Eurada News nº387 - April 2019

The Regional Engine of Public Sector Innovation

Most intermediary organisations such as RDAs are pushing the mantra of these days “innovate or die” in their support provision of support services to entrepreneurs and enterprises. But what about innovation within these organisations? Are they taking their own medicine or they prefer to walk it off? The following article flows through the valleys of innovation in these organisations and provides answers, advice and an exciting new tool to assist you in fostering innovation!


The topic of innovation has been on the agenda of many intermediary organisations and policymakers for many years, the “innovate or die” dilemma of these days. Their attention focuses on the provision of support services to entrepreneurs and enterprises, and little attention is given to auto innovation in those organizations.

EURADA can play an important role in enhancing a public administration innovation culture by launching awareness campaigns based on identification, modelling, and promotion of innovative management practices. EURADA must identify good innovative practices and share them with its members helping them through the process of implementation.

To improve their services, RDAs should identify innovation needs, become providers of innovative services and design the regional policy to introduce innovative practices in the public sector. In this article, we have collected some of the main factors for innovation to assists RDAs achieve an innovative and efficient system in the field of organizational, process, conceptual, funding sources and knowledge management innovation. At the second part of this article is a set of ideas for enhancing managerial innovation in regional development organisations.

In the linked document we have also provided a tool named “Oviedo Meter” which helps to review how an RDA is considering or involved in the management of public innovation in the fields of action: Governance; Human capital; Ideation methodology; Digitalisation; Process; Delivery mechanism; Funding sources.

Innovation in RDAs should be based upon a set of critical principles for example by focusing on the end users by a permanent identification of challenges and real needs and overcoming their fear of bureaucratic procedures and thus shifting to a demand-oriented approach. Another example would be to invest in digital communication technologies to take advantage of ICT and new forms of management and to find next-generation solutions which will provide higher added value. As a general rule, RDAs should reinforce their mechanisms for knowledge sharing and developing horizontal and transregional partnerships.

To enhance their innovation capabilities RDAs must achieve the full empowerment of all stakeholders and the staff. For this, they must build a result-orientated corporate culture and transparent monitoring and impact assessment process. They should also set up an effective, rewarding mechanism and provide possibilities for training in innovation management and creativity team building.

Seven keys for a better design
1. Introducing a culture of innovation by challenging the “business as usual” comfort zone and enhancing a risk-taking culture;
2. Involving potential end users from the start;
3. Searching for the excellence not only for an average nor a universal solution;
4. Setting milestones for each new idea to be tested: if you have to fail, fail quickly;
5. Documenting the innovation path by prototyping the solution before launching a pilot;
6. Promoting an open innovation system to involve all stakeholders in the public administration venture;
7. Enhancing an open-minded attitude by all the hierarchy and adopting an as flat as possible organisation chart;



Organizational innovation
–  RDA shareholders have to adopt an inclusive governance system
–  The organization chart has to be as flat as possible to involve all the staff in the innovation process
– RDAs need to deploy new forms of partnership both at the regional and international level to access new knowledge/competencies
– A social capital strategy has to be deployed to enforce an innovation culture. The staff has to access life-long training opportunities, to network with peers and to have the right to test new ideas

Process innovation
This type of innovation focuses on continuous improvement of the quality and the delivery of support services and on finding efficient solutions to the new challenges faced by the end users. The process innovation will provide solutions to the dilemmas often faced by RDAs in the way they:
– provide services to enterprises: collective vs. tailor-made
– offer their service range: generic vs. intensive vs. sectorial specific knowledge
– understand their obligation of results: picking the winners (working based on universal services) vs. supporting the potential winners (segmentation of their targets through a portfolio of strategic enterprises)

Conceptual innovation
– By investing in this type of innovation, RDAs are in search of new forms of interactions with regional stakeholders to present a better return on investment. This might involve investing in regional networks and transregional partnerships.
– Social media can also become a strong tool to help local entrepreneurs in crisis to overcome their difficulties. RDAs should manage a “crowdsolidarity” platform, a combination of what is offered by the crowdfunding and the crowdsourcing platforms, to match the demand for support in kind or cash with peers or citizens. This crowdsolidarity platform would be a strong tool in case of any post-disaster situation.

Innovative funding sources
Instead of relying only on public grants, RDAs should explore how to find alternative financial resources to deploy innovative practices. The options they have to look at are, for instance, invoicing for the provision of high added value services, taking a stake in start-ups, renting real estates or equipment.

Knowledge management innovation
– Assurance process innovation. Through this type of innovation, RDAs can focus on ensuring that all the options of the planning phase of a strategy have been well taken into account. This will help to show the coherence between expected results and achievements of every part of the regional strategy. Recommended tool:  Big Data mining.
– Regional intelligence innovation. This type of innovation allows RDAs to guess and anticipate the impact of economic, social, societal and technology trends on the regional economy, the regional economic fabric, its human capital and quality of life. A regional intelligence process starts by a candid evaluation of the stock of regional assets leading to alert the policymakers of the future obsolescence of some of them or to the missing ones to enhance real competitive advantages for emerging opportunities (search for the next generation of support services).


Written by Mátyás Tálas, EU Project Officer at EURADA