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Coordination action to improve trans-national co-operation of NCPs REGIONAL

Final Report Summary - TRANS REG NCP (Coordination action to improve trans-national co-operation of NCPs REGIONAL)


Executive Summary:

The overall objective of the TransRegNCP project is to create the trans-national network of National Contact Points (NCP) for the Regions of Knowledge Programme under Seventh Framework Programme aiming at strengthening of the research potential of European regions through encouraging and supporting the development of regional ‘research-driven clusters’ associating universities, research centres, enterprises and regional authorities.

Project aims at the reinforcement of the NCPs Regional through support of the trans-national co-operation and improvement of services provided. The TransRegNCP was focused on:

- The transfer of knowledge among Regional NCPs,
- The exchange of experiences and good practices among Regional NCPs,
- The development and implementation of tools and methodologies for trans-national cooperation.

The project started on the 1st of January 2008 with the benchmarking analysis of Regional NCPs. Two rounds of benchmarking analysis were performed to look for the changes in NCP performance. The positive changes in NCPs capacity for services provision were observed after implementation of project activities.

Training action was dedicated to presentation of mature regional clusters, clustering in the field of sustainable transport and administrative, legal, financial and managerial issues of FP7.

Working visits of NCPs were dedicated to exchange of knowledge and resulted in meetings of 15 NCPs.

Annual Forums designed as networking events for all 36 Regional NCPs were organized 2 times and were combined with workshops. Interactive Workshops were dedicated to international cluster cooperation and channeling of RTD funding through clusters.

Networking events with other NCP networks designed as exchange of experiences were organized 10 times during the life cycle of the project.

Project produced 5 publicly available publications: report on “Research driven clusters in European regions” and 4 editions of report “Success stories on RDC” presenting 20 good practices in trans-national cooperation of clusters.

Project also developed methodology for RDC benchmarking which was used for collecting the data on RDC and partner search.

The project created more consistent level of NCP services across Europe and have impact on development of good practices in trans-national cooperation of NCP’s. The project resulted in:

- Better understanding of cluster policy as instrument of regional development,
- Better understanding of RoK objectives and concept of RDC,
- Concentration on strategic aim: support to strategies for research and innovation,
- Increasing effectiveness to reach the NCP Regional aims,
- Better understanding of strategic NCP Regional activities,
- Increased effectiveness of activities located in areas specific to RoK,
- Positive impact of training sessions on level of services.

Project Context and Objectives:

TransRegNCP project is one of the networking projects of NCPs. This particular project is addressed to Regional NCPs and is funded within the budget of Regions of Knowledge FP7 programme (RoK). Regional NCPs is a new network established for the first time in FP7. The role of Regional NCP is to provide assistance and support to participants of the Regions of Knowledge Programme i.e. regional “research driven clusters”. RoK programme was designed as a complementary program to EU structural funds and program implementing regional dimension into FP7. Objectives and content of RoK Programme was a great challenge to NCP since it requires wide knowledge linking regional development with research and innovation and structural funds with FP7 funding. TransRegNCP Project was designed to provide Regional NCPs with the required knowledge on national and European cluster policy, creation and development or research driven clusters, trans-national cooperation of clusters and stimulation companies spending on RTD through specifically designed programmes. Since among Regional NCPs was a group of inexperienced persons project was designed to increase their knowledge also on FP7 rules and procedures. Trainings, workshops, working visits and networking meetings were designed to transfer the knowledge to increase the NCPs potential to provide advisory services to program participants.

The overall objective of the TransRegNCP project is to create the trans-national network of National Contact Points (NCP) for the Regions of Knowledge Programme under Seventh Framework Programme aiming at strengthening of the research potential of European regions through encouraging and supporting the development of regional ‘research-driven clusters’ associating universities, research centres, enterprises and regional authorities.

Project aims were: the reinforcement of the NCPs and support of the trans-national co-operation among them. Better quality of services provided by NCPs Regional to the “research driven clusters” is firmly related to the increase of the quality of projects being submitted under the programme and therefore leads to the success of the Regions of Knowledge initiative. Regional NCPs support trans-national collaboration of research-driven clusters’ through assistance in finding appropriate project partners with complementary research expertise.

The TransRegNCP project was focused on:

- The transfer of knowledge among Regional NCPs with the special attention given to the transfer of know-how from more to less experienced National Contact Points,
- The exchange of experiences and good practices among Regional NCPs,
- The development and implementation of tools and methodologies for trans-national cooperation.

The Network promoted creation, development and trans-national cooperation of research driven clusters (RDC), through:

- Improvement of NCPs expertise concerning EU developments in identification, stimulation and support to research driven clusters,
- Improvement of quality of services provided,
- Development of common methodology for trans-national activities and networking between NCP’s,
- Increase of the NCP visibility on regional level and stimulation of regional stakeholders participation in FP7,
- Promotion of good practices in trans-national cooperation of RDC.

Project Results:

The project created more consistent level of NCP services across Europe and implemented set of activities supporting trans-national cooperation of NCP’s. Efficient trans-national cooperation among NCP’s has an impact on the quality of proposals submitted by regional actors to competitive calls of “Regions of Knowledge” Programme and therefore on programme impact.

To reach this goal project implemented several actions.

Implementation of training action dedicated to NCPs resulted in 3 trainings addressed to all 36 NCPs (one training each year):

- Training on regional clusters based on presentation of examples from 2 regions of Europe in October 2008;
- Training on administrative, legal, financial and managerial issues of FP7 projects and use of Participant Portal in project submission, negotiation and management in September 2009,
- 3rd training in September 2010 in Brussels was dedicated to clustering in the field of sustainable transport.

Implementation of 3 Working visits of NCPs resulted in meetings involving 15 NCPs and exchange of information and knowledge about national policies in cluster support, measures implemented by other NCP networking projects and services provided by experienced NCPs.

Implementation of 2 networking events during Annual Regional NCP Forums created discussion forum for exchange of experiences in RoK programme and TransRegNCP project implementation between NCPs.

Implementation of interactive Workshops resulted in to discussion on different aspects of cluster policy:

- International cluster cooperation in March 2009,
- Channeling of RTD funding through clusters in October 2012.

These actions have an impact on effectiveness of Regional NCPs activities. To identify results of implemented measures benchmarking analysis has been performed. Two rounds of benchmarking analysis were performed. First round has been launched in order to identify strong and weak points in Regional NCPs expertise and to be able to provide the adequate support as well as to transfer the knowledge from the most experienced NCPs in specific areas to those who need and request such support. Second round has been launched to look for the changes in NCP performance. The positive changes in capacity of NCP Regional to provide relevant services have been observed.

Benchmarking exercise shows that due to implementation of mentioned above set of measures the following results have been obtained regarding performance of Regional NCPs:

1. Better understanding of cluster policy as instrument of regional development,
2. Better understanding of RoK objectives and concept of RDC,
3. Concentration on strategic aim: support to strategies for research and innovation,
4. Increasing effectiveness to reach the Regional NCPs aims,
5. Better understanding of strategic activities,
6. Effectiveness of activities located in areas specific to RoK,
7. Positive impact of training sessions on level of services.

In general training needs of Regional NCPs were very diversified and not all of them were addressed by the project. Specific training needs to be addressed are as follows: project preparation, proposal writing, IPR, and 20% of Regional NCPs expressed needs for training in information management tools and partner search.

Implementation of 10 meetings with other NCP networks resulted in exchange of experience and discussion on possible common actions.

- EuroRis-Net Forum in December 2008,
- 1st and 2nd Workshop on “NCP network projects for coordinated efforts in implementation of FP7” in December 2008 and December 2010,
- Workshop “International collaboration between clusters under FP7” at Conference Research Connection 2009 in May 2009,
- Joint events with EuroRisNet: Workshop “Coordinated use of FP-Structural Funds to support RTD in Convergence Regions” at NCP Annual Forum and Training “Complementarities of FP7 and other funds, Risk-Sharing Finance Facility” in October 2009,
- Special session “What’s new on ResPotNet and TranRegNCP Projects” at NCP Annual Forum in October 2009,
- Two Meetings of NCP Project Coordinators organized by EC in January 2009 and February 2010,
- Workshop “Review of experience of NCP networks projects of FP7” in December 2012.

As a result the following recommendations were drawn from meetings with other networks regarding future implementation of NCP networking projects:

1. NCP Networking project is a good tool for stimulating trans-national NCP cooperation and leveraging level of services. Competence of NCPs has been increased.
2. Positive impact have workshops addressing the wider context of specific FP7 programmes, namely: EU policy, national policy and its implementation, other EU or trans-national programmes related to specific thematic or horizontal areas.
3. Networking projects should implement all kind of measures which are giving NCPs opportunity to learn from others. Communication within the network, share of documents, reports, expert opinion etc., exchange of relevant information and documentation also produced by other networks and projects. One of the main added value of the projects is the opportunity to learn from others.
4. NCP actions towards creation of knowledge base were highly valued by NCPs as well as projects participants.
5. More successful are those NCP networks which implement more creative measures specifically targeted on multinational activities.
6. NCP network projects should address their activities to two target groups: NCPs and research projects partners. Therefore they should have resources for reimbursement of costs of participation in dedicated events for both target groups and to sustain active contacts with researchers community. Events should be regionally oriented to avoid extra costs and wasting of time for long travels.
7. Partner search tools are in general not very effectively used. Partner search should be more oriented towards stimulation of direct contacts between potential partners and creation of interpersonal contacts. Mapping of research competence, organisation of awareness campaigns, brokerage events, etc. addressed to pre-selected groups of participants have been proven as more effective.
8. Analysis of barriers and problems in participation in FP7 in general or related to specific groups of participants, for example decreasing share in funding of participants from EU12 or concentration of large number of projects in relatively small group of organisations from EU-15 could be undertaken by networking projects. Some actions of that kind were already successfully implemented.
9. Projects require good and active management. Implemented measures should be adjusted to the changing needs of beneficiaries. To increase efficiency of management there should be group of partners and group of associated partners in the consortium. Number of partners should be well balanced with tasks and responsibilities. Project tasks should take into consideration wide differences in NCPs experience. Implemented activities should have more continuous character and address real needs to stimulate active NCPs participation.
10. Cooperation with other networks should have a form of joint activities well defined and contained in the project’s work plan.
11. Reimbursement rules should be common for all networking projects and flexible.
12. Sustainability of the results of cross border cooperation initiated by NCP project should be ensured and relevant activities should be undertaken during the project run.

One of the results of the project is research driven clusters database and partner search facility aimed at promotion and support of the trans-national cooperation among cluster stakeholders. The feature of the tool is active involvement of NCPs in verification of cluster profiles before adding them into the database. However, there was expressed low interest among Regional NCP in partner search tool implementation because it was considered as low effective for RoK programme. Brokerage events were considered as a better tool for consortia building but unfortunately not foreseen by the TransRegNCP project.

Project developed also analytical report summarizing most important publications and reports on research driven clusters’, containing set of recommendations on how to make “research driven clusters” work and presenting examples of good practices deducted from background documents which is publicly available: “Research driven clusters in European regions” (2008), and 4 editions of the report “Success stories on RDC” presenting 20 good practices in trans-national cooperation of clusters based on the selected proposals submitted to RoK calls (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).

Potential Impact:

Project impact on the level of Regional NCPs performance:

1. Better understanding of cluster policy as instrument of regional development,
2. Better understanding of RoK objectives and concept of RDC,
3. Concentration on strategic aim: support to strategies for research and innovation,
4. Increasing effectiveness to reach the Regional NCPs aims,
5. Better understanding of strategic activities,
6. Effectiveness of activities located in areas specific to RoK,
7. Positive impact of training sessions on level of services.

One of the main project objectives was to improve quality of proposals submitted to Regions of Knowledge calls for proposals. It was assumed that to measure change in quality of proposals submitted - ratio of proposals evaluated above threshold to all submitted eligible proposals for the specific call will be used as indicator. There were seven calls for proposals and one call addressed to trans-national NCP cooperation where one proposal was submitted and one main listed (100% success rate). Therefore, results this call were skipped in the analysis. Result of analysis from the other seven calls are presented on the picture below.

(attached in PDF)

Fig. 1. Project impact on the level of quality of proposals submitted to RoK.

Ratio of number of proposals above threshold to number of eligible proposals submitted for each call is marked in red and has label “success rate”. It can be seen that there is clear increasing trend for this indicator - changing its value from 25.5% to more than 56% - showing positive project impact on quality of submitted proposals. It is evident that not only project activities had influence on that indicator. Other factors were not analysed. However, it can be concluded that such strong increase would not be possible without the increase in NCP capacities for provision of services due to the project implementation.

To disseminate project results the following activities has been performed and described in Dissemination Report:

- Presentation of RoK Programme and project results at European events: Paris Regional Innovation Tour – Intercluster Conference 2008 (Paris, France 2008), Open Days: European Week of Regions and Cities 2008 (Brussels, Belgium 2008), Research Connection 2009 (Prague, Czech Rep., 2009), Intercluster 2009 (Brussels, Belgium, 2009), WIRE Week Of Innovative Regions of Europe (Granada, Spain, 2010), TCI Regional Conference: Inspiring Clusters in the Beginning of the New Decade (Tallinn, Estonia, 2011), Innovation for Stronger Regions: Opportunities in FP7 (Brussels, Belgium, 2011), Europe Innova 2012 Stress Test on European Innovation (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2012),
- Promotion at European events (information stand), in collaboration with ResPotNet: Open Days: European Week of Regions and Cities 2008 (Brussels, Belgium, 2008), Week of Innovative Regions of Europe 2010 (Granada, Spain, 2010), Week of Innovative Regions of Europe 2011 (Debrecen, Hungary, 2011), Week of Innovative Regions of Europe 2012 (Krakow, Poland, 2012),
- News about project activities and information about events concerning clusters were published in e-Newsletter. Two issues of Newsletter were published each year. In total 9 newsletters were published,
- The project website (www.transregncp.eu) contains all information related to the project and project deliverables disseminated at public level,
- Electronic project leaflet informs about project objectives and activities,
- Press releases were prepared and disseminated during the project.

List of Websites:

www.transregncp.eu