novelty compared to current practices
Potential impact
Transferability and readiness for dissemination

With a focus on innovation and internationalisation of SMEs, Kainuun Etu has a one-stop-shop service based on a cross-sectorial model and a demand-led approach that serves as a unique entry point for companies. Their central management system mobilises all the stakeholders that could potentially satisfy the needs of the company. Success is already there with an increase of the customer base of the RDA by 300%.

2016 Quality finalists:
East Marmara Development Agency (MARKA) from Turkey for its practical information system allowing the users to get all the relevant information they need in a specialised way serving as a medium of interaction between MARKA and its stakeholders.

ACCIÓ from Catalonia for the European Projects Management Office which performs the overall coordination of new ACCIÓ’s participation (or already going participation) in EU projects resulting in an easier access to EU projects for Catalan firms.

North-East Regional Development Agency from Romania for the establishment of a genuine cooperation with the northern Provinces of The Netherlands. This collaboration involves coordinated smart specialisation strategies in both regions as well as an exchange of experts to fill the gaps in each region’s value chain.

Food Valley Ambassador Program
Oost NV of the Netherlands won the 2015 edition of the European Development Agency of the Year Award which recognizes best practices implemented by members of EURADA, those practices can then serve as examples for other European regional development agencies.

3 criteria were held for this year’s selection:
Novelty compared to current practices
Potential impact
Transferability and readiness for dissemination

Oost NV has implemented a new instrument using human capital for the first time. Before, human capital had never been an issue in the work of the agency. It was focused on internationalisation and innovation of the companies. For the first time in their history, the agency has put in place an initiative connecting internationalisation, human capital, and innovation.
The initiative contributes to talent attraction. It provides a grant to young international researchers to work during one year in local food companies. This one year period allows carrying out real projects and to establish strong relations. After this period, the young researchers use their relations in the local companies and in their countries to establish new projects.

2015 finalists:
FUNDECYT from Extremadura for its ‘Office for Innovation’.
İzmir Development Agency (IZKA) for its programme to support clean production.
The Regional Development Agency from Aragon for its ‘Open Spaces for Innovation’.
Madrid Emprende for its international lab for entrepreneurs and its privately funded accelerator program.
North-East Regional Development Agency from Romania for its innovative tools for the management of the Sectorial Operational Programme.