The European Policies Research Centre (EPRC) organised the 45th IQ-Net conference in Bilbao, which was hosted by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia. The conference gathered regional and national Structural Funds programme authorities from 15 EU Member States and the European Commission to discuss how Cohesion Policy contributes to the objective of Smarter Europe.
The first session of the conference focussed on experiences with the 2014-20 programmes. Carlos Mendez of EPRC presented a paper on ‘Results, Review and Reform: Delivering programme objectives while preparing for the post-2020 Cohesion policy’. Discussions during the session addressed programme implementation issues concerning the variation in spending and achievement of targets; capacity constraints; and challenges concerning the new regulatory options, including simplified cost options; ITIs; and, difficulties surrounding the implementation of specific themes, such as low carbon.
The second session, and the main theme of the conference, began by a presentation by Laura Polverari of EPRC based on a paper ‘From Smart Growth to Smarter Europe: Learning from Smart Specialisation Delivery’. The discussions that followed addressed practices and lessons in smart specialisation from the IQ-Net partner countries, and explored the options for the future period of 2021-27. A number of challenges, capacity building needs and good practice achievements related to the implementation of Smart Specialisation were identified. Future-related discussions focussed on assessing the Commission’s proposals for 2021-27 and the capacity building needs required for smart specialisation to be successful.
The conference concluded with a project visit to the Automotive Intelligence Centre in Amorebieta, which integrates smart operations, know-how, technology and industrial development.