Driving innovation in the Basque-Pyrenees cross-border territory

The cross-border territories of Spain’s Basque region and France’s Pyrenees Atlantique have joined forces to help local companies exploit opportunities in the ‘4th industrial revolution’ that includes exciting innovations such as the internet of things, big data, 3D printing, IT hyper-connectivity, and robotics. The EU-supported Connect Innovation project aims at creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for local people while boosting innovation, creativity and the digital economy in the cross-border territory known as Bidasoa Sud Pays Basque.

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" CONNECT Innovation allows the Bidasoa Sud Pays Basque region to take a leap forward and progress from being an economic living area to an innovating living area for enterprises, entrepreneurs and citizens in general. "

Eva Fernandez, Project coordinator

Companies in this region have limited access to the innovation process due to their size: Only 4 % of them have more than 10 employees. Connect Innovation’s objective is to help SMEs and entrepreneurs carry out innovative projects which could lead to product and service development in five areas: manufacturing and related services; agro-food and local products; sport, leisure, nautical and board sport industry; the creative industry; and services and technical aids for dependent people. These areas reflect the territory’s economic priorities and are in line with regional strategies for smart specialisation.

Support measures

The Connect Innovation team has worked on developing a common innovation strategy and helped connect research centres with SMEs to achieve commercial application of research processes. The project has implemented an ‘open-air experimental laboratory’ – the Txingudi Lab – for testing of prototypes and technical developments. In addition, a strategy for entrepreneurship and talent management has been devised to ensure business projects are both originated and developed in the territory.

This basket of measures is bearing fruit as the project has already involved 209 companies in different innovation processes with the collaboration of 12 research and knowledge centres. Eleven collaborative projects have been completed and around 25 to 30 innovation process are being rolled out. Moreover, a number of young people are taking part in the creative and innovative entrepreneurship programme. They are receiving technical support so they can move their projects to the start-up or scale-up phase.

Building know-how

Another Connect Innovation objective is to test its SME-dedicated tools and interventions by developing collaborative projects intended to improve the competitiveness of people, companies and the territory as a whole.

Measures here include publication of an ‘Industry Action Plan 4.0’, which includes training plans on digital competence; the development of accessible and free technology watch platforms; and the promotion of technology transfers. Digital training actions – including online courses and webinars – have been developed in advanced data analysis and other areas.


“Our objective is to invest in the development of better-performing outrigger canoes by means of the traditional financial support. But without the living lab, the testing of our products would have been completely unimaginable.”


Guy Ringrave, Director of Woo Outrigger, the French manufacturer of outrigger canoes, tested in the Txingudi living lab, thanks to the Connect Innovation project.


“These new technologies allow easy lifting and moving of a dependant person, which avoids many of the common injuries to which assisting staff and the dependant person are susceptible, which improves quality of life.” 


Jabi Odriozola, manager of Adom Autonomía, maker of products and technologies for personal autonomy and care. The company took part in exchange visits between Spanish and French companies to stimulate new ideas and collaboration.


Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Connect Innovation” is EUR 1 833 732, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 191 926 through the “Interreg V-A Spain France Andorra” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “SMEs competitiveness”.


Draft date