Enriched network crosses more than borders between Belgium and the Netherlands

An “unconventional” but highly successful project, focusing on five “crossroad technologies”, has provided a boost to companies, institutes, researchers and the economy as a whole in the cross-border area between Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands.

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Joris van der Hulst uses a diagnosis tool for an electric truck at a city depot, supported by the “CrossRoads” project, in Lommel, Belgium. RegioStars 2016 © Associated Press Joris van der Hulst uses a diagnosis tool for an electric truck at a city depot, supported by the “CrossRoads” project, in Lommel, Belgium. RegioStars 2016 © Associated Press

" The project created a lasting network of connections. Forging these connections is of course the most important task of the Interreg programme and projects like CrossRoads are a great way of reaching this goal. "

Bram de Kort, Head of JS Interreg Flanders-The Netherlands

Innovation and new technologies are proven economic drivers. The growth of tech incubators across Europe is a case in point. The CrossRoads project, which received EUR 3 724 599 through the European Regional Development Fund, brought together research centres, institutes and tech companies to explore so-called crossroad technologies which have potential in different sectors. These include remote diagnostics, embedded vision, nanomaterials, surface finishing, and inkjet technology.

As an early-mover in this kind of high-tech network, which promotes cross-over innovations, CrossRoads has fostered a distinct local advantage over other regions. This has translated into a dividend for the regional economy, generating new jobs for students who participated in the project as well as a raft of new technologies.

Putting their back into it

Through clever organisational structures encouraging more SMEs to get involved, CrossRoads has achieved its goal of boosting innovation in emerging technologies in the cross-border region. It has managed 25 cross-border innovation projects, 13 market feasibility studies and 40 experiments involving 150 companies.  

Innovations range from new techniques, products, processes and technologies to new multidisciplinary ways of problem-solving. And the focus on cross-fertilisation between the five targeted technologies is, in itself, considered an innovation, one which has been successful in bringing businesses from different sectors together to create lasting cross-border links and organisational structures. This strengthened network is expected to foster even more innovations in the future. 

One example of CrossRoads’ achievements is the ‘Spinal’ sub-project that developed a prototype biocompatible material, called “metal dross”, which can replace the metal screws currently used in spinal surgery. Investors have earmarked EUR 4 500 000 to start clinical tests on the material within three years.

A fruitful mashup

CrossRoads has acted as an intermediary between Interreg and the various SMEs and education facilities that participated. It is a benchmark on how to bring smaller companies into large projects smoothly. The programme’s flexibility – allowing new partners to join mid-way through projects – made it easier to encourage small firms to take part, especially in piloting and rolling out new products resulting from this mashup of organisations and technologies.

An internal survey of project partners establish beyond doubt the benefit of this approach and the positive impacts it has had, especially in terms of cross-border collaboration.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “CrossRoads” is EUR 9 233 813, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 3 724 599 through the “Belgium - Netherlands” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Economic development”.

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