28 Jul 2020   |   News

Commission launches new scheme to boost innovation in regions hard-hit by coronavirus pandemic

Companies and researchers are expected to come up with projects that help build resilience to future crises

Elise Ferreira

Elisa Ferreira, EU commissioner for cohesion and reforms. Photo: European Commission.

The European Commission is looking for pilot projects to spur innovation in regions hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the scramble to launch programmes that will speed up economic recovery.

The commission wants regions to come up with projects that help build resilience to future crises and bring the heft of green and digital transformations to promote recovery of badly affected sectors, such as health and tourism.

Proposals for innovation partnership should be in four key areas: medical products or devices to tackle the coronavirus pandemic; management of medical waste; sustainable and digital tourism; and developing hydrogen technologies in carbon-intensive regions. Each partnership would get €100,000.

In addition, projects to diversify facilities including existing coal mines, smelters or production plants can apply for funding to cover demonstration, scale-up and commercialisation of new products and services.

Elisa Ferreira, EU commissioner for cohesion and reforms, said the projects will “boost innovation and competitiveness” in regions that need support to restart their economies. “The focus on health, tourism, sustainability and digitalisation is perfectly in line with commission's priorities and the needed response to counterattack the effects of the coronavirus crisis,” she said.

EU leaders recently agreed on a €1.8 trillion budget for the next seven years, of which €750 billion is earmarked for pandemic recovery, building resilience against future crises and helping member states and regions overcome the economic crisis.

The call announced on Monday is in line with these ambitions and could serve as a blueprint for future efforts to boost regional innovation in the coming years. Regional authorities can apply together with universities, research centres, innovation clusters and small and medium sized companies. The goal is to bring together various regional stakeholders to pilot innovation partnerships that would attract business investment.

Projects can be submitted until 7 September. By the end of next year, the commission expects the selected partnerships to have defined a set of actions to accelerate innovation uptake, commercialisation and interregional investments.

Each project will be advised by commission experts on how to draw on other EU programmes for further finance.

The commission used a similar scheme in 2017 to back eight interregional partnerships on 3D printing, bioeconomy, cybersecurity, circular economy, high-tech farming, marine renewable energy, sustainable buildings, traceability and use big data in agriculture and food production.

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