The objective of the first phase of the Inno4Sports project (from mid 2018 until end of 2020) is to develop a clear picture of the excellence of all 5 regions involved and with the inspiration coming from this to develop a Regional Action Plan for each individual region. In order to reach this goal, the partners from the 5 regions organised various Staff Exchange Weeks, Knowledge Capitalisation Seminars, Steering Group Meetings and Interregional Events (IE). In a new series of articles we interview all project partners about their action plans. In the first episode we talk with René Wijlens and Marc van der Zande of Cluster Sports and Technology from the Brainport region in the Netherlands.

Wat is a Regional Action Plan?

‘‘A regional action plan is a document that describes the changes that each region want to achieve to improve the policies within a given region. These changes are based on the regional excellences and ambitions and are inspired by the lessons learned from (the cooperation with) the other regions in the project, so in a nutshell: based on the excellences of the region and its ambitions, good practises from other regions will be transferred in order to improve the policies in the target region. The action plan specifies the nature of the actions to be implemented, their frame, the players involved, the costs and funding sources. The actions plans providing schematic insight in which good practices from what regions are used and how these good practices contribute to lessons learned. It helps us to better embed sports in regional policies.’’

How did you develop your action plans?

‘‘During the first phase of the project (study tours, staff exchange weeks, workshops) we learned about good practices in the different regions and discussed how we could implement those in our own regions. We included these ideas in our (draft) action plans. Lapland region had created a format for these action plans. Partners also inspired each other in writing these plans. There were various interactions at the consortium level and also bi-lateral conversations to review the (draft) action plans whilst sharing insights and constructive feedback for improvements. The actions plan have to be delivered at the end of the 2020.’’

What are the good practices and lessons learned described in the regional action plan of Cluster Sports & Technology?

‘’During the study tour to Valencia good practices were shown about innovation actions on stimulating activity levels of people in the working environment. We also learned how the Valencian region could get the health/care system more involved in the innovation ecosystem. After we visited the Valencian region, we decided to implement these lessons already in our running Vitality Living Lab (VLL) Project and also incorporated activities to stimulate vitality in the working environment, and with this also expand our innovation ecosystem. So we extended our original focus on stimulating activity in the public space environment to also the working environment.

Also the Cluster ‘Asociación para el Cuidado de la Calidad de Vida’ (CVIDA) in Valencia was a good practice for us because of:

  • the wide range of stakeholders: industry, health related organisations (insurance and providers like hospitals), research and universities, end-user (patient), organisations and local authorities.
  • The bottom up approach of it
  • The customer point of view related to health issues (not a patient point of view)
  • The good collaboration between public and private partners to innovate, validate new approaches but also to create a road map for new developments.

Furthermore the Lapland approach: the Arctic Sport Network & the smart specialisation (S3) policy related to it was an inspiration for us because of:

  • the wide range of stakeholders, all stakeholder on the field of sport (sports associations, sports infrastructure operations, local councils, sports industry and sports related education and research.
  • the good collaboration between public and private partners
  • the connection between the development roadmap and the smart specialisation S3 policy (and its financial means) of the regional government.

Both environments in the Valencia region and in Lapland show that structural innovation ecosystems around sports & vitality (living labs, and smart active spaces, neighbourhoods & cities and the work environment) can play an important role in improving healthy active lifestyles of people and also creating social and economic added value in the future’’. In the figure below we show in a schematic overview how these good practises have inspired us to come to our (draft) action plan.

Fig 1: Overview how these good practises have inspired us to come to our (draft) action plan.

What is the ultimate goal you want to reach with the action plan?

‘’We would like to start a so-called Innovation Hub for Sports & Vitality to bring innovation and innovators related to sports and vitality together. This innovation hub is a service point for both public and private parties to create access to knowledge and innovation actions, and is a structural collaboration of key partners from our region. Our goal is to create a globally appealing ecosystem for innovation, start-ups and busines development in South Netherlands in the domain of sports and vitality.

That is why we wish to increase the investments in innovation for Sports and Vitality in the addressed policy instruments. As is stated in the objectives of the Inno4Sports project we aim to influence the current OP ZUID program with the action plan.  The current OP ZUID program promotes business investments in Research and Innovation and promotes the adoption of innovative low-carbon technologies in the region through demonstration and pilot projects. The RIS3 strategy of the region is clearly focussing on cross-overs between relevant top sectors. Sports and vitality is seen as an interesting cross-over that provides interesting chances for new businesses.

The running Vitality Living Lab (VLL) project is part of this current OP ZUID program. The VLL project focusses on reinforcing the economic structures on a major societal challenge (vitality). The Vitality Living Lab project is a first step towards the policy change we want to achieve.  In the project we have already successfully incorporated some of the lessons learned during the international learning from Inno4Sports project and show the importance of them. In this way we have influenced the current OP ZUID program through the Inno4Sports project.”

However, since the current OP ZUID program is almost spent we  especially want to influence the new OP ZUID program (2021-2027). This new OP ZUID program focusses on innovation with economic return and social impact on five transitions: the energy, raw materials, climate, agriculture and food and health transitions.  These are all global challenges that South Netherland also faces, and where the region can achieve breakthroughs thanks to its powerful innovation system. Cluster Sports and Technology mainly focuses on the latter transition. Our innovation ecosystem mainly contributes to health challenges, not healthcare but care for health. In this way our Action Plan perfectly fits in the objectives of the new OP ZUID program.

How does the action plans help you to reach this goal?

‘’The action plan demonstrates how certain solutions/approaches within our focus area of innovation for sports and vitality work, already very well in the other regions. This “evidence” makes it easier to convince policy makers in our region to start something similar in our own region. The good practices described help getting things done, because the concept has proved to work. Furthermore, we have the ability to develop pilot actions which advances the implementation of our Action Plans and with that the aim of the project.

View here the published article on the website of the project