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EU-Japan Region-to-Region Innovation Cooperation: an update on recent activities

Article written by Ivana Rae Almora - Projects Manager

After the first study visit of EU regions to five Japanese prefectures participating in the EU-Japan Region-to-Region Cooperation Programme, it was then the turn of the Japanese prefectures to visit the six EU Regions participating in the programme. With a total of 16 participants from five prefectures (Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Oita Prefectures) and the European Commission (DG REGIO and EUD Japan), the delegation was split into various groups according to their interests in cooperation. The study visits took place between 4-10 June 2023.

Aichi, Hiroshima, and Osaka started off in Emilia Romagna (Italy) while Kyoto and Oita started off and met with the Ljubljana Urban Region (Slovenia). Aichi and Hiroshima then proceeded to Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes (France) while the other three met with Val d’Oise (France). Afterwards, Osaka and Oita met with Catalonia (Spain) and the other three proceeded to the Basque Country (Spain). The group then reassembled in Catalonia for the 3rd Plenary Exchange meeting held in Palau Robert, Barcelona. The meeting was attended online by the rest of the EU regions.

During the exchange meeting, insights and takeaways were shared by each Japanese prefecture and EU region representatives. For instance, Oita representatives highlighted their lessons-learned from the tourism initiatives implemented in Ljubljana along with the hydrogen and mobility projects of Catalonia. Osaka placed the spotlight on how the visits contributed to new ideas and potential cooperation with the EU regions for the Osaka expo in 2025. Kyoto expressed their appreciation for the individual meetings held with identified start-ups in Ljubljana along with the initiatives implemented in food tech by Val d’Oise. They also compared the digital transformation and start-up ecosystem in the Basque country involving universities and the private sector to have similar objectives as in their territory through the Keihanna Science City. Hiroshima saw similarities with the Basque Country in terms of size and economic stats as well as expressed their interest in the region’s food and livestock ecosystem together with Emilia Romagna. Aichi recognized that reducing emissions is a challenge encountered by all participants in the program. They also expressed their interest for further collaboration with the Basque Country in finding solutions together linked to common issues encountered in the automotive sector.

From the side of the EU regions, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes expressed that they will continue to seize the opportunity in order to draw an action plan for further collaboration with Aichi. The Basque Country are also working on creating an MoU between their public university and Hiroshima University. Meanwhile, Emilia Romagna expressed their interest in participating in Osaka’s expo in 2025 while also sharing that they are planning another visit to Japan in November 2023. Ljubljana echoed Kyoto’s remarks on how individual meetings helped with exploring possibilities between their region and the Japanese prefectures. They also reiterated the value of bilateral cooperations. On the other hand, Val d’Oise is looking forward to deepening collaboration with the prefectures on the topics of sustainable agriculture, green hydrogen, and air mobility. Catalonia has also identified living labs and digitalisation as topics they would like to pursue further with Oita and Osaka along with space strategy with Aichi upon further dialogue.

All in all, the study visits showcased the value of not only peer to peer learning but person to person learning as well. As the program will come to a close in November 2023, the EU regions and Japanese prefectures will continue their collaboration also through the remaining activities that the EU-Japan Region-to-Region helpdesk are preparing such as a few more webinars to facilitate exchange of information on topics of interest. The program will then hold its closing meeting in November.