On 25 March, the Assembly of European Regions hosted the “Ambitious Skills and Innovation Strategies: A Territorial Approach” webinar. The event was part of the series of webinars on EU funding opportunities organised within the Skillnet project (co-founded by the Erasmus+ Programme) to bring together experts in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and to establish collaborations for future EU project proposals.
We are now living in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where machines and artificial intelligence play a significant role in enhancing productivity and wealth. These changes have given rise to new skills requirements and a growing skills shortage among businesses and especially SMEs, which often struggle to find the talent they require. The new skills requirements are not only limited to high-tech and manufacturing competences but also cover interpersonal skills, as well as competences related to sales, human resources, care, and education.
In the context of regional innovation strategies, rural areas should play an essential role, not just as a source of raw material and places to locate space-intensive activities, but as genuine partners and drivers of innovation. Additionally, increasing attention should be addressed to the many interdependencies between regional development policies and the skills required to sustain innovation strategies.
Interreg EU Policy Learning Platform – Support for regions in delivering better place-based policies
Existing networks and platforms offer increasing support to regional authorities across Europe to develop and deliver better policies through a territorial approach. Among these, Elena Ferrario, Thematic Manager of the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform (PLP), presented the services of the PLP as online learning, events, and personalised policy advice through a free on-demand peer review service. The latter is a service offered to local, regional, and national policy makers who seek advice on a specific policy framework through the design of a two-day knowledge-exchange experience with experts and peers. The cooperative approach within the Interreg community allows to identify the thematic experts who will set the to-do-list of actions within two working days (online or onsite), and after 12 to 18 months they will follow-up with the implementation results.
The application for the peer review service is open permanently and is an easy process. Interested regions can access the Terms of References and/or contact Elena Ferrario [[email protected]] to apply.
Additionally, the PLP outlines policy briefs, concise and to-the-point documents outlining recommendations and best practices for regional and local authorities and policymakers. In this context, Katharina Krell, Thematic Expert of the Interreg Europe PLP, highlighted the Skills for Innovation and Skills for Energy Transition briefs, which feature policy recommendations that draw on Interreg Europe’s experience with projects on the development of skills for innovation, and which aim to show regions a path towards better regional innovation policymaking.
Good practice from the Donegal County – Education and training for high tech skills
The ICT FinTech and engineering industries are key sectors within the Donegal County, contributing to regional development and boosting place-based innovation. To this aim, Mr. Vinny McGroary, Area Training Manager at the Donegal Education & Training Board (ETB), stated that the County encourages the continuous development of new skills through Donegal ETB. The latter provides second-level education programmes and Further Education Training which include a partnership of collaborations within the community, voluntary and private sectors, as well as with businesses.
The national strategy is focused on promoting growth through the improvement of working skills from the beginning of apprenticeships right up to the professional level. Additionally, Donegal ETB provides a number of full-time and part-time programmes for the development of skills tailored to the industry’s needs, and many of these courses are industry certified and endorsed by employers. Among these, the Skills to Advance and Skills for Work programmes are tailored to upskill people with a lower skill set and who need more opportunities to make progress in their professional careers. The Apprenticeship programme enables close collaboration with industries through a combination of learning in the workplace and education in the training centre.
The provision of these trainings focusing particularly on the ICT, FinTech, and Engineering sectors has been of core relevance to address the high rates of school drop-out. Additionally, it contributed to boost solid partnerships between people, businesses, and local organisations.
Funding incentives for territorial development
As presented by Agnese Pantaloni, EU Projects Coordinator at the Assembly of European Regions, the EU has deployed several means to support territorial development in rural areas. Among these we find:
- The Common Agricultural Policy 2021-2027 (CAP) will be supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development which is designed to reduce economic, environmental, and social constraints in urban areas and outermost regions, fostering knowledge transfer and innovation while promoting social inclusion, and economic development.
- Additionally, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) supports Technical Vocational Education and Training systems through investment on skills development for smart specialisation, employability, and adaptation to labour market changes.
- The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) brings together the existing European Social Fund with the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the Fund for Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). Initiatives supported through this newly established fund will likely focus on the acquisition of digital skills through schooling and education, support measures to improve the recruitment, and promote the socio-economic integration of newcomers from third countries.
- Interreg Programmes aim at fostering a more competitive, smarter, greener, resilient and connected Europe. Interreg Programmes include cross-border, transnational, and interregional.
- With a budget of over €28 billion, the ERASMUS+ Programme supports mobility and learning for all across the European Union and beyond. It provides opportunities for study periods abroad, traineeships, apprenticeships, and staff exchanges in all fields of education, training, youth and sport.
- Horizon Europe finances research and innovation projects in thematic areas such as climate change, transport, health, food, agriculture, rural development, energy efficiency. Participating in Horizon Europe is open to all types of organisations based in the EU and all over the world, both public and private sector organisations, working on individual and collaborative based projects.
Where to find resources & support?
LEADER/ CLLD: European initiative that supports development projects to revitalise rural areas through bottom-up approaches.
European Network for Rural Development: Hub for sharing ideas & experiences on how rural development policies work in practice, facilitating knowledge sharing and networking among all rural stakeholders in the EU.
Smart Specialisation Platform: The platform that provides guidance and good practice examples, tools to facilitate strategy formation & mutual learning of the smart specialisation strategy (S3).
EIP-AGRI: European Innovation Partnerships that build bridges between science and practice, collecting knowledge and best practices for farmers, foresters, advisers, and others.
Policy Learning Platform: The second action of Interreg Europe programme that provides a space for continuous learning, where a network of policy makers can benefit from personalised expert advice, updated news and examples of peer-reviewed good practices.
Open and Future EU Funding Opportunities and Initiatives
- Become an AER member
- Apply to the AGRIP-SIMPLE-2021 Open Call for proposals for simple programmes 2021: Promotion of agricultural products (topics in internal market and in third countries) by 11th May 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Open Call for projects: Small scale partnerships by 20th May 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Open Call for projects: Cooperation partnerships by 20th May 2021
- Apply to the UCPM Open Projects Grant Call: Network Partnership by 1st June 2021
- Apply to the SOCPL Open Call for Projects: Information and Training Measures for Workers’ Organisations by 9th June 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Open Call for projects: Partnership for Cooperation in the field of Youth – European NGOs by 15th June 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Open Call for projects: Partnership for Cooperation in the field of Education and Training – European NGOs by 15th June 2021
- Apply to the Horizon Europe open call for projects: Green Deal Innovations for Economic Recovery by 16th June 2021
- Apply to the Horizon Europe open call for projects: EIC Accelerator Open 2021 by 16th June 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Open Call for projects: European Youth Together (Small)by 24th June 2021
- Apply to the SOCPL Open call for projects: Support for Social Dialogue by 30th June 2021
- Apply to the SOCPL Open call for projects: Improving Expertise in the Field of Industrial Relations by 15th July 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Open Call for projects: Partnership for Excellence – Centres of Vocational Excellence by 7th September 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Forthcoming Call for projects: Alliances for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills (implementing the ‘Blueprint’) by 7th September 2021
- Apply to the ERASMUS+ Forthcoming Call for projects: Alliances for Education and Enterprises by 7th September 2021
- Join the EU Green Week 2021 from 3rd May to 13th June
- Access the Future of the Common Agricultural Policy proposal by the European Commission
- Access the new Horizon Europe Programme
- Access the new Erasmus+ Programme
Photo from Unsplash @jeshoots
This webinar was organised as part of the SKILLNET series of webinars on EU funding opportunities. SKILLNET is a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission. Through building transnational and cross-sectional partnerships, SKILLNET aims to strengthen the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system’s capacity to design high-quality VET programmes tailored to current societal needs. To this end, after each webinar, a bulletin with open and upcoming EU opportunities is circulated among relevant stakeholders.