Place Excellence and EU Horizon 2020 seminars in Zagreb

“The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up… His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.”
– Nikola Tesla

image_thumb[9]During the last week of October 2012, Jörgen Eriksson, Lars-Göran Larsson and Miquel Barceló gave two seminars in Zagreb, on the topics of Place Excellence, European Union Horizon 2020 investment policy and our experiences from implementation.

The first seminar was attended by the ministries, the regional governments and representatives from regional development agencies and municipalities. The second seminar was given at the Zagreb University for the rectors, professors and directors of technology transfer and innovation centers in the country.

We were invited to give the seminars by Assistant Minister Matija Derk and his team at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds. The Ministry is in charge of issues related to planning and implementing the regional development policy and the establishment of an integrated system for planning, programming, management and financing of regional development in Croatia and also for setting up and monitoring the use of financial resources from EU funds.


In this blog post I will present the background on Croatia and then briefly present the content of the seminars. The seminars should be of general interest to people working with regional development in Croatia but also across Europe, as there is so far not much information available about the Horizon 2020 investment policy and even less recommendations for how it can be implemented.

Croatia and the entry to the European Union

Croatia into EUThe Republic of Croatia is set to become the 28th member state of the European Union on 1 July 2013.

The time table has been running quickly. Croatia applied for European Union (EU) membership in 2003, the European Commission recommended making it an official candidate in early 2004. Membership negotiations began in 2005 and finished on 30 June 2011. Croatia then signed the Treaty of Accession on 9 December 2011 and a referendum on the EU accession was held on 22 January 2012 with 66,27% of the population voting in favor of EU entry.

The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers 56,594 square kilometers and has diverse, mostly continental and Mediterranean climates. Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast contains more than a thousand islands. The country’s population is 4.45 million, most of whom are Croats, with the most common religious denomination being Roman Catholicism.

There are a number of local and regional development agencies charged with driving economic development, business efficiency, investment and competitiveness, employment, skills and sustainable development in their regions.

Regarding the overall Croatian economy, in 2009, the main source of economic output was the service sector which accounted for 73.6% of GDP, followed by the industrial sector with 20.5% and agriculture accounting for 5.9% of GDP. Tourism dominates the Croatian service sector and accounts for up to 20% of GDP.


Given the current dependence on the service sector and good assets to build on, such as an advanced metals industry and high knowledge in information technology and with a high average level of education, Croatia is well positioned to benefit from the European Union entry and the new Horizon 2020 framework, which focuses on investment in research, innovation and entrepreneurship and development of knowledge economy industries and smart specialization.

As in many other smaller countries, the capital Zagreb dominates both in population and in share of the countries economy. The most important branches of industry in Zagreb are production of electric machines and devices, chemical, pharmaceutical, textile, food and drink processing. Zagreb is an international trade and business centre, and the transport crossroad of Central Europe.


The seminars

The seminars started with an introduction by Assistant Minister Matija Derk and then Jörgen Eriksson gave the first section of the seminar by speaking about perspectives, with a focus on the current state of the European Union and the new initiatives taken by the EU to foster competitiveness and economic growth in EU´s local regions.


Investing in research, innovation and entrepreneurship is at the heart of Europe 2020 Horizon strategy and a crucial part of Europe´s response to the economic crises. So is having a strategic and integrated approach to innovation that maximizes European, national and regional research and innovation potential. It is about enhancing Europe´s capacity to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, through the concept of  smart specialization.

The focus on smart specialization is very well aligned with the methodology we have worked with in Bearing for a number of years, which was documented by Christer Asplund in the book Place Management – New Roles for Place Managers in Rebuilding European Wealth in 2011.

A key to successful development will be to work according to the Quad Helix model, where a central context management coordinates and involves the actors from Government, Academia, Business and Civil Society, recognizes that they work in

Quad helix

Smart specialization will require development of a unique innovation system positioning and development strategy and also development of a clear place brand. It will also require enhanced local knowledge of the tools of innovation and innovation management and cluster building. This is a must as we currently live in a world of globalisation and hyper competition between companies but also between towns, cities and regions.

The second section of the seminar, which was also given by Jörgen Eriksson, was about how to create economic growth using the tools of place management, place branding and place development.


The third section of the seminar was given by Miquel Barceló and included a presentation of the  new EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020. Dr Barceló knows what he is talking about, being a PhD and associate Professor of knowledge economy and being engaged by the European Union as as an expert on RIS3 to advice countries on its implementation.

According to Dr Barceló´s speech, the European Commission has adopted a legislative package that will frame EU cohesion policy for the period 2014-2020. The Commission proposed changes to the way cohesion policy is designed and implemented according to:

  • Delivery of the Europe 2020 Strategy’s priorities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
  • Maximization of the impact of EU funding, "do more with less";
  • A new focus on results , not spending;
  • Simplification of the previous system
  • Territorial cohesion;
  • Integrated programming;

The funding instruments for this are:


There are a set of common rules that will be applicable to all funds:


In total the budget for the cohesion policy post 2013 is 376 billon Euro and there will be 162,6 billion euro available for the less developed regions.



Given the inclusion of a number of countries in Eastern Europe to the European Union in recent years, most of this 162,6 billion Euro budget will go to the eastern half of the European landscape.

The fourth section of the seminar was given by Lars-Göran Larsson on his hands-on experience of implementing RIS3 in a region in Sweden. According to Mr. Larsson, implementation must start by establishing a multi-level-governance structure in order to secure seamless coordination from National – Regional – Local levels.


A very important early step is to map the existing regional growth support system, which often works in an uncoordinated and inefficient way, and get everyone onboard. In this respect, implementing RIS3 is very much about change management, culture development and to achieve trust between the actors.


In his speech, Mr. Larsson explained a methodology for how alignment can be achieved and how all the actors of the regional innovation system can be included and work together in a regional business process governance system.



The seminars were a success and we will aim to repeat this important event in other locations in Europe, as the local regions prepare themselves for the implementation of RIS3.

For the interested reader, the presentation that was given for the October 31st seminar is available to browse below.

[slideshare id=15069699&doc=bearingconsulting-2012-10-31-zagrebv1-121107112905-phpapp01]

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