RAPIDE was an INTERREG IVC Capitalisation project which ran from 1 September 2008 to 31 August 2010.
RAPIDE brought together strategic leaders, innovation experts and experienced practitioners from across the EU to capitalise on their collective knowledge of how the public sector can support the process of bringing innovative products and services to the market more rapidly and strengthen regional competitiveness.
Meeting the Lisbon Challenge
Innovation is the key to Europe's competitiveness. In a global economy regions have a key strategic role in speeding up the commercialisation of innovation and of research and development. All regions need to work to ensure innovative products and services reach the market as quickly as possible and that R&D has maximum impact on both their businesses and the wider economy.
There are a number of critical factors that determine the success and speed of bringing innovation to market. The Beyond Best Practice summit held in Cornwall in July 2007 examined the rewards to be derived from a new network. Delegates from 20 regions across Europe identified three crucial themes. These were:
- managing risk - how to ensure regional public authorities and regional programmes become less risk averse in themselves, and to help companies and innovators manage the risks associated with both the commercialisation of R&D and cultivating a culture of innovation
- finance - how to finance innovation (especially given the higher risk inherent in investing in more innovative products or solutions)
- developing successful partnerships - how effective partnerships between e public, private (a strong dialogue with business) and education sectors play a key role in speeding up the commercialisation of innovation
While there are examples of good practice in different regions, there was little in the way of overarching or transferable key principles around the three critical themes identified as being most important when commercialising innovation effectively.
RAPIDE sought to make use of existing good practice in the partner regions, and draw on important work and research undertaken to date in this area. It capitalises on extensive and transferable good practice as well as seeking to draw on expertise from both inside the partner regions and outside of the network.
The Interregional Cooperation Programme INTERREG IVC, financed by the European Union's Regional Development Fund, helps Regions of Europe work together to share experience and good practice in the areas of innovation, the knowledge economy, the environment and risk prevention. EUR 302 million was available for project funding but, more than that, a wealth of knowledge and potential solutions are also on hand for regional policy-makers.
RAPIDE was also a Fast Track project supported by the European Commission under the Regions for Economic Change initiative.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Aim: Bringing innovation to the market rapidly
The principal objectives of the network were to:
- make use of the knowledge existing both within the partner regions and more widely within the European Union
- explore how the public sector can influence innovation, for example, through: procurement; investment decisions (gap funding, regeneration etc.); initiatives that assist and advise businesses; partnerships with HEIs, businesses etc.; and, policy development and adoption.
- using the three themes of partnership, risk and finance as the basis for the work, each partner will, during the two-year lifetime of the project, develop regional action plans setting out how the good practice explored through the network will be implemented within regional Competitiveness and Convergence Programmes.
Alongside the exchange and implementation of best practice, the network will be outward-facing and work with innovation specialists, 'top' innovation regions, and the Commission in order to deliver strong policy development work around the topic of commercialising innovation.
Proposed work plan and approach
The network began with a launch workshop and consists of two phases of work:
The first phase took place in year one of the project (September 2008 to August 2009) and the work plan comprised of:
- Development of regional partnerships
- Three working summits, one for each theme:
- Managing Risk Event
- Financing Innovation Event
- Effective Partnerships Event
- A parallel work stream focused on the wider policy context in relation to bringing innovation to market.
A midterm conference was held on 17-18 June 2009 to summarise lessons learned and start the second phase of the project.
Phase two of the project (September 2009 to August 2010) was focused on partners developing their action plans in partnership with their Managing Authorities, in an environment of peer review with bilateral and informal groupings to share experience and report on progress.
Main results, benefits and impacts
In Phase Two of the project partners developed their action plans. Each partner region created:
- Roadmaps: Each partner region created an individual Roadmap on how they plan to develop their Action Plan.
- Background papers: The background paper emphasised on the process why a special good practice or new idea was chosen and who and how it could be implemented within the region.
- RAPIDE final Action Plans
The final action plans include the areas of:
- Pre-commercial Procurement (PCP - in the regions of: Eszak-Alfold, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, South West England)
- Innovation Voucher (Lapland, Prešov, Saxony-Anhalt, Western Greece)
- Regional Innovation systems of various types (Oerebro, Tartu, Lapland)
PCP is an approach for procuring R&D services which enables public procurers to:
- share the risks and benefits of designing, prototyping and testing new products and services with the suppliers; in a way that is inline with relevant international and EU legislation on public procurement without involving State aid
- create optimum conditions for wide commercialization and take-up of R&D results
- pool the efforts of several procurers By acting as demanding first buyers of new R&D, public procurers can drive innovation from the demand side. This enables European public authorities to innovate the provision of public services faster and creates opportunities for companies in Europe to take international leadership in new markets.
Reducing time to market by developing a strong European home market for innovative products and services is key for Europe to create growth and jobs.
Return on investmentReturn on investment: Not applicable / Not available
The following summarises the key challenges and recommendations endorsed by all partners at the end of the projects.
1. Reducing administrative burden:
- The RAPIDE network proposes the introduction of more integrated application and implementation structures for EU innovation and R&D funding programmes:
- single database on former and on-going
- innovation related EU projects
- common financial regulation
- standardised reporting template for grant projects.
- The RAPIDE network recommends the use of modern communication tools such as a methodological digital storytelling (or electronic 'pitching tool') instead of application forms for accessing innovation funding.
- The RAPIDE network calls for a European patent system. Without clearly defined rules on the ownership of IPRs, there is a gap in the growth potential of EU-funded project outcomes at regional level.
- RAPIDE partners would like to see the EU innovation programme landscape move from an audit culture (ex-post financial checks) towards an evaluation (impacts) and monitoring culture.
2. Increasing public sector demand for innovative products:
- RAPIDE partners encourage the public sector at EU, national, regional and local levels to adopt public procurement practices to bring innovation to the market and to be much more ambitious in using their investment to encourage new technologies and new business.
- for example, it is recommended that 5% of public procurement should support innovative solutions.
- The RAPIDE network recommends that future EU regulations introduce the use of new public procurement methods to foster innovation in Europe.
- EU Structural Funds' Managing Authorities need to support risk taking in the form of investment in technology development providing potentially innovative solutions - not all of which will be successful.
- incentives for risk-friendly and pre-commercial procurement within the Structural Funds
- innovation should become part of the horizontal principles of Structural Fund interventions.
3. Increasing the effective use of regional funds for innovation:
- The successful inclusion of private funding in the innovation process is crucial and needs support from the public side.
- low interest funding or tax cuts for Business Angels
- training for Business Angels
- assessments of funding applications need to be more transparent, coherent and reliable.
- RAPIDE partners believe that policy needs to support risk taking. This also requires the public sector to take risks by introducing for example:
- proof of Concept Funds
- co-Investment Funds
- tax benefits for investments in SMEs.
- The RAPIDE network urges policy-makers in Europe to recognise the value of learning from past business failures by:
- encouraging second start-ups
- dealing with all bankruptcy legal procedures within less than a year
- preventing funding schemes to discriminate against non-fraudulent restarters.