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30 years of EURADA: the origins of three decades dedicated to regional development

Article written by Esteban Pelayo - Director at EURADA


EURADA is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It has been three decades promoting regional development. The context is very different now from the world in 1992; however, the principles of solidarity and cooperation that guided a group of visionary agencies to create the association remain equally valid.


EURADA was created in 1992, following Christian Saublens, the founding director of the association. The structural base of what eventually constituted EURADA was built when several development agencies were implementing a territorial cooperation project funded by the European Commission. That project, which they finished before the deadline, laid the foundational stone for EURADA since, after the experience of working jointly, they thought about the possibility of maintaining cooperation through a specific association. For that matter, they decided to establish an association that would facilitate the recognition of the profession of regional development, its impact on pursuing the common interest and the possibility to become the forum for cooperation between experts on regional development to share experiences. That association was named EURADA, the European Association of Development Agencies. 

Since its establishment, EURADA has been a meeting point to explore innovative ideas. In its early days, the association focused on mobilising financial resources for companies. As a result of international contacts with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in the United States, and at the suggestion of Italian investors, the first European association of Business Angels was created. This association eventually became independent of EURADA and was the origin of the European Business Angels Network (EBAN). Over time, many other principles were included that have been extremely useful for regional development experts: FabLabs, peer reviews and, more recently, the first meetings related to crowdfunding. 


Continuous dialogue with EU Institutions 

During the maturity and consolidation, regional innovation strategies have been a key element in the activities of EURADA. The European Commission and other institutions have established a permanent relationship with EURADA, considering that the association represents the profession and encompasses thousands of regional development experts. This human capital, with day-to-day experience, is of enormous value in identifying problems and designing policies that work on the ground.  

In an outstanding way, EURADA contributed to the design and launch of smart specialisation strategies. Christian Saublens was the first chairman of the mirror group and made significant contributions to the roadmap for the development of the strategies. Now retired, he continues to contribute to the development of these strategies and maintains a permanent relationship with the European Commission's JRC Smart Specialisation Platform

EURADA has also contributed to the establishment of mechanisms related to dual technology and defence. The members of EURADA collaborated with the European Commission in the establishment of the European Network of Defence-related Regions (ENDR). The association currently belongs to five working groups established by the European Commission to give our vision of regional development. These groups meet 5-10 times a year and we contribute our vision on territorial cooperation (I3), the management of cohesion funds, policies related to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME Envoys), or the support to regions with the greatest impact on decarbonisation through the Just Transition Platform


Territorial cooperation in practice 

The association has always been very operative, focused on delivering results. Throughout these three decades, EURADA has been an example of how a stable structure enables development agencies to maintain a stable cooperation framework with colleagues and to be more effective in their day-to-day work. The association has an advanced information service for its members that allows them to keep up to date with all the news relevant to their development agencies. 

The association is made up of people, and an effective way of consolidating relationships is through a stable calendar of events that allows regional development experts to meet. Every year for the past three decades, EURADA has organised its annual Agorada spring event in Brussels, which allows agency experts to meet European initiatives directly. Similarly, the association organises an international conference in autumn to showcase the best practices of its members. In addition, a Brokerage Event is organised at the beginning of the year to find partners for European projects and a summer course for management. 

This cooperative way of working is being exported outside Europe because it is increasingly appraised. The association has a working model of regional cooperation that has been extended through international projects such as the International Urban Regional Cooperation, that is allowing to make cooperation agreements with local and regional entities outside Europe. 


An event to celebrate 30 years 

To celebrate such an occasion, this year the association is making Agorada into a big event and a series of actions to reflect on the future of regional development. Among other activities, on the 7th of June, we will make a site visit to Charleroi to see how this city has overcome its recent crisis due to the closure of companies. On the 8th of June, we are planning a few conferences that will gather important representatives of European institutions and, above all, EURADA members, to identify our main challenges, opportunities and tools for the future.  

For more information on this year’s edition of the event, make sure to check out its dedicated website: