Key policy messages & Conclusions

  • Eco-innovations are central to the promotion of sustainable and smart growth in regions because of their wide-ranging benefits for the economy and the environment. Regional authorities are well positioned to facilitate transformative changes by supporting various eco-innovations and involving different players in development and implementation eco-innovative strategies. As a result, regions should place eco-innovation at the core of their smart specialisation strategies (RIS3) and regional operational programmes in light of the next programming period of European funding.
  • When designing their strategic framework for policy intervention in support for eco-innovation, regions should take account of the fact that eco-innovation is not limited to specific industries and sectors. Eco-innovation can be introduced into any field via novel or improved products, technologies, services, management and organisational structures, institutional arrangements, lifestyles and social behaviour. In addition, eco-innovations should not be seen simply as a remedy for environmental problems in the regions but also as a boost for the economy and strengthening regions’ competitiveness in the national and international market.
  • Including eco-innovation as one of the main pillars of their RIS3 is one of the key conditions to developing an integrated approach, capable of generating systemic impacts at the regional level. Doing this will also require establishing a long-term vision and the development of a model for sustainable and smart regions.
  • While planning eco-innovation strategies and activities, it is recommended that regions conduct a robust analysis of the state of the art in the field of eco-innovation. This includes identifying key economic stakeholders, priority sectors and policy targets as well as measuring eco-innovation markets. This involves identifying existing and emerging drivers and barriers to eco-innovation. In order to do so, regions may rely on tools such as directories and databases, foresight and prospective studies, assessing the performance and needs of the companies and SMEs, analysing the sustainability, the environmental performance and the footprint of major industries in the region, developing a deeper understanding of the barriers and drivers to eco-innovation at the regional level.
  • Effective eco-innovation policy and strategic support requires the participation of many different types of stakeholder. For a successful eco-innovation strategy, regions must involve a wide range of stakeholders including: regional and local authorities, business and industries, research organisations, cluster organisations and universities, NGOs, citizens, Living Labs, user groups and regional or local innovation or development agencies.
  • In order to achieve far-reaching results in promoting eco-innovations, regions should develop a comprehensive policy mix that includes both supply and demand side measures. In the process of doing so, it is important that regions build on good practices from other EU regions and countries, taking into account both their successes and failures. From the analysis of the INTERREG IVC eco-innovation projects, a number of policy initiatives have been identified, addressing issues such as: eco-innovation assessment and planning, regional eco-innovation strategies, demand side policies including procurement, eco-innovation incubation and clusters, eco-innovation funding, eco (innovation) management in SMEs. However, it is crucial to take into account the specific economic, regulatory, technological, innovation and climate profiles of the regions when exchanging good practices as they may respond differently to the various incentives and barriers to eco-innovation.
  • In addition, regions should make innovative use of the policy instruments at their disposal. For example, they should create demand for eco-innovative products and services using the green public procurement and directly support eco-innovation in SMEs through providing subsidies, advisory and technical support.
  • Finally, while planning eco-innovation focused projects and programmes, regions should apply a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework with a well-defined and measurable set of indicators that will trace progress in activities, outputs and results. The questionnaire developed in the framework of the ECREIN+ project can prove to be a reliable tool to do so. It is important to understand that the wide variety of eco-innovative solutions and the projects and programmes that promote eco-innovation each require specifically designed monitoring and evaluation systems and indicators to measure their progress.

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