Inno4Sports has hosted the session Innovation Hubs for Sport&Vitality within the European Week of Regions and Cities so to highlight the key role of Sport&Vitality in terms of social, regional and economic development.

This session included key note speakers as Rene Wijlens (Cluster Manager Sports&Technology – Co-Executive Director of EPSI), Marisa Fernandez Esteban (Deputy Head of the Sport Unit, European Commission Directorate – General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport) and Päivi Ekdahl (Development Director Regional Council of Lapland). These presented a series of practices about regions investment in innovation/technological solutions and interregional cooperation within the realm of Sport&Vitality as key tools in boosting healthy and active lifestyles in all settings whilst creating socio-economic added value in future.

From a regional perspective, Rene Wijlens has presented the Cluster Sports&Technology and its intention to boost a vital and sportive society, generating economic and societal impact through technology and open innovation as a driver, building on the strength in the Brainport region. Besides, this South Netherlands region is the lead partner – together with Lapland – of the initiative ClusSport in the thematic area of Sport of the Smart Specialization Platform for Industrial Modernization. The initiative involves twelve regions and clusters on innovation and business creation for Sport&Vitality as one of its main objectives is to strengthen the sport industries at EU level by bringing together stakeholders from the sport sector and related industries. Most remarkably, it has been mentioned the EU network of Innovation Hubs for Sport&Vitality so to bring innovation and innovators related to sports and vitality together based on regional excellence and objectives. The EU network of Innovation Hubs for Sport&Vitality aims to connect excellences and ambitions of four regions (South Netherlands, Lapland, Valencia and Trentino) so to generate relevant data for innovation and business development by identifying market demands, to create smart innovative solutions and to support scaling up of businesses by new business models and public/private partnerships.

In merit, Marisa Fernandez Esteban has reiterated the commitment of the European Commission in maintaining the attention towards enhancing vitality and healthy lifestyles through the notion of Active Development and various initiatives. Besides, it has mentioned that Sport and Innovation are key contributors of three main priorities of the new Commissioner being promoting economic opportunities and employment, sustainability and circularity (European Green Deal), fitness and transition to a digital age. The aim is to enhance sports’ innovation potential at various levels by pursuing funding opportunities in the EU Programme and by coordinating horizontal policies response setting an European Agenda for Research and Innovation to maintain Europe’s and European industry’s competition edge. Hence, it has been discussed the relevance of SportHub: Alliance for Regional Development in Europe which refers to a platform gathering the sport movement, cities, regions, universities, SME’s and businesses support organisations – such as Clusters – to promote the role of sport/physical activity in regional development. This is to ensure that sport is better accounted for European, national, regional and local policy making whilst boosting a cross-sectoral approach and unfolding various funding streams for sport/physical activity for territorial development, notably ERDF, ESF+ and EAFRD.

Furthermore, Päivi Ekdahl has presented how in Lapland sport/physical activity is regarded as an emerging industry interconnected with environmental sustainability and other sectors as booster for well-being, health prevention and social inclusion. In merit, an important tool is the regional Smart Specialisation Strategy which guides the allocation of funding and regional development by focusing on regional strengths and excellences so to achieve competitive advantage by avoiding duplication and fragmentation of efforts. Hence, it has been presented the Arctic Sport Network started in 2018 which is a cross-sectoral collaboration including actors from various sports fields so to enable collaboration and unleash the full potential of the sport industry, support new business and innovations, strengthen the local knowledge base and promote healthy lifestyle among locals by acting as a communication and knowledge platform. Also, this network plays a role in private/public cooperation and interregional collaboration by acting as a link between regional actors and EU-collaboration, especially the Smart Specialisation Platform’s Sport partnership.

Hence, the session promoted a better understanding on the positive impact of these investment, interregional collaboration and regional excellence to boost new businesses and strengthen the societal impact on Sport&Vitality.