Calling for platforms for projects across funding programmes
Currently more than 130 projects in the Baltic Sea region address blue growth opportunities. This is a finding of a study conducted by the SUBMARINER Network for blue growth. “There is a clear need for a systematic cooperation platform” said Angela Schultz-Zehden, Managing Director of the SUBMARINER Network at the workshop “Blue Growth - Added value of cooperating in project clusters” in Stockholm in early November. The Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme organised the workshop as part of the 7th Strategy Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The workshop panellists represented the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs (DG MARE), different policy areas of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EU funding programmes and transnational projects. They all, among them BONUS, saw the need to have better coordinated cooperation among projects engaged in blue growth.
The panellists called for strategic platforms that allow exchange between policy makers from different levels, researchers in different fields of science, and business sector interested in investing in blue growth. At the best such platforms would generate concrete business cases, “bankable projects”. Both, programmes and projects saw that wider platforms would help broaden expertise in project work and get voices better heard in decision making.
The purpose of the workshop was to test the ideas of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme to support cooperation among projects - project clustering. Blue growth was selected as a topic as it has become one of the most promising fields for development in the Baltic Sea region. In addition, Interreg Baltic Sea Region is already co-financing a range of blue growth cooperation projects. The Programme plans to go beyond its boundaries and help projects from different funding programmes in northern Europe to join forces.
With BONUS, the Interreg Baltic Sea Region has already an ongoing close dialogue. It is a member in the BONUS advisory board and the programmes’ secretariats exchange information about projects and applications in order to avoid duplication and to encourage projects to cooperate. Interreg Baltic Sea Region looks forward to exploring further ways of collaboration with BONUS also in project clusters around our shared Sea.
Project clustering would support the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme’s aim to strengthen the abilities of organisations, and the know-how of people involved to work for a more innovative, sustainable and accessible Baltic Sea region. The Programme expects project clustering to help projects broaden and deepen their knowledge in the fields they are working in. Projects’ studies, analysis and policy papers would represent a broader view, and might attract a wider attention. Project clustering creates platforms for exchange and so help streamline activities and avoid duplication of efforts. So the tax-payers money would be used more efficiently!
Furthermore, cooperation platforms and projects’ networks would help to better inform and talk about achievements of both projects and programmes. Jointly developed strategies and policy papers may better reach high level decision makers. Through broader networks, a higher number of relevant stakeholders could be reached. Direct contacts to people have been proved to influence decision-making much more today than knowledge and facts found in reports.
All in all, the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme expects that a wider network of projects and their partners will increase the durability, transferability and the use made of the most important outcomes of single projects. Project platforms can also serve as a basis for task oriented working groups for identified needs, or for further development of ideas that emerge and thus keep the development process going. The workshop at the 7th EU Strategy Forum confirmed that these expectations of Interreg Baltic Sea Region are broadly shared.
One could expect that in all public funded projects, cooperation with others would automatically be built in. Nevertheless, as some project partners correctly pointed out at the workshop, the priority task of project leaders is to deliver a project according to the agreements made. Only a project that has something to share is an interesting cooperation partner for others. Therefore, some additional resources and support by funding programmes are needed to facilitate cooperation among projects.
The Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme is developing a tool – currently called project clustering – to support and fund cooperation of projects not only targeting blue growth but addressing also other Programme topics, for example water management and sustainable transport. More information about the tool and a call for project clusters or platforms will be published mid-2017. In addition, Interreg Baltic Sea Region encourages also other programmes to invest and work towards more cooperation among projects cross programmes for the benefit of the Baltic Sea region and the whole of Europe.
First published in BONUS in Brief, December 2016. To read and subscribe, visit www.bonusportal.org/inbrief