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The concept of the ‘model demonstrator region’ or 'large scale demonstrator' is the cornerstone of a new systemic approach launched by the European Commission that aims to foster economic growth by addressing a specific problem or societal challenge through service innovation and under real life conditions.
This systemic, needs-driven approach to policy making is based on the assumption that the transformative power of service innovation is a key element in supporting the restructuring of existing industries and also in the creation of new industrial structures in global value chains. The success of this approach, which attempts to create the framework conditions for enterprises to flourish, depends on the engagement of all the relevant local and regional stakeholders in setting and implementing an agenda for structural changes in service-driven economies.
The model demonstrators represent a powerful means of de-risking the development and scaling-up of novel service systems, as well as of encouraging engagement with stakeholders and users. The approach moves from small-scale prototypes or pilot projects to large-scale, near-market projects in which a range of solutions are tested under real-life conditions. This is with a view to better exploiting the transformative power of service innovation in tackling societal challenges, addressing specific problems or needs, or supporting a vision of "a change for the better."
The concept of model demonstrators also provides regions with a tool to better link all public and private actors, notably industry, knowledge service providers, research institutions, regulators and users/citizens to share their knowledge, contribute their practical experience and articulate their needs and competences. At the same time, it offers a clear context and the right incentives for developing, testing and implementing new approaches to addressing specific challenges and problems.
At the centre of model demonstrators lies a staged approach that starts with a specific need or a vision of the future that is of crucial importance to the region. It then works backwards from this challenge or policy objective to the potential technical and service innovation solutions and the corresponding support required. This coherent approach focuses on finding solutions and systematically creating entrepreneurial opportunities for the wider use of innovative technologies, goods and services. As a result, new competences may be shaped in the region that may lead to competitive advantages which in turn offer global market opportunities.
The model demonstrator regions that are the primary focus for the ESIC initiative are the Canary Islands, Emilia-Romagna, Limburg, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland and Upper Austria. Three of these regions, Emilia-Romagna, Limburg and Upper Austria, are concentrating on the modernisation and transformation of traditional industries, whilst the Canary Islands, Luxemburg and Northern Ireland are revitalising their regional economies through the emergence of new industries.
The demonstrators will show how solutions can, or sometimes maybe even cannot, be rolled out at regional and national level with manageable risk. The transnational linking of these demonstrators also provides an opportunity to develop a Europe-wide policy framework for shared learning. The main lessons learned from the experience and policy learning is summarised in the report on "Lessons from the Model Demonstrator Regions – Service Innovation Policy in Practice".