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A new trans-regional foresight model for the regional innovation strategies (RIS)

Final Report Summary - FORTRANSRIS (A new transregional foresight model for the regional innovation strategies (RIS))

The Lisbon Strategy demands an increase on the interregional cooperation in Research technology development and innovation (RTDI), if Europe is to become the most competitive economy on the global market. The innovation processes takes place at the regional level. Thus, European Union (EU) regions are entitled to play a key role in the bottom up development of policies leading to the European Research Area (ERA).

Due to the lack of access to practical tools allowing the development of transregional innovation strategies conducive to open and collaborative frameworks, an actual fatigue of project based interregional cooperation schemes is taking place. The FORTRANSRIS project delivered a specific experience involving five regions in the use of Foresight as a practical tool for the design of common Regional innovation strategies (RIS).

The FORTRANSRIS project developed and tested an approach to improve regional decision-making by applying regional foresight in a transregional perspective. The transregional foresight exercise was developed building on the experiences and needs of the participating regions and aiming to enhance the individual regional innovation strategies as well as the general ability to apply foresight for regional RTDI decision-making by way of this cooperation.

As a first step, the overall approach on how to conduct individual foresight exercises on the regional level and then further elaborate and transfer the results to a joint transregional level was developed. It was decided to test the approach by applying it to the field of knowledge and technology transfer and its ability to enhance regional innovation and competitiveness. Approaching this issue from the regional and transregional dimension was expected to be especially useful because of the high innovation benefits that all actors can gain by cooperating within and across regions.
% In the FORTRANSRIS project, transregional knowledge and technology transfer (TKT) was defined as 'the process through which the scientific and technical knowledge (either tacit or codified), generated in one organisation (source), is exploited economically by a firm by means of a complex interaction and cooperation between the source and the firm and, usually, other players.'

Once the structure of the exercise had been set up, an analysis of the five regional innovation systems was carried out by the regional partners. They conducted desk research and interviews with all relevant regional innovation systems actors by using a structured questionnaire to identify the innovation needs, barriers and future aspirations as seen by the stakeholders. In addition, opportunities and challenges for knowledge and technology transfer within and among regions were identified, which (can) result from and facilitate transregional cooperation.

In a next step, the foresight experts synthesised and compiled the regional analyses into a smaller number of drivers to find out which issues are most relevant for each region and at the same time most promising to be dealt with on a transregional level. The regional actors then evaluated the drivers during a workshop according to their future relevance and probability of occurrence. Then, each region developed a vision based on these drivers about how knowledge transfer should look like in the region in the future. Based on these visions, the evaluation results and the input from the regional analyses, the most relevant aspects for developing transregional scenarios were identified.

In order to facilitate the analysis, only two scenarios were elaborated in more detail: the 'stormy' scenario, which can be seen as the extrapolation of today's situation based on the enhancement of its negative features; and the 'sunny' scenario, which can be seen as the most favourable framework for TKT (optimal scenario). The other possible scenarios, 'rainy' and 'cloudy', describe intermediate situations. They might be a transient state in the evolutionary process from 'stormy' to 'sunny', or, realistically, the most likely situations when systematic strategic cooperation between the different regional actors fails to be established.

The scenarios display what knowledge and technology transfer within and among the regions could look like and how it might be facilitated by transregional activities in the future. They can be used to raise awareness among regional stakeholders concerning which future state they deem preferable and discuss what can be done to achieve it.

In FORTRANSRIS, this was done during scenario validation workshops in each partner region. There, it was discussed if the scenarios were indeed feasible for the region and which issues were most relevant. The most relevant issues from each region were then matched to find out which issues were most relevant for all regions.

The foresight experts in the project then used the scenarios, the input from the regional scenario validation workshops and the outcome from the transregional workshop to develop a roadmap for each of the three issues. The roadmaps display how each region can improve its innovation system by drawing on the knowledge of other regions and by cooperating on knowledge and technology transfer issues. This aims to guide the regions towards the implementation of joint actions in these fields.

In parallel to the implementation of the transregional foresight exercise, the lessons learned during FORTRANSRIS and the approach used were synthesised in the FORTRANSRIS methodology guide to enable other regions to benefit from the experiences made during the project. The experiences made and the know-how gathered during the FORTRANSRIS project shows how regional decision-makers can make their regional innovation systems and policies more viable and competitive by applying strategic know-how more frequently and consistently, for example generated by transregional foresight activities. This is especially important in the increasing global competition for infrastructure, enterprises and highly qualified human resources.

Using a tailored set-up for transregional activities enables the participating actors to take stock of the comprehensive knowledge available in other regions, to raise awareness and mobilise all relevant regional stakeholders, to identify the most relevant issues for their concrete regional needs, and thus tailor regional policies and programmes for the benefit of long term competitiveness and innovativeness of the region.

Accordingly, the FORTRANSRIS approach ensured that the transregional foresight exercise was adapted to the regional needs and expectations and that, in turn, future regional foresight activities can benefit from the transregional experiences as well as the other region's expertise.

Thus, by applying foresight systematically to shape regional policies, regional decision-makers will contribute to both the successful development of their own region and to fostering the coherence and success of European programmes, priorities and policies.

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