Seven nations and as many as forty-eight regions and self-governing provinces. The Alpine macro-region unites under the banner of a single agreement – the EU Strategy for the Alpine region – the political and economic actors around the Alpine chain. Literally and metaphorically fertile ground for cultivating resources, growing community strategies, and flourishing solutions to key challenges of the future.
Along the Alpine arc, Circular Bioeconomy and Health Economy are at the heart of development strategies, but despite the potential of these two industries (both in terms of sustainability and lasting impact), in recent years there has been a worrying lack of inter-regional funding opportunities for the research and innovation projects needed to take full advantage of them.
It is against this backdrop that ARDIA-Net, a three-year project aimed at breaking down inter-regional barriers and fostering cooperation for the creation of an Alpine Space Research, Development and Innovation Area, was born in the fall of 2019.

Connected Alps, an inter-regional cooperation framework

From the kick-off meeting in Stuttgart three years ago to the final conference in Milan held on May 11th: this is the life span of the project funded by Interreg Alpine Space to enhance and fund so-called RDI (Research, Development and Innovation) projects to support and implement the local bio-based and health industry.
To achieve this, over the past few years the project has created a multilevel, multinational action plan that has enabled the development of funding frameworks for activities and pilot projects geared toward the macrotrends of the circular bioeconomy and health economy. All without losing sight of the most important goal: synchronizing operations and working in synergy to transfer knowledge and resources among different regions.
The strength of the AlpsConnect (Cross-regional Cooperation Scheme) developed under the project is based, precisely, on the synchronization of existing funding programs. In fact, the framework does not involve the establishment of new funding programs, nor the development of new legal frameworks or, much less, the transfer of funds from one region to another. Rather, AlpsConnect proposes three different and gradual approaches: three increasing levels of cooperation. The first route is cooperation limited to two individual projects (thus with independent project submission, dispatch, evaluation, and funding processes); the second is cooperation among several projects (with independent dispatch and funding processes, but with a community synchronization and evaluation process); and the third is the synchronization of calls and the establishment of a cooperation office (which manages the entire project support process).

Multilevel governance solutions

What ARDIA-Net is proposing, in short, is to form a Network of Regional Coordination and Support Agencies. A network to support those three avenues outlined by AlpsConnect that unites the individual stakeholders in each region under one banner. From policy makers to public agencies responsible for calls for proposals, from universities to NGOs and foundations.
A network that implements a step-by-step involvement of governance structures taking into account different regional potentials, barriers and needs. What is aimed at is a true multilevel governance structure that can facilitate the implementation of the S3s (Smart Specialization Strategies) of the Alpine space, a modular structure that is fundamental to stimulate innovation and competitiveness of local excellence. A system that, if proven successful, could be replicated and confirmed on many other territories.

Image: Paul Gilmore (Unsplash)