EURADA Summer Course: summary of Tuesday 2nd of July

Morning session:

Over than 70 persons joined EURADA summer course 2019 an excellent learning experience to help professionals acquire knowledge, valuable contacts and skills to prepare high quality project proposals for their regional development agencies (RDAs). Stanislaw Ginda – EURADA Former President and ARRSA Former Director – warmly welcomed the participants of the EURADA summer course. Stanislaw empathised the mission and role of EURADA over the last decades: EURADA has always acted as a European innovation agent supporting pioneering initiatives: business angels, crowdfunding, industry 4.0, data-mining and many more.

David Jepson – Civil Euro Perspective – started off by discussing the developments of the last decades at the European level. Massive changes occurred in our continent at political, social and technological level. Challenges for RDAs have never been so urgent to address. EURADA has reinvigorated with a larger staff and a new facility and will do its utmost to help RDAs and territories across Europe. Also, David underlined that for EU projects it is paramount that you implement what you promise. To do so, a holistic approach is needed, which considers all specificities of implementing actors and stakeholders involved. EU projects is a very challenging field and hard work is required not only in the project proposal preparation but especially in the implementation and delivery phase. Also, David reminded us the relevance of project funding for the third sector to ensure financial stability for organisations. This represents a challenge for all actors in this sector as the competition is high. The third sector is however advantaged as organisations of this kind can best think of economic development with a social dimension and thus playing a true societal role. Also, David focused on social innovation and how this sector represents one of the main changes for territories. ERDF, UIA / ESF, AMIF, Erasmus, Horizon2020 are relevant funding streams for organisations willing to achieve sustainable economic development.

“For us – as senior speakers – coming to the EURADA’s summer course 2019 it’s like seeing ourselves 30 years ago” said Reza Zadeh – European Foundation for Cluster Excellence – while starting his presentation. Reza mentioned two core issues for RDAs: regional development and relevant tools for analysis. Proper analysis (opinion based analysis, statistical data, stakeholder engagement, value chain analysis among others) is necessary for RDAs to plan and execute sustainable projects and initiatives. A highly dynamic exercise with a case study was given to participants so as to put into practice what they had just learned. Building on the exercise outcomes, Reza then focused on the importance of analysing territorial strengths and weaknesses to conceptualise best project ideas and develop winning project proposals. His engaging moderation made it possible for the participants of EURADA summer course 2019 to speak out their thoughts on the future and the challenges of regional development. Reza concluded with a general reflection on EU projects: “don’t look at the funding streams first but understand the enterprises’ needs in your territories, then prepare a structure of your project proposal and further ameliorate it according to the objectives of all relevant actors in your region with a cross-sectoral perspective”.

Brian McVey – Former Director of Strategy at Scottish Enterprise (SE) – shared his experiences in SE dealing with the complex topic of strategy for development agencies. Brian delivered a very interesting presentation focused on reviewing Scotland’s strategy for territorial development. Inclusive growth has always been considered as key driver of policies and strategies for Scotland and it has guided economic and political actors across territories. Building a competitive economy is an exercise requiring analysis, design, investments considering a number of externalities, variables and indicators. RDAs are now confronted with changing strategic contexts. This complexity triggered a reflection of the economic geography and the fields enterprises have to compete on: local, regional, national and global. Also, territorial development strategies needs to rethink of internationalisation, innovation and inclusion building on resources available locally and setting forward-looking priorities for global markets. The secret is a well-designed innovation eco-system built on the 4-Cs: collaboration, connections, capabilities and competition. To conclude: Brian emphasised some of the key future challenges for RDAs such as inclusive growth and equality, climate change, international competitiveness VS internal social cohesion.

Stars of EURADA – with long experience from all over Europe – delivered great presentations and truly helped our participants grow professionally. This way, EURADA contributes to strengthen capacities and networks of RDAs Europe-wide to successfully participate in the nearest future in European projects.


Afternoon session:

Smart Specialisation Strategies came into play as Mátyás Talas – EURADA – kicked things off by giving participants a short introduction to the history of smart specialisation strategies as well as what exactly it is and what it aims to do. This information was vital to the understanding of the afternoon’s activity.

A short presentation regarding the use of data for prioritisation and monitoring regional innovation strategies was given by Antoni Pastor – EURADA – to help participants gain a better understanding of the concept of big data and its relation to the obsolete traditional sources of information which some regions are still using. What are examples of these big data? SEO tools, web analysis, and Google analytics— these software, considered as RIS3 tools, introduces the concept of segmentation. From a broad scope of talking about big data we then moved to segmentation which aims to categorise information so as to identity precise services companies need. For instance, how can one pin-point high growth SMEs? RIS3 software/tools allow development agencies to discover the answer as they can modify their search to reveal more specific information depending on the parameters they select. A practical example of how big data and segmentation used was presented through the good practices of ACCIO in Catalonia region. ACCIO selected 1,200 companies to analyse how their response to a policy the region was implementing. The use of big data and segmentation helped the RDA gather feedback quicker which revealed results contrary to what was expected. This was important in further developing their marketing policies and strengthen Catalonian companies.

Nuria Fornes – EURADA – led an interactive exercise and detailed the project proposal’s layout, format, and content highlighting the main goal and important outputs along with the possible risks of the proposal. Participants were encouraged to brainstorm possible improvements to the communication strategy of the proposal at hand. Participants were divided into four groups of up to 15 members. These groups then gathered in different rooms where they shared their ideas on how to improve the communication package of a proposal EURADA has been working on for a Horizon 2020 project. An hour and a half to study a proposal may sound like very little time but the first day plenary discussion showed the engagement and interest of participants to analyse the project proposal they were given. Views ranging from practical techniques in writing, exploiting social media, and environmental sustainability through conscious use of materials were discussed and showed the various opinions of each group. 

One group commented on the communication and dissemination plan placing an importance on a strong communication strategy in the first month or two of the project. Introducing targets and goals also encourages active participation of project partners as well as clearly defining each partner role so as to see the balance in workload among all partners. Another group discussed the work package and commented on how social media, such as YouTube can contribute to knowledge sharing on SMEs for interested stakeholders. Events such as having fairs in the communities where the project is implemented can also give the feeling of inclusion amongst not only the stakeholders but as well as the citizens directly affected by the project. Finally, one group also gave feedback on the structure of the work package specifically how the flow of information should be more fluid to make it easier to follow. They also noted that the project did not mention how the results of communication would be measured, analysing that perhaps including specific tools of measurement would be useful for the partners behind the project. Christopher McInnes – EURADA – summarised the plenary and gathered that citizen engagement, not just the quadruple helix of useful suspects must be included in a communication work package. We must think more about the message of the work package through engaging activities which weren’t previously considered. The timing of deliverables must also be developed further to achieve better communication results.

Since the exercise involved the communication work package, it was interesting to consider the proper use of language in order to reach the target group. It’s not always necessary to use English as some towns may not always speak the language. Customizing the language used can help reach a project’s target group better. Summarizing the project proposal to make it easier for the common public to understand can also help them to better see the advantages of the project, should it be implemented in their area.