Innovative actions: Introduction
Regions in the global economy
The globalisation of the economy and the acceleration of technological change have made knowledge-based activities and the use of new technologies a priority issue for the European Union.
Regions can be key players in the global economy: they are the first to be affected by economic changes and they represent the right “critical mass” to manage them. They have to build on their unique characteristics, their people, and their cultural and environmental assets. To attract companies and well-trained people, to improve their competitive edge, each region needs to capitalise on its knowledge base and to develop its capacity to innovate.
Innovation should not be seen in a restrictive sense but should underpin all aspects of regional planning and policy development. Whether it be in the design of new products in companies or in the introduction of new working methods and processes among regional partners, a region’s success will depend on the distribution of knowledge and a genuine partnership amongst individuals, enterprises, research institutions, associations, and regional administrations.
The Regional Programmes of Innovative Actions co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) have been specifically formulated to give regions the opportunity to experiment in this area. As the opportunities for experimentation are often limited under the main support of the Structural Funds, the innovative actions provide regional actors with the "risk space" needed to respond to the challenges set by the new economy.
“ Guidelines for the innovative actions of the European Regional Development Fund 2000-06”
Although significant progress has been made within the Union in recent years in reducing disparities in terms of physical infrastructures, large interregional differences still exist in the fields of innovation, research and technological development. To prevent even greater divergence and to take the opportunities presented by the new economy to quickly close the gap, the innovative actions programmes aimed specifically to define and implement innovative practices focusing on one or more of the following strategic themes :
- Regional economies based on knowledge and technological innovation:
to encourage the co-operation between the public sector and the bodies responsible for research and businesses, stimulate the demand for innovation within SMEs and promote new technology transfer mechanisms.
- e-EuropeRegio: the information society at the service of regional development
to develop the opportunities offered by the information and communication technologies to modernize the public administration and raise the competitiveness of enterprises
- Sustainable development and Regional identity
to develop a sustainable and competitive economy based on its heritage and cultural diversity, or on its specific skills, its strategic location, its exceptionally high-quality environment or its educational and cultural infrastructure, etc.
During the period 2000-2006 the budget allocated to Innovative Actions (0.4% of the ERDF) allowed the financing of some 181 regional programmes in the 156 eligible regions (those of the new Member States were not included). In addition three thematic networks were co-financed to exchange experiences at an interregional level.