1. What is Regions For Economic Change?
2. How can Member States/regions/cities benefit from this initiative?
3. How does the 'Fast Track' scheme work?
4. How will the ideas from the networks be mainstreamed?
5. What is the role of the Commission?
6. Where can I get more information?
(update January 2010): Altogether 31 Fast Track Networks are being funded (10 by URBACT II, 21 by INTERREG IVC). Please note that all funds for capitalisation actions have been committed and no further calls for Fast Track networks will be organised.
"Regions for Economic Change" is an initiative of the European Commission that aims to highlight good practice in urban and regional development, with a particular focus on innovation, and to speed up the transfer of good practices to enhance the quality and impact of the EU’s regional development programmes and their implementation by the EU’s Member States and regions. It supports the EU policy objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as outlined in the EU’s 2020 strategy.
Regions for Economic Change is a learning platform for EU regions that includes the annual Regions for Economic Change Conference and RegioStars Awards, a PolicyLearning Database and interregional fast track networks, funded by the INTERREG IVC and URBACT II programmes. Those networks are testing innovative ideas and working on their rapid transfer into regional policies and programmes. As such it will also be instrumental to inspire ideas and concepts for regional ‘smart specialization’ strategies and to maximize regional innovation potential.
To help achieve these aims, Regions for Economic Change introduces the following novel elements:
- Identification of 30 priority themes focused on economic modernisation and the renewed Lisbon agenda. Regions will be asked to conceive and structure their networks around these themes, (but can still choose other themes if they prefer).
- Emphasis on a two-way bridge between thematic networking activities and the mainstream programmes of the Structural Funds (Convergence, Regional Competitiveness and Employment and European Territorial Cooperation)
- An enhanced joint communication effort, including an annual conference and annual innovation awards (RegioStars)
- A Fast Track option, where the Commission offers its expertise to a number of networks funded under the interregional cooperation (INTERREG IVC) and urban development network (URBACT II) programmes. The participation of mainstream programme managing authorities in the networks is an essential requirement of the 'Fast Track option' in order to ensure proactive introduction of best practice ideas into these mainstream programmes.
Regions For Economic Change is designed to help regions gain maximum benefit from the wealth of knowledge, experience and good practice available in other regions. By reinforcing co-operation between regions, Regions For Economic Change will help to reduce resistance to new ways of doing things - the ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome - and encourage the gaining of maximum benefit from the experiences of any specific region.
Participation in the Regions For Economic Change initiative, e.g. through the annual conference, the Regio Stars awards or the Fast Track networks, supports policy learning in the regions and enables the best possible use of scarce public resources by increasing the uptake of good ideas in regional Operational Programmes. It will also increase the visibility of good regional practice across Europe, and, has thus a strong potential to contribute to the innovation profiles of the participating regions.
Participation in ‘Fast Track’ networks is particularly beneficial in this respect and, as it requires the support and close involvement of the regional Managing Authorities, increases the chance of good ideas being taken up and funded in the regions.
The networking part of Regions for Economic Change and the 'Fast Track' are funded under the INTERREG IVC and URBACT II programmes. All projects under these programmes are selected by means of calls for proposals. The themes covered can be Regions for Economic Change themes or themes which the partners define themselves for their network, within the scope of the relevant programme.
Some of the Regions for Economic Change theme networks are 'Fast Track' networks, where, in addition to a particular emphasis on transferring good practices into the Convergence, Regional Competitiveness and Employment and European Territorial Cooperation Programmes, communication and dissemination of results, the Commission actively supports the work of the network.
The procedure is as follows: following calls for proposals, each application is processed by the Joint Technical Secretariat for the relevant programme, on the basis of the quality criteria set out by the Monitoring Committee. At the same time the applications are made available to all members of the Monitoring Committee, including the Commission.
Projects which would also like to be considered for 'Fast Track' can indicate their interest on the project application form.In order to identify the 'fast-track' projects, the Commission has developed some assessment questions that are used to guide through the process. They are meant to give some direction to the process, but will be used flexibly.
The two parallel processes (project selection + labeling by the Commission of potentially selected projects as 'Fast Track') are brought together at the moment of the decision on projects by the Monitoring Committee. The Monitoring Committee then knows whether the projects it decides are labeled as fast-track or not.
Once approved by the Programme Monitoring Committee, the 'Fast Track' network then establishes a detailed work programme including deliverables, indicators, targets, deadlines and communication and dissemination activities. An action plan will be developed for each region, in which the 'two-way bridge' with the mainstream programmes will be made. The network will then meet regularly to exchange experience and monitor progress on these work programmes and action plans.
Fast Track networks will work in a transparent way: even if a region / country / city is not involved directly in a network, the ongoing work should be available to them. This will be supported by the network's communication actions and their websites, where the main information about the projects as well as regular updates will be published by the project promoters.
As mentioned above, a major objective of Regions For Economic Change is to accelerate the transfer of good practices and innovative ideas into the Convergence/Regional Competitiveness and Employment/European Territorial Cooperation programmes. Fast TrackTo this end the projects develop regional Action Plans that define specific actions and projects to be mainstreamed in the individual regions through Structural Funds or other investments. These plans should be sufficiently detailed and propose a timetable and financial estimate for implementation. They should also be in line with the strategic priorities of the region.
It is important to note in this context that, owing to the shared management and decentralised implementation approach of the Structural Funds, carrying the Fast Track label as a project is no guarantee that the Action Plans will be funded by Managing Authorities. Partners, if they are not Managing Authorities themselves, need to make sure that they involve the Managing Authorities in their work and also make sure that whatever they propose in the Action Plans is strategic and relevant for the region and falls under the main priorities of the Operational Programmes, so the Managing Authorities can consider funding them.
Apart from coordinating and animating the Regions For Economic Change initiative through its conferences and the Regio Stars awards, the Commission's role is mainly to select, follow and support the Fast Track networks.
The Commission provides support to Fast Tracks by participating in key events, providing information on relevant policy priorities and issues and by facilitating the contact to the Managing Authorities, if needed.
The Commission is also regularly updating the Regions For Economic Change website and is regularly adding new case studies to the Policy Learning Database.
The Regions For Economic Change website is updated regularly. For the most recent information please refer to the section "latest News".
Information on the themes and networks working under those themes is posted under each theme on the themes and networks page.
Information on the conferences and other Regions for Economic Change-related events is posted on the events page.
Specific requests for information can also be sent to the Regions For Economic Change mailbox.