Interregional Innovation Investments (I3)

In the 2021-27 programming period, driven by the internationalisation of innovation and building on the experience with the interregional pilots, the Commission proposed the Interregional Innovation Investments instrument under the ERDF.

Promoting innovation in Cohesion policy: Smart Specialisation and interregional collaboration

In order to benefit from the connected, circular and globalised economy, regions need to innovate and tackle the challenges of the more competitive environment by creating new value chains across borders. For this reason, enhanced interregional cooperation is a new feature of Cohesion policy.
Smart specialisation has turned the diversity of our territories into strength by building on the specific assets of each region and Member State. It has also highlighted the untapped potential of investments in innovation where the public and private sectors, as well as research and business from different countries, can work together.
Stronger strategic interregional cooperation and sustainable connections between regional ecosystems are vital to accelerate market uptake of research results and stimulate innovation. It supports companies in scaling up their ideas in the EU single market and in taking advantage of opportunities available at global level. At the same time, better aligning investment pipelines across borders will create opportunities in new EU value-chains.

Interregional Innovation Investments (I3)

The Interregional Innovation Investments (I3) instrument is a funding instrument under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) regulation (article 13).

Its objective is to

  • encourage the development of European value chains by mobilising innovation ecosystems to scale up and commercialise interregional innovation projects
  • through the linkage to mainstream Cohesion policy operational programmes, mobilise additional investments in the selected priority areas and enhance the cooperation with partners from different Member States
  • strengthen complementarities between different EU, national and regional funding instruments.

The instrument provides funding for mature joint innovation projects and supports stakeholders involved in smart specialisation to develop and set up such projects in value-chain investment portfolios.
The I3 instrument is implemented by the European Innovation Council and SMEs executive agency (EISMEA) based on a biannual work programme.

From Interregional pilot actions to the Interregional Innovation Investments instrument

In addition to the two pilot actions launched following the Communication on "Strengthening innovation in Europe's regions: towards resilient, inclusive and sustainable territorial growth strategies”, an Interregional pilot project on COVID 19 Response and Recovery was launched in 2020. As a result, Cohesion policy is supporting 4 new partnerships on coronavirus-related innovative solutions, circular economy in health, sustainable and digital tourism, and hydrogen technologies in carbon–intensive regions.
The lessons learned from the pilot actions have enriched the design of the new I3 instrument.

Stakeholder engagement

A broad stakeholder consultation on the I3 instrument took place between July and September 2020. The subsequent workshop, conducted in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020 further contributed to the wide involvement of the innovation community.

Expert group on Interregional Innovation Investments

To ensure further stakeholder engagement, the Commission established the I3 Expert Group, whose main objective is to support the Commission in the definition of a long-term work programme and the preparation of calls for proposals for the I3 instrument. The group will facilitate the exchange of experience and good practice in the field of interregional innovation. It is composed of representatives from Member States, regional authorities and cities, representatives of business, research and civil society bodies active in the field of smart specialisation, and it meets twice a year.