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METAclustering for cross-sectoral and cross-border innovation ecosystem BUILDING for the European Construction, Additive Manufacturing and Nature-Based Solutions industrial sectors’ SMEs

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - METABUILDING (METAclustering for cross-sectoral and cross-border innovation ecosystem BUILDING for the European Construction, Additive Manufacturing and Nature-Based Solutions industrial sectors’ SMEs)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-11-30

What is the problem/issue being addressed?
The construction industry plays a very important role in the European economy. It generates 9% of the GDP of the European Union and provides 18 million jobs, which 31% of industrial employment. But the sector presents an endemic incapacity to innovate, coming also from an extremely low investment in R&D, and a significant deficit in terms of productivity growth at all levels, but notably where SMEs are involved and they represent 99,9% of the companies in the and are generating 80% of the output of the whole sector.
The METABUILDING project addresses the need of bringing innovation to the Construction sector by fostering cross-sectoral and cross-border collaboration and, in particular, providing innovation support to SMEs.
The innovation support provided to SMEs by the METABUILDING project is organized into three main activities:
1. Financing innovation services (SEED vouchers) and collaborative innovation projects (GROW/HARVEST grants) through open calls directed at SMEs
2. Establishment of the METABUILDING open innovation platform providing innovation support to SMEs and other interested actors
3. Creating a European Innovation Ecosystem for an Enlarged Built Environment sector with easy access for SMEs

Why is it important for society?
Supporting SMEs to engage in innovation and to identify synergies through the collaboration with other more innovative sectors, helps them to develop their innovation potential, to co-develop new solutions and products and finally to become economic drivers of their sector and increase their turnover.
The challenges the SMEs have to respond to in the open calls define pathways for a green and digital transition of the construction sector based on the collaboration between sectors/disciplines (Construction, Additive Manufacturing, Nature Based solutions, ICT, Recycling and Circular Economy). The awarded SMEs can be considered industrial fore-runners as the products and solutions resulting from their projects contribute to decrease the use of natural resources, to increase of energy efficiency and/or create a habitat that is human friendly for example by reducing heat islands.

What are the overall objectives?
The main objective of the METABUILDING project is to drive SME innovation, to strengthen their international and cross-sectoral collaboration and to speed-up the introduction of their new products and processes.
Furthermore, the project aims at creating a European cross-sectoral, enlarged built environment Innovation Ecosystem to foster the creation of integrated business value chains and strengthen European Industry. The METABUILDING platform - established in the project - will provide a digital home, meeting point and long-term innovation support to EU clusters and industry players – a majority of them SMEs – ready to engage in collaborative innovation.
And finally, by driving innovation in the right direction the METABUILDING project aims at contributing to green and digital transition of the Construction sector.
The first period of the METABUILDING project was characterised by the definition and implementation of the cascade funding mechanisms and guidelines for the SEED and GROW/HARVEST calls. Clear priority was given to these main tasks and to a maximal promotion of the two SEED calls and the 1st GROW/HARVEST call.

Working with a meta-clustering approach the METABUILDING project has started to build and structure a cross-sectoral, cross-border European Innovation Ecosystem of an Enlarged Built Environment sector. With regards to the METABUILDING calls this approach of an integration of clusters at EU, national and regional level has proven to be effective to reach out to a maximum number of interested SMEs.

In order to provide the SMEs with information and innovation support for the definition and implementation of their SEED actions and collaborative, cross-sectoral and cross border GROW or HARVEST projects, the METABUILDING project has implemented the METABUILDING open innovation platform with its different support modules. The modules for the identification of funding opportunities, project partners, innovation experts, and innovative technologies have been are functional and will be improved in the second period of the project.

The following main results have been achieved:
• 5 sectors/disciplines engaged in workshops for cross-sectoral challenge definition (Construction, Additive Manufacturing, Nature Based solutions, ICT, Recycling and Circular Economy)
• 2 SEED calls and 1 GROW/HARVEST call launched
• 250 innovation ideas projects received
• 46 innovation ideas/projects supported
• 68 innovative SME financed
• 6 METABUILDING national contact points provide administrative and technical support to candidates
• 121 Innovation Stakeholders signed charter to support SME innovation
• 724 key innovation actors identified in the 6 target countries (Austria, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain)
• 1 METABUILDING platform with 4 modules up and running
Progress beyond the state of the art
The METABUILDING project has been able to raise the awareness for the necessity of cross-sectoral and cross border collaboration. The workshop hold in the 6 target countries have brought together 358 innovation actors from different sectors/disciplines interesting in defining together challenges that need the involvement of two or more sectors/disciplines and have the potential to solve current issues in a collaborative approach permitting the lay a first basis for future joint road-maps and final allow a first step into the direction of an integrated business value chain.

Expected results until the end of the project
Until the end of the project it is expected to improve the METABUILDING platform with new and updated modules and to give it long-term stability and become a corner stone of the European Innovation Ecosystem of an enlarged Built Environment sector.
Furthermore, the METABUILDING project will engage in outreach, training and sign-up activities towards potential users of the METABUILDING platform like EU, national and regional clusters, RTOs and industry players – in particular SMEs. The ultimate goal is to create links between them and facilitate cross-sectoral communication and innovation at EU level.
And finally, and most importantly, the METABUILDING project and its consortium members will support the implementation of the funded GROW and HARVEST projects and provide visibility to the awarded SMEs and their project results by integrating them in events and using the dedicated modules of the METABUILDING platform.

Potential impacts
• Easy access to innovation and innovation support for SMEs
• SMEs as forerunners for change and innovative solutions in the construction sector
• Structuring and interaction of an enlarged Built Environment sector
Socio-economic impact
• Increased turnover for SMEs thanks to new products and solutions
• Long-term positive impact on the green and digital transition of the construction sector
• Growth and resilience of European Industry based on new cross-sectoral industrial value chains profiting from integrated green and digital solutions
Wider societal implications
• Contribution to societal challenges through positive impact on carbon footprint, energy consumption and climate change
• Biodiversity and human compliant Built Environment thanks to the application of new technologies and Nature-Based Solutions
METABUILDING platform meeting point of Innovation Ecosystem
Innovation through cross-sectoral collaboration
Cascade funding