Pilot Projects

The Vanguard Initiative is pioneering a new approach to support EU industry internationalisation and competitiveness by bringing regions (and clusters) together to

  • discuss common objectives and find complementarities,
  • map and better understand regions’ industrial competencies and capabilities,
  • develop joint strategic action plans (building critical mass and complementary specialisations) and
  • align strategic investments arising from these roadmaps

The goal of this approach is creating “inter-regional smart specialisation platforms”. The “VI methodology” consists of four subsequent phases: learn, connect, demonstrate and commercialise.


The first step includes sharing a vision - based mostly on a concept note - on the future of the particular industry domain, giving direction to the joint efforts of the participating regions. Also emerging value chains, innovation clusters and industries that will put Europe in the lead of this  industrial revolution, are mapped. The mapping includes the positioning within the corresponding value chain, the materials used, and the specific domains of application. Moreover it includes the mapping of regional ambitions and challenges.


The second ‘Connect’ step is to match identified value chains of partners across the regions which seek to cooperate on a common roadmap, based on complementarities expressed in the regional smart specialisation strategy.


The ‘Demonstrate’ step concerns the development of a connected network of pilots and demonstrators for manufacturing, based on a commitment to ‘co-invest’ by businesses and public authorities through combined funding.


The final ‘Commercialise’ step is the implementation by business actors of new innovation and industrial investment projects in these innovative value chains.

The methodology is being tested through five pilot projects: three “1st generation pilots” (initiated in the Summer 2014) in the areas of ‘high-performance production through 3D printing’ (3DP), ‘efficient and sustainable manufacturing’ (ESM), and ‘advanced manufacturing for energy-related applications in harsh environments’ (Energy); and two “2nd generation pilots” (initiated in June 2015) in the areas of ‘bio-economy’ (Bio) and ‘nanotechnology’ (Nano).

These pilot projects are close to the market and therefore have a high commercial potential. This means the pilots focus on applications at post-prototyping level (> TRL5), with the potential for full market deployment in a time span of 3 to 5 years.