On 24 June, the Vanguard Initiative organised the High-Level Directors’ Meeting 2020. During the meeting, the Directors welcomed the Vanguard Initiative’s newest member, Friuli Venezia Giulia, bringing the total membership to 37 regions. The Directors also engaged with speakers from the European Commission’s DG REGIO and DG GROW on how the Vanguard Initiative can support the EU’s green and digitalised recovery and the importance of interregional collaboration to speed up the economic recovery.
In the opening remarks, Duncan Hamer, Chief Operating Officer, Business and Regions of the Welsh Government and Chair of the Vanguard Initiative, emphasised the challenges Europe has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic but signalling importance of collaboration to speed up the recovery. He pointed to the Pan EU 3D Printing Platform, an initiative of the Vanguard 3D Printing Pilot, as a clear example of this. Duncan Hamer also emphasised that, despite the outcome of Brexit, Wales sees its future based on a strong and collaborative relationship with the EU and its regions.
The Directors welcomed Friuli Venezia Giulia Autonomous Region as the newest member of the Vanguard Initiative. In a statement by Mrs. Alessia Rosolen, Regional Minister for Education, Labour, University and Research, she highlighted that “only an interregional approach can lead us out of the current crisis” and that Friuli Venezia Giulia’s membership in the Vanguard Initiative will allow regional actors to participate more actively in interregional cooperation along strategic value chains that are essential for an industrial renaissance.
Two panel discussions followed, where Directors engaged with representatives from the European Commission’s DG REGIO and DG GROW. Both panels were moderated by Alison Hunter, policy consultant, Economic and Public Policy Consultancy (EPPC).
The first panel discussion put the spotlight on how the Vanguard Initiative’s pilot projects on Efficient and Sustainable Manufacturing and 3D-printing support the EU’s green and digitalised recovery. Valentina Pinna, Unit of Smart and Sustainable Growth, DG REGIO, updated the Directors on the ongoing MFF-negotiations, the new REACT-EU initiative which will top up ERDF funding post 2020 and the status of the negotiations on interregional innovation investments (component 5). Testimonies from member regions Baden- Württemberg, Province of Gelderland and Asturias also highlighted the regions’ commitment to the green and digitalised recovery.
The second panel focused on how the Vanguard Initiative can contribute to the economic recovery post COVID-19 by strengthening interregional innovation collaboration. Lorana Ionita, Deputy Head of Unit, Industrial Strategy and Value Chains, DG GROW, updated the Directors on the new Industry Strategy and its focus on industrial ecosystems. Testimonies from member regions Noord-Brabant, Scotland, Overijssel and the Basque Country highlighted good practices from their regions in achieving an economic recovery post COVID-19, including adopting a place-based approach and the role of SMEs in the economic recovery.
The discussions resulted in a number of conclusions and key messages which the moderator, Alison Hunter, summarised as follows:
- Regional innovation ecosystems and European strategic value chains need to be put at the centre of the EU recovery to the COVID-19 crisis.
- The EU industrial ecosystem landscape needs to be further strengthened and interregional cooperation needs to be at the centre of this landscape.
- The following months are crucial as the MFF will be agreed upon and it needs to secure industrial investments, sustainable development and synergies between financial instruments.
Duncan Hamer closed the meeting by reinforcing his introductory remarks that interregional cooperation will be the way forward in recovering from the current crisis, making the Vanguard Initiative more relevant than ever. He also emphasised that, going forward, the Vanguard Initiative needs to “consider the cross-cutting elements such as Artificial Intelligence and Hydrogen, and think how we take these forward to drive digitalisation and Green transition”.