ECO-INNOVA – creating business ecosystems through innovation
The ECO-INNOVA project aims to create a transnational infrastructure to inform, advise, foster and promote eco-innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within four regions of the Atlantic Area Programme.
Projects such as this are helping the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020, as set out in the EU 2020 growth strategy. The EU is facing some tough challenges, including an ageing population, an insufficiently qualified workforce, the need for greater innovation, striking a balance between economic growth and environmental degradation, and ensuring secure, clean energy supplies. Regional policy projects across the EU are playing an active role in dealing with these and many other challenges, by undertaking projects designed to generate employment, raise educational achievement, develop renewable energy sources, boost productivity and give all citizens access to opportunities. The projects and the regions play a pivotal role in this, as they generate real results that contribute to achieving the strategy’s key goals.
The project will provide cooperation, investment and technical assistance to companies whose activities are considered eco-friendly and environmentally and socially responsible. ECO-INNOVA is basically a cooperation, investment and technical assistance project, organised along the lines of business incubators and aimed primarily at SMEs.
ECO-INNOVA covers four Atlantic regions in four countries – France, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The project is financed by the European Commission as part of the transnational Atlantic Area Programme under the European Territorial Cooperation Objective 2007-13.
The project’s activities include defining a joint strategy for eco-innovation based on an analysis of the current situation of each individual region. It will also create a transnational infrastructure to inform, advise, foster and promote cooperation and eco-innovation in and between SMEs, which will help provide solutions to existing issues and problems. It is also creating a ‘Service Toolbox’ for fostering and encouraging eco-innovation and eco-entrepreneurship.
There are three specific objectives within the project. Firstly, to foster eco-business, which is a strategy geared towards the business field and the development of economic activities. Secondly, it will encourage the establishment of an eco-innovation system within enterprises. And finally, to develop internationalisation and cooperation among the participating eco-enterprises across the Atlantic Area Programme region.
Eco-innovation for the regions
The project is important for the regions of the Atlantic Area because they boast an important natural heritage, while at the same time being the source of numerous economic activities such as tourism, fishing and agriculture. These areas are particularly sensitive to the sustainable conservation and exploitation of their resources. Therefore, companies must look to eco-innovation, and reduce to a minimum their impact on the environment by introducing new production and management methods, or adapt their existing systems.
The project is therefore working to develop new opportunities and create competitive advantages based on an eco-innovative approach. The aim is to position the companies within the regions at the forefront of the environmental sector, and reducing the impact of their business activities on the environment.