Deliverable D2.2

EU place-based Research and Innovation ecosystems
Mapping case studies of knowledge ecosystems across European regions


BBCE Bio-based circular economy 

CoLAb Collaborative Laboratories 

CRE Clean renewable energy 

ERA European Research Area 

EU European Union 

GDP Gross domestic product 

IEC Intelligent Energy Cluster 

IMAST Italian technological district for the engineering of polymeric and composite materials and structures 

NGO Non-Governmental Organization 

PA Public Administration 

R&D Research and Development 

R&I Research and Innovation 

RAISE Robotics and AI for Socio-economic Empowerment 

SM Sustainable manufacturing 

WMRC Waste Management and Recycling Cluster  

VTT Technical Research Center for Finland Management


The present document contains a summary of internal guidelines defined to assure a
correct, timely and smooth implementation of activities to be performed under the project
ERA FABRIC ‘’Framing And Bridging Regional research and Innovation ecosystems
Capacities for a renewed ERA’’ during its whole duration.

They have been defined taking into consideration the formal obligations set out in the project
Grant Agreement signed with the EC and in the Consortium Agreement jointly signed by all
project partners.

The aim of the guidelines is to guarantee that objectives are met in the most effective and
efficient way. They are developed within the scope of Work package 1 of the Project
according to the project description and all applicable rules and guidelines.

The Quality Guidelines provide general rules, structures and procedures for the delivery of
outputs focusing in particular on deliverables, online and offline meetings, bearing in mind
each partner’s different way of operating and finding a common quality assurance system.

They are presented as an handbook containing the basic forms of documents to be used
and clarifying policies, systems, and procedures adopted to implement and improve the
Quality Management System with a special attention to Risk management. These guidelines
establish general principles to be followed by the partners in the day-to-day activities of the
project, with the goal of maintaining uniform quality control procedures and continuously
monitoring their execution. However, it is understood that specific details may be discussed
and decided upon at a later stage, following the decision taken at Steering Committee level.


2.1 The first step  

The research on the European knowledge and innovation ecosystems has been based on a methodology that involves different approaches simultaneously.  

The first step was contacting all the partners involved in the project in order to receive general information about the existing ecosystems in their geographical areas, possibly focusing on regional dimension. Such ecosystems were expected to be relevant for at least one of the 3 thematic domains addressed by the project: Sustainable manufacturing, Biobased circular economy, Clean renewable energy. 

The partners that took part to this process are: CNR (Italy); ART-ER (Italy, Emilia Romagna); Fundacio  EURECAT (Spain, Catalonia) ECOPLUS (Austria, Lower Austria); INESC-TEC (Portugal, Norte)  Trondheim Tech Port (Norway) University of Split (Croatia), Masaryk University (Czech Republic,  South Moravia) WUT Warsaw University of Technology (Poland) ADRNV Regional Development  Agency North West Romania(Romania, Transylvania) 

As a result of the research carried out by the partners, an overall collection of 26 case-studies was let  available, including cases coming also from member States of the European Union (Finland and  Sweden) even if they did not take active part in the project.  

It should be mentioned that one of the 9 countries participating in the project, Norway, although not  member State of the EU, is associated with the Union through its membership of the European  Economic Area (EEA). 

In the table above the 26 case-studies are listed and classified on the basis of the Nation, European  sub-region, territorial level of intervention and main domain of activity (within the 3 taken into  consideration). 

Through desk research based on the existing information extrapolated from the websites of the  ecosystems and other related online sources, we have elaborated an initial scheme where for each  case study a first set of essential characteristics is summarized. The elements taken into account in  this first desk analysis have been: 

  • Geographic Location (nation and sub region) 
  • Juridical form 
  • Mission  
  • Partners involved; 
  • Territorial level of the intervention(regional/national)
  • Main activities carried out
  • Main technological domains/areas
  • Management rules
  • Stakeholders involved.

2.1 Selection of a smaller sample  

Among the 26 case-studies initially considered, 15 of them have been selected following essentially  four criteria:  

    1. Industrial domain: equal distribution of 5 good practices for each thematic main domain  addressed by the project: 

                    Bio-based circular economy; 
                    Clean renewable energy; 
                    Sustainable Manufacturing. 

    2. Nationality: at least one case study for each of the 9 countries involved in the ERA_FABRIC project  has been chosen as well as one case from Finland and one from Sweden (cross border with Norway),  to assure a wide coverage at EU level.
    3. Juridical/Organizational form: due to the wide variety of juridical and organizational aggregation  among the partners involved in the different ecosystems we have tried to include in the sample all  the existing typologies: associations, foundations, public limited companies, consortium companies .
    4. Prevalence of public or private actors and public or private objectives: from this perspective,  considering the wide variety of situations immediately observed in the initial group we have tried to  preserve it also in the restricted sample. 

Once the final group of 15 good practices was identified, three types of strategy were followed to  get as much reliable information as possible for a further deeper analysis, to be carried out contacting key referents of the selected ecosystems, often with support of the project partners.

First of all a specific Questionnaire (see the Annex 1) was prepared and structured as follows: an  initial short form to be filled in with general information (replicating the elements already analyzed  through the desk research in order to confirm or amend them): Name, Nation, Geographic location,  Company legal form, Partners involved, Level (regional/national), Mission, Management rules, Main  technological domains/areas: Main activities, Stakeholders involved. 

Below the initial general information, the Questionnaire was completed with 11 questions conceived  to get a better understanding of the main mechanisms that allow the functioning, the development  and the achievement of the main objectives of the ecosystems.  

The Questionnaire was used to support data collections obtained via direct compilation from the  ecosystems referents or through face-to-face or on-line interviews. 

For 9 ecosystems out of 15, an interview was organized with one key referent (manager or  responsible for specific areas). In 3 cases, the interview was carried out in presence (the two Spanish  clusters in Barcelona and the Italian cluster IMAST in Italy, Naples), while for the remaining cases the  interviews were carried out via on-line calls. During the interviews, the contents of the questionnaire  were discussed to collect direct answers and comments and then the dialogue was widened beyond  the subject of the single questions, collecting in this way an extended range of information. 

For 5 case-studies, we only received the questionnaire filled by our referents without an interview.  

Only in 1 case, due to the difficulties encounter in identifying appropriate referents, we proceeded  with further desk research through websites and on-line sources.  

The combination of desk research, interviews and submission of the questionnaires gave, overall, a  quite good level of coverage of the most important information requested.  

However, the quality and depth of the overall information received were quite differentiated: 

  • In 4 cases (Ecosister, IMAST, RAISE and Bioeconomy Austria) the level of the information  received is very high (level 1); 
  • In 8 cases (Packaging Cluster, H2Valley, ForestWise, Transilvania Cluster, Mazovia ICT  Cluster, Renergy) the level of the information is high (level 2)
  • In 3 cases (INTEMAC, Waste Management and Recycling Cluster, VTT) the level is  intermediate (level 3); 
  • In 2 cases (Biokraft, Intelligent Energy Cluster) the level is essential (level 4). 

In the next chapter we analyze in depth the characteristics of the 15 ecosystems along numerous dimensions providing schematic tables for the most relevant categories. 

In chapter 4 we provide further details, with specific information sheets, in relation to 6 of the 15  cases, considered particularly significant. Information sheets for the other 9 ecosystems are  available in the Annex 2.


3.1 Preliminary considerations

Before analysing in depth the 15 case-studies extracted, let us dwell briefly on some essential  elements that emerged from the first analysis of the initial sample of the 26 case studies.  

The national origins of the ecosystems taken into consideration were: 5 from Norway, 1 from  Sweden/Norway, 1 from Finland, 3 from Austria, 4 from Italy, 2 from Spain, 2 from Portugal, 1 from  Croatia, 1 from Romania, 3 from Poland, 3 from Czech Republic. This confirm that research and  innovation ecosystems are spread in all partner countries. 

A clear variety of forms and structures from a juridical, economic and organizational perspective was  immediately perceivable. 

From a juridical point of view, the typologies encountered were:  

6 not-for-profit associations;  

5 generic associations (without any other specification) 

1 not-for-profit limited company; 

6 limited consortium companies;  

1 CoLab (collaboration laboratory);  

In 7 cases the legal form was not well-defined, proving that knowledge ecosystems do not  necessarily need to assume a legal status, at least in their initial phase of operation. 

A strong differentiation of experiences has also been found in relation to the typology of partners  involved in the groups and, to some extent, as a result of this, in relation to the general aims and  missions of the ecosystems. In almost all the cases there is a combination of public and private  actors. In some of these cases, there is a clear predominance of private business-oriented partners,  which means a prevalence of the private interests on the collective public interest; in a few cases (2  out of 26) there is a strong prevalence of public partners and a clear predominance of public  interests and objectives. In other cases, there is a well-balanced mix of private and public actors that  apparently leads to a combined set of objectives of private and public nature.  

In relation to territoriality, it can be observed that 15 ecosystems have a national extension of their  main activities, while 10 have a mainly regional dimension and 1 (Biokraft) has a cross-border  identity involving both Sweden and Norway.

3.2 An in-depth analysis of 15 case-studies  

The Table below describes the main features of the 15 cases resulted from the selection process  described at chapter 2. 

As far as the geographical areas of the ecosystems are concerned a wide variety of countries was  included in the selection of the 15 ecosystems, in particular:  

  • 2 cases from Norway (of which one includes also Sweden) (Region Trøndelag – Stockholm);
  • 1 case from Finland (Greater Helsinki); 
  • 1 from Austria (Lower Austria);
  • 2 from Spain (Catalonia); 
  • 1 from Portugal (Norte);
  • 3 from Italy (Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Campania)
  • 2 from Poland (Mazowieckie);
  • 1 from Czech Republic (South Moravia);
  • 1 from Croatia (Jadranska Hrvatska)
  • 1 from Romania (Nord-Vest). 

All the countries participating in the project (plus Finland and Sweden) are represented.

There are 5 ecosystems for every thematic domain taken into consideration: 

5 for Bio-based Circular economy (Bioeconomy Austria, Biokraft AS, -Collaborative Laboratories – ForestWISE, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltt);  

5 for Clean Renewable Energy (Waste Management and Recycling Cluster; ECOSISTER; H2 Valley;  Intelligent Energy cluster; RENERGY – Renewable Energy Cluster; Mazovia Cluster ICT); 

5 for Sustainable Manufacturing (IMAST; INTEMAC; Packaging cluster; Transilvania IT Cluster; RAISE Robotics and AI for Socio-economic Empowerment).  

The map below shows the geographical distribution of the 15 ecosystems deemed, outlining the  prevalent thematic domain of each of them.  

As explained, we tried to identify ecosystems that had different juridical forms as well as different  types of governance and general types of aim.  

The questions addressed in the questionnaire had the function of covering a wide range of  information. Here reported below the 11 questions: 

  1. How do you define strategic priorities identifying and finding solutions to shared societal  challenges? Are there mechanisms in place to align objectives with the societal need  (stakeholders involvement practices, public consultation, etc.)?
  2. How do you mobilize public and private stakeholders around shared objectives? Is there a  role, and what kind of role, of the public administrations in the development of the  ecosystem? 

  3. Where do the financial resources of the ecosystem come from? (Public national or regional  funds, stakeholders contribution, competitive national or European projects etc)
  4. What are the specific typologies of activities you are involved in?  

  5. Are co-creation or co-production mechanisms active? (i.e. Collaboration with the  stakeholders during the design and development of goods and services)
  6. Is there a connection with other knowledge ecosystems (both regional, national and  international)?
  7. Description of the governance process of the R&I activities (formal and informal)
  8. How do you perform results evaluation?
  9. How do you enable development of competences and assets attracting further talent,  societal and economic activities, and investment?
  10. How do you allow maintaining and increasing attractiveness of the ecosystem over time  (sustainability)?
  11. What are the critical areas?

The 11 questions aimed to extrapolate three different types of information:  

  1. Questions 1-4-7-9 and 10 are focused on the mechanism of management, governance,  organization and activities of the ecosystems.
  2. Questions 2 and 3 are focused on the balanced roles of the private and public subjects in  managing, financing and defining final objectives and intermediate tasks of the ecosystems.
  3. Questions 8 and 11 aim to understand the mechanisms of monitoring and feedback and the  existence of critical aspects in the functioning of the ecosystems.

From the answers collected a lot of information emerged. The depth and relevance of the answers  received, as already explained in chapter 2, has been extremely diversified. In order to classify and  compare the information obtained in an intelligible manner 18 categories were created. They are  listed in the table below:

  • Country 
  • Mission 
  • General domain 
  • Specific domains 
  • Territorial dimension 
  • Kind of activities 
  • Type of partners 
  • Co-creation and co-production processes 
  • Connection with other ecosystems 
  • Role of the public administration 
  • Prevalence of Private/Public objectives 
  • Stakeholder mobilization
  • Juridical form 
  • Methods for defining strategic priorities 
  • Governance processes 
  • Funding and financial sources 
  • Results evaluation 
  • Critical areas

In the next paragraphs, we deal with the analysis of the most relevant categories in order to compare the different experiences that emerged.

3.3 Territorial dimension  

In about half cases (7) the activity has mainly a national dimension, in 3 cases there is a balanced regional and national dimension, in 4 cases there is mainly a regional dimension and in 1 case a  national/international cross-border dimension (Biokraft whose activities are divided between  Sweden and Norway).  

It is interesting to notice that in some countries (Norway, Poland, Croatia, Portugal) there is a  tendency (also confirmed considering the limited information obtained in the wider sample of 26  cases) to have national-oriented ecosystems while in other countries (notably Italy and Spain) there  is a tendency to have regional-oriented groups. We will return to this point in the chapter 5. 

3.4 Kind of activities  

There is evidently a strong variety of activities carried out by the ecosystems. However many  activities are recurring in most of the cases:  

  1. Technology transfer, technological scouting, integration of technological competencies,  technological innovation research, and development of technological solutions are activities  explicitly performed by 10 out of 15 ecosystems. In the other 5 cases, however, R&D  activities that indirectly concern technological development are carried out.  
  2. Vocational training of the employees is a central activity performed by 6 of out 15  ecosystems.  
  3. Promotion and implementation of entrepreneurial projects is an explicit aim and type of  activity carried out by 6 out of 15 ecosystems. 
  4. Networking, that is creating connections and contacts between the different partners and  stakeholders of the ecosystems is an essential activity for 10 out of 15 cases, anyway it is  carried out by all the ecosystems. 
  5. Coordination and integration of the development processes of the partners (5 cases out of  15).
  6. R&D activities are directly carried out by 5 cases out of 15 while in the other 9 cases, the  ecosystem works as a coordinator of the R&D activities carried out by the partners  (companies or research centers) 
  7. Selling consulting services is an activity performed by 4 out of the 15 ecosystems. 

3.5 Type of partners involved  

The actors of the ecosystems are quite diversified including private subjects, private not-for-profit  subjects, and public subjects. The partners that generally constitute the structure of an ecosystem  are: private companies, non-profit associations, business associations, clusters, regional or national  agencies, universities (public or private), research centers (public or private) public administration  (regional, national level). 

Private companies: in 13 ecosystems out of 15 there are private companies.  

Universities: in 8 cases out of 15 there are universities, public or private (mainly public). Research centers: in 8 cases out of 15 there are research centers, public or private. 

Public administration (PA) or public subjects indirectly connected to the PA: in 4 cases out of 15  there is a direct participation of the PA in different forms (Regional agencies, Public consortium  companies, and other public institutions acting in local territories). In all the ecosystems the Public  Administration exerts the role of explicit stakeholder


3.6 Co-creation and co-production processes  

Through question n° 5 of the Questionnaire we investigated the possible mechanisms of co production and co-creation within the ecosystems.  

Knowing that the definition itself of co-production and co-creation can stem from quite different  concepts, we consider co-creation and co-production processes activities in which the stakeholders  (citizens, civil society, public administration, other companies not partners, associations) are  involved in the creation/production of a service, product or more generally a result.  

The most common forms of co-production and co-creation that emerged are:  

  • educational activities with schools and universities that involve the students as co-producers  (4 cases);
  • development projects based on a co-creation practice (6 cases);
  • a co-creation workshop to share ideas with the stakeholders (3 cases);
  • training activities involving different actors on a co-creation base (6 cases);
  • inter-cluster activities (2 cases).

3.7 Connection with other ecosystems  

Asked about the existence of direct connections and relationships with other ecosystems, the  referents interviewed answered unanimously “yes”. All the ecosystems have connections with other  ecosystems. 

In 10 cases there are connections at a national level; in 5 cases there are also connections at regional  level (one of which has only regional/local connections); in 8 cases there are connections at a  European level.  

The meaning of the term “connection” is quite generic. It can mean constant partnerships (less  frequently), occasional projects shared (more frequently) or long-period synergies for a specific  domain (such as European Hydrogen Valley). 

3.8 Role of the public administration  

The role the public administration (PA) plays in relation to the ecosystems is one of the most  interesting and complex points, essential to understand the mechanisms of genesis, development,  and ultimate goals of the ecosystems (see also chapter 4). 

We considered the following possible options to briefly describe the role of the PA in the  ecosystems: funder, promoter, partner, and stakeholder. 

  •  Funder means that the PA contributes somehow (either with direct funds or through  competitive projects) in financing (in different percentage proportions) the ecosystem  operation;  
  • promoter means that the PA contributes to creating and developing the ecosystems under a  direct role;  
  • means that public institutions (in different forms) are directly represented within the  ecosystem;  
  • stakeholder means that the PA has a mere role of a subject that has an interest and concern  about the activities of the ecosystems. In most of the ecosystems analyzed the PA has more  than one role.  

In 10 cases the PA is a funder (almost always partially, except in one case totally) of the ecosystem;  in 8 cases the PA was also the promoter of the initiative that gave origin to the ecosystem;  in only 3 cases the PA is also a partner (regional governments, regional public agencies or regional  public companies);  

in only 3 cases the PA is just a stakeholder (among others) of the ecosystems.  In all the cases (evidently) the Public Administration is a stakeholder. 

We will discuss in-depth, in paragraph 4, the relevant consequences that the role of the PA has on  the nature of the ecosystems. In the table below are summarized the different roles the PA plays in each case.

3.9 Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiatives  

From a series of information obtained about: the role of the PA, the type of partners involved, the  kind of activities, the mission and other elements emerged in the interviews, we extrapolate a  hypothetical classification of the ecosystems based on the prevalence of Public or Private aims and  Private or Public initiative in the creation of the ecosystems. Three options were created to describe  the prevalence of the objectives:  

  • a balanced mix of private and public aims;
  • mainly private aims; 
  • mainly public aims.  

We have excluded the extreme conditions of totally private and totally public aims because they are  stranger to the effective experience of the ecosystems (we will better discuss this concept in chapter  5). Also for the initiative, we used the same three options: balanced, private or public.  

Putting together the two categories the results obtained are the following:  

  • In 2 cases (13.33% of the sample) the aims are mainly public; in 2 cases (13,33%) the aims  are balanced; in the other 11 cases (73,33%) the aims are mainly private. 
  • In 7 cases (46,7%) the initiative for their creation was public; in 1 case (6,7%) a balanced mix  of public and private partnership promoted the birth of the ecosystems; in 7 cases (46,7%)  the initiative was private.  

Table 5 provides a schematic representation of the prevalence of public or private objectives/initiatives in the 15 ecosystems.  

We will combine both elements in chapter 5 to draw some considerations about the deep nature of  the ecosystems.


3.10 Financial sources  

An important piece of information acquired concerns the sources of funding received by the  ecosystems. We investigated where the financial resources come from and we obtained in 6 cases information only on the type of source, in the remaining ones (9) deeper information including the  percentage weight of every component.  

Essentially four types of financial sources exist: 

  1. direct public funding from national or regional resources;
  2. public funding obtained through competitive projects (most of the time European, sometimes  national);
  3. annual fees paid by the partners;
  4. revenues obtained through the sale of services provided by the ecosystems. 

Among the 9 cases of which we have complete information, focusing first on the mere division  between public and private funding, we have:  

2 ecosystems with 100% of public direct funding;  

1 with 94% of public funding and 6% of private contributions (fees);  

1 case with 85% of public funding and 15% of private funding;  

2 cases with 67% of public funding (of which half from competitive projects and half from direct  funds);  

1 case with 60% of private funding (of which two thirds from partners’ fees and one third from  services sold) and 40% from public funding (competitive projects);  

2 cases with 50% of public resources (half of which from competitive projects and the other half  from regional funds) and 50% of private resources. 

Overall, on average, considering the 8 ecosystems with detailed information: 

  • the direct public funds amount to 48% of the resources,
  • public funds under competitive projects amount to 26%,
  • the private fees amount at 21,5%, 
  • sale of services amount at 4,5%.

3.11 Juridical form  

Actually it should be stated that the juridical form assumed by an ecosystem is a piece of  information with a low level of significance for two different reasons:  

  1. every country has a different legal framework in which a similar type of entity has different  nature; 
  2. the legal form does not seem to affect the general aims, behaviors and mechanism of the ecosystems. However, the knowledge of the most frequent legal forms encountered can be useful for an overall comprehension of the phenomenon.  

The recurring typologies, similarly to the sample of 26 cases already commented, are the following: 

  • 3 public limited companies;
  • 1 limited consortium public;
  • 2 foundations; 
  • 5 not for profit associations;
  • limited liability consortium company;
  • 2 associations. 

Just in 1 case the juridical form has not been defined yet.

3.12 Stakeholder mobilization  

Question n° 2 aimed at understanding the mechanism of mobilization of the stakeholders used to  involve private and public subjects and interests. 

The variety of the answers received is such that it is hard to encounter classifiable groups of  information. In some cases the concrete ways used to gather the stakeholders such as forum,  consortium partners, annual summit, workshops as well as instruments used to reach them such as  newsletters and social media groups were emphasized. Other examples include the strategies  adopted to define shared objectives for private and public stakeholders and to identify the common  priorities of all the subjects involved in the ecosystem. 

In a nutshell, we could say that there are well-established systems and concrete instruments used to  create synergies among the stakeholders and the partners in all the ecosystems considered. 

3.13 Methods for defining strategic priorities  

On this point the information collected shows a wide variety. The recurring methods for defining the  priorities of the ecosystems that emerged are: the delegation to a high advisory board of the  decision process; the involvement of key leaders of the companies and other entities of the  ecosystems; the annual (or every three years) definition of a Strategic Agenda; the process of  identification of the main stakeholders; a continuous verification of the areas of overlapping and  complementarities of the needs of the partners; frequent workshops to update the direction and the  objectives according to the societal needs; connection of the identified priorities with the different  competences expressed in the ecosystem; multidisciplinary partnerships between the private and  the public actors involved. 

In a nutshell, the identification of the strategic priorities seems to be defined through a regular  periodic involvement of the key actors of the ecosystem. 

3.14 Governance process for the R&I activities  

The information about the governance process for R&I activities was the hardest to be obtained and  anyway, the approaches that emerged were diversified.  

In some cases, there is a clear decentralized approach (e.g. Bioeconomy Austria) in which the  partners (spokes) choose specific focus topics reflecting their individual fields of strength. Once the  spokes identify relevant R&D project ideas, they inform the other spokes and ask them to search for  project partners. The spokes help the consortia to find the right funding instruments to develop the  R&D projects.

A similar approach is encountered in RAISE where “the spokes program the activities of the  Ecosystem identifying the executive responsibility of every single partner. The coordination within  the SPOKE, among them and between the SPOKES and the HUBs constant and essential to achieve  the final objectives of research”. 

Other ecosystems follow an opposite model, more centralized (such as IMAST) where “a strong  board direction relates to the partner with a high degree of autonomy. Organizational autonomy and  strong interdependence among the needs expressed by the partners”.  

In other cases, the ecosystem is not directly involved in the research activity, but aims to coordinate  and enable the process. It’s the case of Mazovia Cluster ICT (Poland): “The cluster does not directly  implement R&D projects that are carried out as part of purpose vehicles established by the cluster  and other entities involved, including members of the ecosystem. This allows to combine  competences and resources to create innovations. The Cluster participates in the R&D process as a  coordinator and advisor, especially in commercialization and business modeling”. 

A further different model more oriented to by public objectives, emerge in ECOSISTER:

“the  ecosystem has ensured a continuous collaboration between research-enterprise-territory supporting  an innovative and competitive development of the regional economic and social system. The  ecosystem is integrated with the regional research and innovation policies, with the Smart  Specialization Strategy and with the new European programmes based on structural funds”. 

The type of governance for the research and innovation is clearly influenced both by the general  purpose of the ecosystem and by the management structures.  

3.15 Results evaluation  

Another element analyzed is the process of evaluation of the results of the ecosystems.  

From the information detected (13 out of 15 cases, 2 missing information), we noticed that all the  ecosystems have some system of evaluation, more or less sophisticated, that concerns different  activities carried out: survey of the level of the partner’s satisfaction concerning events and  workshops; evaluation of services delivered to the companies; impact assessment framework along  the duration of a program or a project organized in ex-ante, in-itinere, and ex-post evaluations;  system of assessing a degree of achievement of the strategic objectives; monitor of the networking  activities.  

Somebody use OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system of evaluation for different areas or KPI (Key  Performance Indicators ) system of evaluation.  

Some of the parameters used to evaluate the economic results of the ecosystems are: enlargement  of the network along time; monitoring of skilled employment evolution; evaluation of the public  scientific research in terms of published papers.


3.16 Critical areas

The last question addressed to our referents was about the existence of possible criticalities in the functioning of the ecosystems. 

Once again a variety of observations has been collected demonstrating a complex framework.

The main criticalities detected can be summarized as follows: 

  • Fragmentation of needs and interests of the different stakeholders, calling for accurate coordination and integration actions;
  • Fragility of the funding scheme supporting the research and innovation ecosystems due to main factors (reduction of public funds,  political changes, complex access procedures, etc) creates uncertainty for the future;
  • Building a common vision and development strategy is a fundamental step requested to establish conditions for a sound ecosystem and its successful evolution over time
  • Difficulties in putting in place a quick adaptation to technological and economic change supporting the green transition
  • Need of overcoming complex administrative procedures for recruitment of researches and other skilled personnel
  • Need of increasing  active involvement of small and micro enterprises, with dedicated measures and initiatives providing adequate support.

Table 8 shows is a schematic recap of the critical areas encountered in the different ecosystems.





4.1 Brief introduction

After the description of the wide set of characteristics of the 15 ecosystems deemed, now we focus our attention on 6 of them, taken into specific consideration as case-studies to analyze from a deeper perspective. Four criteria have been used to accomplish this further specific selection. 

  1. A preference for a variety of structures in terms of: type of mission; typology of the partners involved; prevalence of public or private aims and funding; types of governance process; different criticalities emerged. 

  2. A preservation of the balanced proportions among the three thematic domains of the activities of the clusters, that is 2 case studiess for each domain (2 for Bio-based circular economy, 2 for Clean Renewable energy, 2 for Sustainable manufacturing).

  3. The depth and quality of information obtained through the research carried out.

  4. A coverage of a wide range of countries/regions. Only for one country, Italy, we will consider two case studies, due to the high level of information received and for the deep difference existing between the two cases in terms of structure and aims (that make particularly interesting a comparison).

4.2 Bio-economy Austria (Austria)

4.2.1 Introduction and general framework 

Bioeconomy Austria is a project born in the framework and as a result of the Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy defined in 2019. It is co-funded by the Austrian Forest Fund (Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management) and regional resources and implemented by regional innovation agencies, clusters and networks active in the field of bioeconomy.

A specificity of Bioeconomy Austria is that national and regional strategies and various policies work together. The strategic basis at national level, the Austrian  Bioeconomy Strategy, was developed in a broad participative process led by the then Federal Ministries for Sustainability & Tourism, for Innovation & Technology and for Education, Science & Research on an interdepartmental basis. The 5 regional hubs are backed by their respective regional Smart Specialization Strategies governed by the Economic Departments in the regional governments. 

The long-term goal of the bioeconomy strategy is to reduce fossil material and energy consumption substituting it with renewable raw materials. The strategy is based on European and international objectives and commitments such as the Paris Climate Agreement or the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) made binding in the 2030 Agenda. In the Austrian strategy, these goals were translated in guidelines, which thus form the framework for the further design of future bioeconomy measures.

Bioeconomy Austria has no legal identity yet. A strategy including establishment of a legal identity is currently under preparation.

4.2.2 Structure, partners and stakeholders of the ecosystem

The project Bioeconomy is structured around 5 regional hubs (made of regional innovation agencies and clusters) 

  • Ecoplus :Business Agency of Lower Austria ltd. Its Platform for Green Transformation & Bioeconomy aims to make Lower Austria a European showcase region for bioeconomy, green transformation and circular economy in the long term. The platform functions as an information hub that disseminates acquired know-how and networks the many actors active in the Lower Austria Platform for Bioeconomy & Green Transition.
  • Business Upper Austria ltd. (Cleantech-Cluster): Government’s business location agency of the province of Upper Austria. Innovation driver with active role in shaping economic and research policy
  • Innovation Salzburg: Regional innovation and location agency for Salzburg. It develops Salzburg as a location for business, research, technology and innovation by networking and cooperating regionally, supraregionally and internationally. In the topic area of bioeconomy, Innovation Salzburg rely on its long-standing activities in the fields of alpine construction, construction materials from renewable or biogenic materials (smart materials), sustainable procurement, resource efficiency and circular economy.
  • proHolz Tirol: It’s an industrial association operating in the wood sector. It supports the collaboration between companies for the purpose of product and market development, and promotes their links to research institutions. Within the framework of Bioeconomy Austria, proHolz Tirol is particularly dedicated to the topics of material flows, value-based processing and cascading use of wood.
  • Holzcluster Styria : It’s a wood industry cluster that carries out regular market analysis and provides support for projects. It promotes innovative software products for the needs of the wood forestry sector. The focus is on the development of long-term competitiveness.

Other important partners of Bioeconomy Austria are public agencies and associations:

  • Federal Environment Agency
  • BioBASE
  • Energy Agency
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU)
  • EcoSocialForum

The stakeholders involved in the ecosystem compose a network that currently consists of more than 180 organizations (companies, research institutions, policy and society representative) coming from the networks of the 5 regional hubs and additional stakeholders.

4.2.3 Main activities and definition of the strategic priorities 

The ecosystem is involved in a wide range of activities:
– Analysis of raw material extraction & material flows
– Trend mapping & Technology scouting
– Analysis of needs from a regional and national perspective, capacity building, training and education, research and innovation needs
– Development of suitable forms of knowledge processing and transfer to practice
– Implementation of regional and national networking and matchmaking events
– Initiation / development of collaborative & cross-regional projects

The Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy and the smart specialization strategies of the regions involved (work as the conceptual basis on which the overall strategy of the ecosystem is built.

The focus topics reflect the regional fields of strength:

  • Building & land use according to bioeconomic principles, circular economy in production processes, upcycling (Salzburg)
  • Engineered bio-based components: Design for disassembly, Digital Twin, LCA
  • Life Management, from Value Chain to Value Network (Upper Austria),
  • Innovative wood & bio-based application industries and value chains, wood in mobility, hybrid materials, resource-efficient wood-based products (Styria)
  • Biobased feedstocks, applied biorefinery, residue upgrading, bio-aromatics, bio-polymers (Lower Austria)

4.2.4  The stakeholders mobilization and the governance process for R&D projects

All the regional hubs have an active network of both, private and public actors.
The public body directly involved in the ecosystem is the Environment Agency Austria The processes to involve and mobilize stakeholders around shared objectives unfolds through different passages:

  1. Partner Forum: meeting of consortium partners (5 regional hubs, Federal Environment Agency, BioBASE, Energy Agency, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU), EcoSocialForum) to define and coordinate topics and activities.
  2. Co-creation workshops with participants from quadruple-helix (companies, researchers, ministries, representatives of civil society, chamber of  labor, Global 2000 environment NGO) to discuss and analyze innovation topics, legal framework conditions etc, and develop projects.
  3. Annual Summit: networking and information event gathering all stakeholders (network of more than 180 organizations from quadruple helix).

The partners (regional hubs) chose specific focus topics reflecting their individual regional  fields of strength. Once the regional hubs identify relevant R&D project ideas, they inform the hubs in the other regions and ask them to search for project partners. The regional hubs help the consortia to find the right funding instrument.

4.2.5 Co-creation and co-production processes and connections with other ecosystems 

Bioeconomy Austria promotes the involvement of a wide range of actors, through intermediaries (e.g chambers, associations), in co-creation workshops. Education lab are promoted too such as “eLABoration wood” (a project with schools based on the dual education system). The ecosystem has a direct connection with the European ecosystem “European Bioregions Facility”.

4.2.7 Private and public dimensions 

Bioeconomy Austria operates for a complex system of public and private purposes. Nevertheless, the public dimension of its raison d’être tends to prevail. The partners at regional level form a group of regional agencies both private and public, with privately run agencies, business association and public territorial agencies. The partners acting at national level are, instead, of public nature. 

Besides the ownership structure, nevertheless, the most relevant point has to do with the origin of the project. Bioeconomy Austria was born as a public project funded by the Austrian Forest Fund with the aim of developing and enabling the Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy strictly connected to European and international objectives and commitments in the wide and ambitious field of the environmental sustainability. In this sense it can be stressed that an overall public strategy prevails in defining the purposes of the Austrian ecosystem. 

4.2.8  Financial resources

Another significant hint of the predominantly public inspiration of Bioeconomy Austria is the system of funding. Bioeconomy Austria is funded by the Austrian Forest Fund (from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management) at 80%. The remaining 20% are covered at regional level (partly by public regional resources, partly by private resources such as membership fees, depending on the financial structure of the 5 regional hubs). 

4.2.9 Results evaluation 

Bioeconomy Austria performs evaluations of its activities through simple quantitative indicators: readers of newsletter and website, participants in events, participants in co-creation workshops, number of projects initiated. 

4.2.10 Criticalities 

Currently, the most relevant critical point stressed by the interviewed referents is that the legal form and governance of the ecosystem after the end of the project has not yet been finalized. The idea is to found an association. Some important issues such as the clarification of legal consequences for employment of staff, how to organize reimbursement of costs and other legal problems still need to be solved. There is a process ongoing for the solution of the problem.

4.3 CoLAB – Collaborative Laboratories – ForestWISE (Portugal)

4.3.1 Introduction and general framework

Co-Lab ForestWISE is a non profit association governed by private law born in 2018. It started operating in 2020 in the domain of the productive use of forest, notably the wood and paper industry and can be inscribed in the general domain of the Bio-based circular economy. It acts in a national dimension.

The ecosystem is formally identified as a Collaborative Laboratory, a specifically Portuguese typology of societal entity regulated by a national law approved in 2018. 

Collaborative Laboratories (CoLABs) are entities dedicated to the production, dissemination and transmission of knowledge through a wide research and innovation agendas. CoLABs aim at facilitating the access of companies to global markets as well as to support the attraction of foreign investment in technology-intensive areas. Colabs are clusters that connect private firms, universities, associations involving indirectly public, private, third sector actors and civil society as potential stakeholder under the conceptual framework of the quintuple helix model.  A CoLAB may be established as a company or private non-profit association and must include at least one company and one R&D unit evaluated and financed by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) or a State Laboratory.  In a recognition and evaluation process, it must be demonstrated that the CoLABs contribute to: stimulate the creation of qualified jobs generating economic and social value in the national territory; diversify, stimulate and coordinate activities based on scientific knowledge; promote technological change processes and research and innovation agendas; stimulate R&D activities throughout the national territory, including less densely populated areas; build collectives that are facilitators of new knowledge co-creation, stimulating creativity and production of new knowledge. In Portugal, there are 35 entities recognized as Collaborative Laboratories.

4.3.2 Structure, partners and mission of the ecosystem

The partners of Co-Lab Forest Wise are:  7 companies of the forest sector (80% of the companies of that domain), 6 public universities (according to the law the number of private partners must exceed the number of the public ones).

There are also public research centers involved: the Forest Research Centre (CEF) and the ICNF (Institute for the conservation of nature and forest).

Currently (2023), ForestWISE has sixteen associates.

. Business/Industry associates: Altri Florestal, Amorim Florestal, E-Redes, DS Smith Paper Viana, REN, Sonae Arauco, and The Navigator Company.

. Members of the Academy: INESC TEC, Instituto Superior de Agronomia – University of Lisboa, Universities of Aveiro, Coimbra, Évora and Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. 

. Public entities: AGIF – Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fires, INIAV – National Institute for Agrarian and Veterinary Research and IPMA – Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere

30 people, in 2023, work for the cluster’s activity.

The stakeholders involved are private companies, public institutions (national and regional government) and communities and civil society. 

The mission of the cluster is promoting the integrated management of forest and fire, based on (co)research, development activities and transfer of knowledge and technologies among the actors involved. It operates as a unifying element between industry, academia and public administration with impacts on the forest and fire domains.

4.3.3 Main activities, definition of the strategic priorities and governance processes of R&D

The European Strategic Agenda for Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I) is the basis of CoLAB’s activity. On the base of this agenda, the six main research topics on which ForestWISE works are defined: Forest and fire management; Risk management; Circular economy and value chains; Policy and system design; Cross-cutting Technologies; Key enabling technologies; People, fire and forest. These six themes are divided into 19 sub-themes, which together integrate 62 research topics. This agenda represents a management tool designed in 2019 during a participatory process involving various actors from the sectors, looking to correspond to associates’ needs, to national priorities and to support the definition of sectoral public policies in which ForestWISE will have an active voice. The agenda of Co-Lab Forest Wise defines the priorities with all the stakeholders with constant meetings to encourage a continuous update of the common strategies. The ecosystem implements processes of co-creation and co-production within varied projects. The main examples are:

  1. Implementation of collaborative strategies for integrated forest and fire management. The project rePLANt was presented to the community in 2021 and is an unprecedented collaborative effort in Portugal, operationalised by ForestWISE. 
  2. ForestWISE in collaboration with the CESEFOR Foundation (Centro de Servicios y Promocion Forestal y de su Industria de Castilla y Leon) is developing activities under the INBEC project – Circular Bioeconomy, promotion and development of a sustainable economy through innovation and business cooperation.
  3. RN21 – innovation in the natural resin sector to strengthen the national bio-economy
  4. TransForm Agenda aims to bring a structural transformation of the Portuguese forestry sector, acting in a concerted approach across the entire value chain. It is materialized in twenty-eight collaborative projects, which are organized into five work packages (WP) dedicated to the management of resilient forests (WP1), sustainable operations and logistics (WP2), circular and resilient industry (WP3), markets and consumers for forest products (WP4), capacity building (WP5). Cross-cutting the entire Agenda, there is also a WP6 dedicated to coordination, dissemination and exploitation of results. Eleven new products, processes and services (PPS) will result from the Agenda, supported by digital technologies, with a high degree of innovation, which will contribute to a more sustainable forest management, to the efficiency improvement of industrial processes, and to the competitiveness of the forest sector ensuring a greater connection to markets and consumers.

4.3.4 Connection with other ecosystems 

The ecosystems has national and international relations with other ecosystems. At national level it has connection with other Co-labs in Portugal operating in neighboring fields. It also has relationships with the other Mediterranean ecosystem especially in the environmental and textile sector. It participates at Copernicus program and European Space Agency.

4.3.5 Public and private dimension: entrepreneurial aims and social-collective aims

Co-Lab Forest Wise is an interesting example of a cluster in which a private dominant dimension is combined with a strong, but not prevalent, public dimension. The PA contributed in creating the Co-lab under the initiative of Portugal government, there are public agencies involved as partners, and the PA is a stakeholder and a referent for the activity of the ecosystem. 

However the national or regional governments do not interfere in the administration and in the management of the cluster, nor it defines its strategic priorities. The PA had a Planning role at the beginning, but not in the successive development.

Nevertheless, the PA has tasked Colab-Forestwise with some forest structural project e.g., ÁGIL.TERFORUS (Pilot on analysis products, using LiDAR, for land management, forestry and rural fires); Collaboration with FCT: monitoring projects under the mobilization programme for preventing and fighting forest fires; Evaluation of the Forest Firefighters Programme 2011-2021.
After all, the cluster activity reveals a clear collective dimension as it operates in a crucial sector for the preservation and protection of the environment, territory and landscape and intensely contributes in preventing a serious problem that constantly affect, notably in the dry periods, the national territory: the risk of fire; at the same time a wise use of the forests for the wood industry allows the effective operation of a bio-based circular economy. 

4.3.6 Financial resources

The achievement of financial resources should be theoretically based on the following scheme: 1/3 of resources coming from the National government, one third from European projects, one third from the private partners. However currently 60% of money come from competitive European or national projects.

4.3.7 Results evaluation, sustainability 

According to the cluster’s management interviewed most of the objectives established have been reached in the last years. There are different procedures of evaluation that depend on the type of project. When a company asks the cluster for a specific service, there is a standardized evaluation process under a coordinator. For the big project there is a project manager and a senior research charged with a deliverable that is assessed.

The financial sustainability of the cluster’s activities is guaranteed by constant calls for new competitive projects. 

4.3.8 Criticalities

However, there are critical areas that are emphasized. Notably from a financial perspective the main risk is not being able to reach the one third one third one third scheme of funding. For what concerns the public funding the problem is to be exposed to the changing political scenario that risk challenging the stability of the funds. 

Other criticalities are the small dimensions of the companies in Portugal, and the small dimension of the country itself. This does not help in guaranteeing of constant flow of resources and opportunities.

4.4 ECOSISTER (Italy – Emilia Romagna)

4.4.1 Introduction and general framework

ECOSISTER is a regional Foundation managing an Industrial Research Programme and a Technology Transfer and Innovation Programme supported by the NRRP (National Resilience and Recovery Plan), involving a PPP of 23 participants supporting ecological transition in Emilia-Romagna. The foundation was born in 2022 as a result of the initiative taken by 10 founding members: 

  • University of Bologna
  • University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • University of Parma 
  • University of Ferrara 
  • Polytechnic of Milan 
  • Catholic University “Sacro Cuore” 
  • Research National Council (CNR)
  • ENEA – Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development
  • National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN)
  • ART-ER Attractiveness Research Territory

ECOSISTER Foundation is the subject that acts as the Hub of the project “Ecosystem for Sustainable Transition in Emilia-Romagna” begun in October 2022 on the basis of a three years term. The Ecosystem for Sustainable Transition in Emilia-Romagna gathers key actors at regional level that want to cooperate to reach a common vision: enhance Emilia-Romagna’s global leadership in applied research and guarantee an effective ability to support sustainable, resilient and people-centred industrial development of the regional manufacturing and services system, through the implementation of green and digital transitions, in coherence with regional, national, and European strategies.

The ecosystem operates at a regional level and its main domains are the Clean Renewable energy, the Green Manufacturing, Materials,  Bio-Based Circular Economy.

4.4.2 Partners and stakeholders 

The partners involved in Fondazione ECOSISTER are the following:
as founding members, the above mentioned entities, namely

Public and private universities:
University of Bologna

University of Modena and Reggio  Emilia

University of Parma 

University of Ferrara 

Polytechnic of Milan 

Catholic University “Sacro Cuore” 

Research centers:
Research National Council (CNR)

National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN)

National and Regional agencies
ENEA – Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development

ART-ER Attractiveness Research Territory

Then there are 6 Spokes and affiliate partners that support each spoke:
The SPOKE leaders are: 

. Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna,
. Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia,
. Università degli Studi di Parma
. Università degli Studi di Ferrara
. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche

The Affiliates partners are universities, research centers, consortium companies, limited State owned companies, private/public companies, foundations.

. Politecnico di Milano
. Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
. Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
. CINECA Consorzio Interuniversitario
. Centro Ceramico Consorzio Universitario
. CertiMaC S.cons. a r.l.
. CRPA Spa
. LEAP S. Cons. a r.l.
. MISTER Smart Innovation
. Consorzio MUSP
. Fondazione REI
. Romagna Tech
. Consorzio T3LAB
. Fondazione Democenter-Sipe

ECOSISTER gathers all the regional universities and public research centres, the most relevant laboratories and innovation centres of the regional High Technology Network and some local partners that have very strong links with the main partners and have compatible research focus and complementary competences. However, the involvement of external stakeholders is a key for the success of the proposal, in line with the vision of the call.

Stakeholders’ engagement includes: private entities – large companies, SMEs, start-ups, etc – both as project partners and as testers of new prototypes, PoC, services and products local public authorities, Emilia-Romagna regional authority, general public, including citizens and non-profit organizations.

In particular, thanks to the involvement of ART-ER, all project results will be shared with the members of the Regional Innovation Ecosystem and through them to all regional public and private actors. The project will be able to count on the innovation and dissemination activities of the 10 regional TECHNOPOLES and on the animation and strategic guidance actions carried out by the regional CLUST-ER system.

4.4.3 Management rules and activities

ECOSISTER is composed of six thematic Spokes which carry out the activities foreseen by the program and namely research, innovation and technology transfer. The architecture of the Technology Transfer Innovation Program (TTIP) of the Ecosystem foresees that each spoke from 1 to 5 has the responsibility to coordinate one macro action and to contribute to the implementation of all the other activities, favouring the inclusion and integration between all the regional ecosystem players.

The 6 Spokes represent 6 innovation domains that respond to the key components that support an economy and a territory in their sustainable transition, giving special value to digitalization as one of the key enabling technologies. Specifically, each Spoke transposes the general and specific goals of the project into operational objectives related to its thematic area and the partners expertise.

The activities performed by the 6 spokes are:
Spoke 1- Materials for sustainability and ecological transition. TTIP activity: Acceleration
Spoke 2 – Clean energy production, storage and saving. TTIP activity: Training
Spoke 3 – Green manufacturing for a sustainable economy. TTIP activity: Incubation
Spoke 4 – Smart mobility, housing and energy solutions for a carbon-neutral society. TTIP activity: Technology transfer
Spoke 5 – Circular economy and blue economy. TTIP activity: Public Engagement
Spoke 6 – Ecological transition based on HPC and Data Technology

4.4.4 Strategic priorities 

ECOSISTER insists transversally on all the intervention areas of the National Research Program 2021-2027, primarily “climate, energy, sustainable mobility”. Furthermore, the objectives of sustainable transition are strongly connected with digital transformation and the human centred approach.

In particular, Spoke 1- Materials for sustainability and ecological transition- is tightly linked to the regional specialisation priority area on “Innovation on materials” and targets key topics related to environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, responding to the needs for innovative and smart materials. Among the research and productive vocations on the Emilia-Romagna region, that of materials constitutes one of the most transversal, with the strongest impact towards green innovation.

As for Spoke 2 – Clean energy production, storage and saving – the regional policies identify the energy among the priority fields on which to invest for stimulating the use of clean and renewable energy sources, the optimisation of their use and self-generation. Among the different industrial sectors, many of them are able to organise in value chains capable of developing the work plans identified in the spoke. The issues of the research lines have a decade-long and well-established experience of collaboration with companies in the region. They also have a high scientific level, as demonstrated by the scientific literature presented, and have participated in competitive projects.

The main vocation of the Spoke 3 – Green manufacturing for a sustainable economy – is to develop research activities aimed at implementing and consolidating a green manufacturing environment oriented towards a sustainable and circular economy. The technological and scientific focus of the proposal is the strengthening of the current leadership role of the Emilia Romagna Region and of its enterprise system in this sector, embracing the ambitious technological challenges of the ecological transition and promoting sustainability-driven innovation.

The Spoke 4 – Smart mobility, housing and energy solutions for a carbon-neutral society- places at the centre the relational and productive values of the territory of the Emilia-Romagna Region in which mobility, housing models and solutions aimed at climate neutrality are intended to develop a healthy and active city. Soft mobility is expressed in several forms according to research aiming at the complete accessibility to safe and inclusive infrastructures, the improvement of the collective passenger transport, the use of vehicles and systems that reduce pollution and noise. It supports the transition towards a smart and sustainable city with urban regeneration strategies.

The main objective of the Spoke 5 – Circular economy & Blue Economy – is to consolidate and foster a network of innovators to enhance the transformation of economic activities towards Circular Economy with emphasis on blue growth, tourism, and agriculture sectors. The activities of Spoke 5 are meant to help companies to become more competitive regarding their business/production processes, products or services through sustainable use of resources, reduction of waste, and conversion of waste into secondary raw materials.

Spoke 6 – Ecological transition based on HPC and Data Technology – aims at strengthening the synergies among the leading HPC and HTC regional infrastructures with its universities and research institutions and to enhance the ability of the Region to attract and retain the best talents mastering modelling, simulation, data analysis and their use in “digital twins”, thus contributing to a sustained growth of innovation through foundational scientific research in this domain.

The strategy works as a framework for all European, national and regional policies and programs, promoting a systemic and integrated vision to face the complexity of the challenges, overcoming the conflict between development and the environment and enhancing the opportunities that this change offers to the territory and to the new generations. The ECOSISTER also acts in synergy with the indications outlined in the European strategy for biodiversity, in the action plan for the circular economy and in the strategy on sustainable and intelligent mobility.

4.4.5 The mobilization of the stakeholders

ECOSISTER’s strategic supply chain embraces the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda 2030 that the Emilia-Romagna Region included in the Patto per il Lavoro e per il Clima, signed in December 2020. The document reflects the intentions shared by the Region and all the stakeholders of the territory: relaunching and fostering the development of the region based on environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Through its ambitious goals for Emilia-Romagna, i.e. the achievement of carbon neutrality before 2050 and the switch to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035, it combines productivity, equity and sustainability and generating new quality work. 

The industrial research activities proposed as the main driver for sustainable economic development will be transferred through the activities of TTIP (Technology Transfer Innovation Program), which will proactively involve all the players in ECOSISTER: university students and doctoral, researchers, innovative start-ups and research spin-offs, SMEs, big companies, organisations of society and citizens, Public Administration. TTIP, is focused on a regional and system impact approach, it will affect all the spokes and affiliates. It is organised in the following five macro-actions:

TTIP: Training activities

New professionalising career-oriented degree programmes and extra-curricular courses will explore technological drivers, skills and careers related to the ecological transition, raising awareness on the opportunities related to both innovation management and business creation. The match with SMEs’ skills needs will be boosted also with the creation of innovative challenge-based business activities for students and PhDs launched by companies and civil society applying design thinking methodologies. In addition, the Programme will set up post-doc fellowships, curricular and extracurricular internships on the ecological transition themes and will involve companies human resources to orient on the green skills required by companies. Finally, community and networking activities will be promoted to further create matches between companies, students and PhDs on green topics both within dedicated Career Days and through the animation of the community on the most important existing digital platforms such as “EROI ( Emilia Romagna Open Innovation)” or EmiliaRomagnaStartup.

TTIP: Incubation Programme

The incubation activities will work in the business idea generation stage, starting from university students. Permanent scouting in the university departments and research institutes activities will intercept those innovative and deep tech ideas to support with training, consultancies and coaching in order to validate idea feasibility. The Incubation Programme will be sustained by a regional community made of teachers and researchers sensitive to the themes of entrepreneurship, green transition and by the organisation of opportunities for sharing ideas and knowledge also with international subjects. Matching with investors, SMEs and corporates will enrich the feasibility plan path.

TTIP: Acceleration Program

The Acceleration Programme will support business set up for knowledge-based spinoffs and startups based in Emilia-Romagna, through a network of actors and initiatives, offering consultancies, mentorship, training and internationalisation services. There will be the creation of pathways with an offer of different services such as team completion, product/service development, production engineering, PoC with companies, validation and market access, fundraising and support to open foreign markets. Vertical acceleration paths, venture capital funds or specialised ecosystems will eventually lead towards an opening of national and international contacts. In addition, accompaniment to European support programs (for instance the EIC Accelerator), forms of networking with investors (Green Investor Day), and realisation of other Open Innovation initiatives involving the ART-ER Mentorboard and other companies (Matching Green Day) will be provided.

TTIP: Technology transfer

These actions will foster science-industry relations between regional businesses and public research organisations and universities, increasing awareness on the key strength points of the ecosystem, working with research organisations to respond to businesses’ technological needs. Among the activities foreseen to produce efficient technology transfer, it is worth mentioning the Open Innovation Scouting and the International Open Innovation Programme. The first is a Programme dedicated to companies in the Emilia-Romagna region that provides for scouting of innovative solutions and technologies coming from the regional research system. The second is dedicated to companies searching for innovative solutions proposed by spin offs/startups/scale ups, researchers and other actors of the research ecosystem at regional, national and international level. Strategic project for the implementation of Proof of Concept between SMEs and researchers will complete the foreseen activities.

TTIP: Public engagement

The activities will focus on the engagement of citizens, civil society organisations and Public Administration in co-designing and monitoring research priorities and projects through the lenses of Responsible Research and Innovation, co-creation of research and innovation projects and transformative and anticipatory innovation methodologies.

A territorial innovation accelerator (JUST Transformation Accelerator for Innovation) will be created to: connect the production of research and innovation with the needs of territories using challenge-based methodologies; activate and coordinate network of agents for territorial transformation and territorial Mission Boards (with the participation of the various territorial actors) to support the launch of the challenges; structure a system of Territorial Science Offices to share strategies of public engagement and science education and to create Annual territorial Forums on the themes of the ecosystem; shape and activate paths oriented to sustainability and social impact of research and innovation; define the guidelines and create a dashboard of the monitoring and evaluation system of the social and environmental impact of the projects developed within the ecosystem; design and implement civic crowdfunding paths for the support of research projects, (also in match-funding mode with other public or private resources). Furthermore, a regional Third Mission and Public Engagement portal with information on projects and activities of the entire ecosystem will be created to integrate the information with what is already present in the region and in the individual universities. The portal will have to be structured through a co-design process with the Third Mission and Public Engagement offices of the regional universities.

4.4.6 Co-creation and co-production processes 

The incubation programs and training activities are examples of co-creation between the productive context and the research environment. More in general every form of collaboration with the stakeholders – explained in the paragraph 4.4.4) during the design and development of goods and services represents somehow a form of co-creation. 

4.4.7 Connection with other ecosystems 

Many of the HUB partners (as well as several associates) are members of groups and partnerships at different levels such as: the KICs EIT Manufacturing and EIT Raw Material; Climate; Food; A.SPIRE; the Italian Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ICESP); Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU); the “#PlasticFreER” regional strategy working group.

At a regional scale, ECOSISTER will operate in synergy with the Regional Energy Plan, that intends to contribute to the objectives set for 2030 also in the Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate, as regards the improvement of energy efficiency, the increase in the coverage share, the use of renewable sources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and with the Regional Integrated Air Plan. The Regional Strategic Document is also included in the strategic supply chain for the Ecosystem project, aimed at integrating the opportunities offered by the regional, national and European resources available and promoting a synergistic, effective and efficient vision of regional planning, at the centre the territorial component. Furthermore, the RER-based HPC/HTC infrastructure plays a key role toward innovative and competitive developments in a cascade of enabling technologies and research fields for the ecological transition, such as natural resource monitoring and management, smart materials, low power consumption micro-nano electronic and photonic devices and components, all mentioned by the S3 declaration of the Emilia-Romagna Region.

4.4.8 Public and private dimensions, financial resources

ECOSISTER is undoubtedly, among all the ecosystems deemed, the closest one to a clearly defined and dominant public direction, but this does not mean that the ecosystem loses its constitutive autonomy. Essentially five reasons explain the proximity of ECOSISTER to a prevalent public-oriented strategy: 

  1. the genesis itself of the project born under the initiative of public universities, public research centers and public national and regional agencies; 
  2. the typologies of partners involved, that are either totally public actors or, among the affiliates partners, mixed private-public consortium or companies. So that, the dimension of the typical market oriented enterprises is missing or very nuanced; 
  3. the strategy is strongly oriented to direct environmental objectives consistent with an overall national and above all European agenda;
  4. the aim of developing, on a sustainable  basis, a regional territory has a clear and explicit priority and it is not bound by specific private economic needs. 
  5. the financial resources are 100% public and derived from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan a financial, instrument bound to the Next Generation Europe funds.
    The prevalence of pursuit of collective objectives does not prevent private actors, partners or stakeholders from receiving directly or indirectly the benefits deriving from the activity of the cluster. The Programme’s economic impact emerges from the connection between the developed innovations and the regional business community which can grasp innovation applications for the national and international markets. Market deployment of innovative solutions has a positive effect on growth (thanks to new products and innovative processes), economic activities (in terms of increasing the transactions and new innovative enterprises), investments in R&D, investments’ attraction, but also in terms of jobs quality and internalization.

4.4.9 Results evaluation 

The Program of ECOSISTER includes activities for the diffusion of knowledge (academic and non-academic dissemination activities) and talent attraction. The indicators encompass, but are not limited to, scientific and technical publications, patents in sustainable transition areas, European projects, scientific and technical conferences/conferences, pilots for innovative product/process, PoC, degree/training courses on sustainability transition, graduates in these courses, attraction capacity of foreign scholars on sustainability transition research areas, attraction of foreign students in these courses .

The consolidation of an “Ecosystem for Sustainable Transition” is a prerequisite for Emilia-Romagna competitiveness and national and international reputation. The indicators relate to manufacturing, agri-food, construction, aerospace, mobility, sport, and cultural heritage sectors and include, but are not limited to growth (sales, employment, assets, market shares, and profits); patents in sustainable transition areas, R&D investments, new enterprises (spin-off/start-up), internationalisation (e.g., foreign investments attraction, export, partnership); process/product innovations adoption.

The Programme’s societal and cultural impact relates to the uptake of innovative solutions in terms of new products, processes and services in the society providing local responses to address the sustainability transition. Societal impacts of R&I relate also to the development, support and implementation of current policies and regulations, e.g., from strengthening the Emilia-Romagna welfare system to supporting the policy makers in facing the regulatory frameworks required by the transition. Other social impacts involve the strengthening of values and rights and fostering social justice and inclusion, thus avoiding unfair exclusion of specific groups not only from participation in the research process and/or access to research results but also in benefit from the innovation and being part of the sustainable transition. Program’s impact relates also to the cultural dimension in the form of supporting and promoting the cultural heritage and the arts and creative organisations. Moreover, the inclusion of principles and actions for women empowerment and gender equality will ensure gender equality both in academic and business careers and in the research/innovation content. However, to fully appreciate and evaluate the social impact of the Programme “Ecosystem for Sustainable Transition” an ad hoc social impact evaluation is required. The social impact measurement is a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the effects on the community in the short, medium and long term and should be developed according to specific methodologies such as the theory of change and considering stakeholders’ involvement (included citizens) in the identification of key indicators. The Program will account for this.

The Program’s environmental impact relates to new knowledge and technologies that support an efficient use of resources (process efficiency improvement) and of renewable sources of energy, an improvement in the management of chemicals and waste (circular economy), actions towards environmental risks mitigation and the protection of terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity.

Impact dimensions and indicators will be further finalised in the first stage of the Program’s implementation.

4.4.10 Critical areas 

Among the critical areas the referents stress a risk of a delay in the recruitment of Technical and R&D personnel, including PhD, Researchers (RTDA, RTDB) and research fellow highly specialised in sustainable transition issues and with research competences in line with Regional Innovation Ecosystem objectives and target. Another risk is delay in buying technical and scientific equipments, due to the complexity of administrative procedures 

All the project activities have been planned to ensure the alignment with general objectives and with specific actions that will be carried out by each Spoke. At this stage, a possible risk of double funding on equal tasks is not identified. In case of funding overlap risk, Hub and partners will be responsible to bring together similar activities, fully exploiting the economies of scale on common initiatives and allocating the remaining funds, for examples, to: carry out further activities, add new releases of the expected deliverables and achieve more significant targets than those foreseen.

4.5 RENERGY – Renewable Energy Cluster (Norway)

4.5.1 Introduction and framework

The Renewable Energy Cluster (RENERGY) is a non profit association base in Trondheim, Norway created in 2017. It works to develop energy systems, value chains and business opportunities by uniting participants with complementary roles for cooperation based development. It operates in the domain of the Clean Renewable Energy.

RENERGY represents the complete value chain in the field of renewable energy: energy companies, technology suppliers, expertise communities and end-users.

The cluster aims to stimulate sustainable value creation and low carbon transition by promoting innovation, increased production and efficient use of renewable energy and associated technologies. As a not-for-profit membership-based association RENERGY is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by a general assembly.

The cluster’s geographical point of gravity is the university city of Trondheim, the technology capital of Norway. The cluster is built upon international recognized principles for cluster initiatives, and certified as Cluster Management Excellence Label BRONZE under the European Cluster Excellence Initiative. RENERGY was in 2019–2021 a participant in the Norwegian Innovation Clusters program. 

4.5.2 Partners and Stakeholders

The Cluster is constituted by above 100 companies, research centers, public universities, municipalities and public regional institutions (county of Trondheim).  The main stakeholders involved are: Industry; Government, regional authorities, NGO from energy sector, civil society.

4.5.3 Main activities 

The most relevant specific domains where the Cluster operates are: 

Hydrogen: Hydrogen will be an important and necessary energy carrier to reduce climate gas emissions. Hydrogen is especially relevant as fuel for ships and heavy transport. By providing places to collaborate and share knowledge, innovation, technology and solutions, RENERGY contributes to the development of infrastructure and new value chains.

Maritime mobility: Cargo and passenger transport is the sector facing the biggest change in reducing climate gas emissions. The most important step is the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. RENERGY is engaged in the development of renewable energy as fuel for mobility purposes. This includes exploring topics such as energy storage, infrastructure, and new value chains for delivering high-effect energy to new areas.

Energy production: RENERGY is concerned with new production technology, the interaction between different production methods in energy systems, local energy systems, as well as economic yield in large-scale development projects.  

Energy systems: RENERGY brings together different key players to exchange trends and identify needs and opportunities for energy systems.

The cluster is involved in these specific activities:
.  Facilitator in finding partners and financial solution for innovation projects
.  Building cooperation-based innovation projects with the partners
.  Organizing training and specific courses
.  Fostering and planning innovation project based on cooperation
.  Enabling the transfer of knowledge
.  Participating in many international projects
.  Working as a point of contact between authorities, NGO and Business on behalf of the industry.

4.5.4 Definition of the strategic priorities and mobilization of the stakeholders 

The companies of the Cluster are directly involved in the Cluster strategic discussion. There are relatively few large conferences throughout the year, but frequent and constant workshop-based activity. The strategy can be modified continuously according to the societal needs with a regular update.  Meetings are held with small portions of the partners with small exclusive groups to resolve specific problems.  There are also two large annual meetings to align the general interests of all the members of the Cluster as well as four smaller thematic meetings of discussion of specific topic connected to the core activity of the group. There’s also a constant contact with the public authorities that is constantly involved as a key stakeholder (see paragraph 4.5.7)

The main way the private and public stakeholders are mobilized is working towards deep systemic changes in the domain of energy. The Cluster aims, effectively, to create new overall systems of production, distribution and use of energy and not only one or some technological specific solutions for limited aspects. Recalling continuously deep systemic change the Cluster manages to work as a point of attraction both for private business and public institutions making private and collective needs as consistent as possible with each other.

4.5.5 Governance process for R&D investments 

The ecosystem management pick up ideas and areas of interest through dialogue with the industry, meetings with partners and the network. The cluster continues by setting up consortium representing the relevant value chain, facilitating the process from the early stage where the participants explore gains and risks, to the complete setup of a partnership operating together in the development of innovative solutions. The ecosystems acts as a facilitator, neutral representative, negotiator/broker, and project manager. In some projects the cluster plays a larger role, in other projects, a smaller one. The cluster connects the companies/industry with research institutions and centers/programs and public authorities.

4.5.6 Co-creation and co-production processes and interconnections 

The way the Cluster constructs consortium with the industry and research centers is a form of co-creation in itself. There are also agreement of cooperation with the universities and specific program for students of both school and university. The Cluster is in connection with other Norwegian and European Clusters, notably in Northern countries and Baltic countries: maritime clusters from Sweden, from Denmark, Finland and Iceland, Hamburg energy cluster in Germany. Cooperation based project exist with Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France clusters and organizations. There are direct relationships with the Chamber of commerce of Lithuania and Germany 

4.5.7 Private and public dimensions, sustainability

RENERGY Cluster essentially operates for the development, growth and competitiveness of the business companies operating in the energy domain in Norway. 

Although there are public territorial institutions as members of the Cluster, the Public Administration plays a minor role and can be reasonably considered as a key stakeholder. One the purposes of the Cluster is to create a constant connection between the PA and the companies. The public administrators are constantly involved in workshops and conferences and see the Cluster as a point of contact to strengthen the dialogue with the business fabric in the energy domain. Undoubtedly the private interest of the companies members as well as the development of the business sector as a whole are the prevalent objectives that guides the action of the Cluster. The ecosystems, effectively, was born as a private initiative of the companies of the sector.

However, the positive impact on the territorial and Norwegian economy (in terms of employment) as well as the evident implications on the environmental sustainability make the Clusters’ activities strongly connected to the public interest.

4.5.8 Financial sources 

In line with the environmental and social fallout of the activities of the Cluster the public actor provides to finance the group with a relevant share of its overall revenues. 50% of the resources are public, half of which as direct funds from regional government and the other half deriving from competitive projects. The other 50% derives from fees paid by the partners.

4.5.9 Results evaluation

The cluster is evaluated continually through direct contact with the members. The results are also evaluated in each project, as a typical project evaluation process. The basic cluster activities are evaluated by the board throughout the year, and by annual one-to-one meetings with members. 

4.5.10 Criticalities

The main criticality is the public regulation. According to the referents interviewed the public authorities have troubles of keeping up with the pace of the energy transition. The industry has responded, and are moving fast, but the PA must act fast, adjust the support schemes, adjust regulations, and give clear messages to the public. When the PA fails, or hesitates, the industry that already takes big market- and technological risks, gets a load of extra risk on their already heavy risk-exposed projects. 

4.6 IMAST – Italian technological district for the engineering of polymeric and composite materials and structures (Italy)

4.6.1 Introduction and framework

IMAST is an Italian district born in 2004 as an initiative by the Campania Region and Italian government. It aims to facilitate a stable cooperative system between the Italian research institutions and the most important industrial companies for the development and dissemination of advanced technologies. 

Acting as an intermediate organization in innovation processes and fostering links between scientific research and national small, medium, and large enterprises, IMAST designs and develops the connections between the two worlds, emphasizing its mission of territorial animation, fostering partnerships, providing resources and skills, with the aim of orienting and qualifying the trajectory of technological development.

The district operates in the field of engineering of polymeric and composite materials and structures framed within Sustainable Manufacturing. 

In line with the national and European strategies for the development of innovation, the growing of competitiveness, the valorization of excellence and talents, the activities of IMAST are concentrated along three strategic axes:

  • strengthening international excellence in research, by facilitating the academy-company relationship, fostering the knowledge base and reducing fragmentation, through the development of a critical mass of interdisciplinary and innovative skills;
  • attracting and train talents through shared paths with the most innovative and dynamic companies, in order to enhance and reward talent and make it a driver for innovation;
  • accelerating the technological innovation of industry with the aim of promoting agglomeration processes, dimensional growth, qualitative and competitive raising of productions, organizations, skills, as well as their positioning in international markets, intercepting and attracting private investments in order to promote new entrepreneurship from emerging scientific and technological knowledge.

The transmission of know how is the core of the cluster’s mission. The strongest point of  IMAST is  the transfer of competences among the private companies operating in different sectors not in competition among them (e.g. the transfer of Know How from aeronautical sectors to other sectors or from electronics to automotive etc).

The intense development of the R&D activities innovation oriented is confirmed by the high number of researchers involved. Every year IMAST and its partners involve 240 researchers for their projects. 

4.6.2 Partners and stakeholders 

The members of the ecosystem are Companies, Institution and Research Centers, Universities and Bank Institutions.


Avio, Fiat Research Center, Cetena, Cytec – Solvay Group, Adler Plastic, Dompé, FCA, Leonardo Spa, MBDA, STMicroelectronics and Boeing Company as an associate member.

Institutions and Research Centers:

CNR, ENEA and Cira.


Polytechnic of Turin, Polytechnic of Bari, Federico II University, University of Salerno, Second University of Naples.

Bank Institutions

Istituto Banco di Napoli Foundation.

Even if the general reference sector of the district is engineering of polymeric and composite materials and structures, the companies members operate across other sectors indirectly linked to former one, such as: 

Sustainable  Mobility; Automotive; Nautical;  Aeronautics; Defense; Pharmaceutics.

4.6.3 Main activities and short history of the projects carried out

IMAST is  essentially an integrator of competences and technological and infrastructural knowhow. Other activities carried out: business plan competition, selection of entrepreneurial projects; promotion of technological initiatives and investments; networking.

The companies directly involved are all large business with high capacity of developing  innovation and research (Leonardo, Avio, Centro Ricerca Fita, Cetena, Citech, Adler Plastici, Dompé farmaceutici,  Fiat Grup Automobile, Mbdpa, ST Microelectronics).

The SME are not directly involved in the cluster as members, but, in some extent, they are  involved in some of the projects carried out and most of the results obtained by the District have a clear fallout to the SME of the Italian entrepreneurial fabric. Since the foundation IMAST performed projects directly oriented to the SME such as technological training and courses about intellectual copyright.

Other important specific project launched by the ecosystem along the time were:

  •  In 2006-7 the first business plan competition lasting for 4 years was carried out. 
  • Between 2012 – 2016 the project Full bright best: an initiative led by US Embassy for selecting entrepreneurial ideas with a permanence in the Sylicon Valley for 6 months.
  • In 2018 the initiative Bust your tech was launched. Process of cooperative development among innovators, big firms, and investment funds.

4.6.4 Strategic priorities and mobilization of the stakeholders

IMAST members operate in diversified sectors, and they are not in competition with each other. The identification of the members’ priorities follow this path: first the industrial needs of the business members are collected in constant meetings and workshops; then from the set of needs collected the common topics and priorities are identified; thirdly the common priorities are matched with the varied competences expressed by the research centers members of the group; fourthly the projects started to be performed.

The private stakeholders are mobilized through the definition of the strategic priorities around shared aims of technological and knowledge transfer.

4.6.5 Co-creation and co-production process

The collection of the members’ needs in itself is a form of co-production. 

IMAST, furthermore, is engaged in educational projects with the direct participants of the students (e.g. Project OneZone IMAST Educational Lab that promoted the “understanding by design” connecting art and science.

4.6.6 Internationalization and connection with other clusters and organizations

IMAST supports and participates in many international projects. Here below a list of international projects promoted by the district:

. 2008-2011 SMART project: support to the SME with partners in 4 European countries

.2009: Memorandum of Understanding with technological south-Corean and Japanese consortia ; 

. 2010 participation in the Global Research Centers Networking for composites in aerospace.

. 2015-2020 participation at Clean Sky e JTI European programme about aeronautical research 

. 2019- onoing Rightweight: collaboration with con European partners to support the development of competitive solutions and innovation capacity of the SME 

. 2020-ongoing: collaboration with 13 European Clusters to promote the diffusion of light advanced materials

Project INOSUP and participation to numerous research projects with multi-sectorial

4.6.7 Public/Private dimensions 

IMAST was created under a public initiative led by Campania Region and Italian Government in 2004. Private companies, public centers of research and universities were gathered under the direction of the regional and national public administration giving rise to a district oriented to a strategy of the territorial development of a region that had and has structural macroeconomic criticalities. 

However IMAST was structured as a totally independent entity and the Public Administration did not participate as a partner in the district. Even if IMAST works essentially as a private entity aimed at protecting the overall interests of the companies that participate in it promoting the development and the opportunities of the members as the business community, at the same time, it is undeniable that the group works in strategic domains whose development has a relevant fallout in the Italian economic systems in terms of growth, employment and technological innovation.

Furthermore in the recent years the research on the innovative materials has been increasingly oriented towards the environmental sustainability and improvement of the quality of the human life. 

4.6.8 Financial sources

The complete autonomy of IMAST is also given by the absence of direct public funding. After a first public financial support when the ecosystem was constituted, from that moment on the revenue of the group only derives from: 1. competitive European or national projects; 2. fees guaranteed by the companies of the cluster. The ecosystem has never resorted to bank loans, and this is one the reasons of its financial stability and sustainability.

4.6.9 Results evaluation 

There is a constant monitoring of the clusters’ activity through different parameters of efficiency and effectiveness 
The main parameters used are:
. Widening of the network over time. 
. Creation of qualified and skilled employment generated indirectly and directly by IMAST
. Results in terms of quantity and quality of the research activities performed by the public research centers members of the cluster
. Staff direct recruitment by IMAST and then absorbed later by other companies of the sector
. Financial conditions and monitoring of the balance sheet

4.6.10 Criticalities 

The two most important critical elements stressed are:

  • Fragmentation and lack of continuity in the public policies at regional and national level. Every government changes the lines of development and the definitions of the priorities of industrial policy thwarting or weakening any attempt of encouraging a synergic effort towards the innovation carried out by the public and private actors operating in the country at all levels including the activities within the district. This affects the success, in the long run, many initiatives promoted by IMAST. 
  •  Chronicle lack of competences and specific abilities in the high-level management.

4.7 Packaging cluster (Spain, Catalonia)

4.7.1 Introduction and general framework

Packaging Cluster is a non-profit organization established in 2012 by Catalan companies. It represents the entire value chain of the packaging sector. The main objective of the entity is to help the competitive improvement of the companies that integrate it, with the purpose of solving the challenges of the current context, the promotion of innovation and the generation of new business opportunities. The cluster can be inscribed in the domain of the Sustainable manufacturing as one the objectives explicitly pursued is the development and transformation of the packaging sector under the constraint of a growing sustainability and reduction of the environmental impact of the packaging. 

4.7.2 Partners, Stakeholders and mission

The Cluster today gather more than 140 active members including companies (130), research and knowledge centers and institutional entities.  Among 130 companies, 87 are SME members (of which 20 are start-ups) and 17 are large companies. There are 9 research centers. The total amount of employee of the cluster is around 35000-50000 units.

The mission of the cluster is to improve the competitiveness (social, environmental, and economic) of the container and packaging ecosystem, through the promotion of market intelligence, networking and impact projects for the sector. The stakeholders of the cluster are the territorial productive fabric of Catalonia as well as the Public Administration.

4.7.3 Kind of activities carried out

As the highest representative of the container and packaging sector in Catalonia, the Packaging Cluster is developed under 5 strategic axes, which are: the generation of innovation projects and new businesses, market strategy and intelligence, the promotion of international connections, training and attracting talent, and networking and business cooperation. 

The main activities carried out by the Cluster are: RD Projects, Services for the companies, Training programs, Networking, Lectures and presentation, Thematic workshops, Market viewpoints.

4.7.4 Strategic priorities and mobilization of the stakeholders

In the general strategy of the cluster a key role is played by ACCIO, public agency for the competitiveness of Catalan enterprise attached to the Ministry of Business and Labour of the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia.

ACCIÓ, as a public agency that supports the business, aims to promote the competitiveness and growth of the Catalan business fabric by fostering innovation, internationalization and attracting investment. ACCIÓ assists enterprise in the process of competitive differentiation and in the continuous search for new business opportunities. The agency promotes and encourages the constitution of cluster in Catalonia. So far it has established 27 clusters that already include more than 2,700 companies and partners, and have a turnover of over 70,000 million euros. In the relations with Packaging Cluster, ACCIO identifies goals and challenges for the sector and promotes a constant update of the strategy of the cluster.  Packaging Cluster defines a Business Plan with concrete objectives as much as possible consistent with the strategy planned with ACCIO.

4.7.5 Governance of R&D project

The cluster generates R&D&I projects at national and international level, synergies and consortia creation with complementary companies and knowledge centers to improve the business of the companies. Attending the specialized knowledge in the field of packaging, that range from suppliers of raw materials to the final brands, integral management of the entire project is performed with the aim of passing on improving competitiveness and value to the participating entities.

4.7.6 Connections with other clusters and co-production/co-creation processes

Packaging Cluster is in connection with the following clusters within the national and regional territory and in other European countries through the European Cluster collaboration Platform:

National-regional connections: Catalan Water Partnership (Catalonia, Spain); Beauty Cluster (Catalonia, Spain); Associacio Cluster Foodservice of Catalonia; Cluster Food+I (La Rioja, Spain);

European connections: Wagralim agri-food innovation cluster of Wallonia (Belgium), Nanoprogress z.s. (Czech Republic); Food Valley (Netherlands); Flanders food (Belgium); Valorial (France)

Furthermore Packaging Cluster participates in these national and international projects: Safe Smart Food (Spain); Global Foodture (Denmark); European Strategic Cluster Partnership for Advanced Smart Packaging (Czech Republic)

Intercluster activities as well as Networking, Thematic Workshops and Training programs are organized on a co-production basis with a direct participation of the stakeholders involved.

4.7.7 Private and public dimensions, financial sources 

Packaging Cluster works essentially as a facilitator and point of contact of their members: companies of the packaging sector participating in the cluster. Similarly to RENERGY, IMAST and to other clusters analyzed in the group of 15, the main aim of Packaging Cluster is the development of the sector and the competitive growth of the companies that operate there. After all, the initiative that brought to the birth of the cluster came from the companies themselves. So it can be said that the private interests are predominant in the general purpose of the ecosystem without denying that the fallout of the positive results concerns evidently a collective dimension in terms of employment, growth, technological development, sustainability. This last dimension does not seem to be at the core of clusters activity but remains important especially since the domain of the packaging is very sensitive to a process of technological evolution towards a growing use of sustainable and biodegradable materials. 

The prevalence of private aims seems consistent with the type of funds received by the cluster. The financial resources are divided as follows: 40% membership fees of the partners; 40% from competitive project regional, national and UE project; 20% services sold. There are no public direct funds.

4.7.8 Results evaluation 

In the Business Plan the Cluster defines KPIs for the next 4 years. Aligned to it, every year we define an Action Plan with 10 key points. In every Board of Directors (4 meetings per year) these key points are considered. 

4.7.9 Criticalities

Three critical areas have been pointed out:
1) Fragmentation and dispersion of the overall cluster system in Catalonia region;
2) Problem of services from the micro-business that need advices often as a free service;
3) For the small companies it’s difficult sometimes to participate actively in the cluster and the membership fees are quite heavy. 

4.8 Short final considerations about the 6 case-studies

The 6 ecosystems deemed in this further analysis clearly reveal the wide variety of experiences that an ecosystem can mean. Besides the fact that they represent the three domains considered (Bio-Based Circular Economy, Clean Renewable Energy and Sustainable Manufacturing), other important differences can be shortly mentioned here and then discussed more in depth in the next chapter within a general classification of the different typologies of ecosystems along significant dimensions.

ECOSISTER and Bioeconomy Austria are perfect examples of initiatives carried out following public objectives inspired by a wide regional-national and European general strategy based on explicit systemic change purposes. 

RENERGY and Packaging Cluster, on the opposite side, work as groups essentially focused on the development of the entrepreneurial fabric based of their sector through strategies of dynamic technological innovation (RENERGY shows a specific propensity towards systemic changes). 

Lastly IMAST and Forest Wise seem to be intermediate experiences. They both derive form public initiatives, but they also have a complete autonomy of action and pursue clear entrepreneurial objectives. At the same time they are focused on wider objectives: economic development and employment also beyond the regional territory (notably IMAST) and solutions of environmental and territorial problems (CoLAB ForestWISE). 

In the next chapter a further general classification will be proposed for a conclusive analysis of the 15 diverse experiences analyzed and we will return to these typological distinctions.


5.1 What is a knowledge and innovation ecosystem? A brief review of the concept 

As a result of this research, carried out on a group of 15 case-studies of European ecosystems, we can try to draw some general considerations. However, before this, we need to step back towards an essential question: what is an innovation and knowledge ecosystem? 

In the light of the literature concerning the concept of ecosystem, the answer lies in an inevitably vague and uncertain definition.

According to Jackson (2011) “an innovation ecosystem models the economic rather than the energy dynamics of the complex relationships between actors or entities whose functional goal is to enable technology development and innovation” (Jackson, 2011). 

Knowledge ecosystems and innovation ecosystems would be different concepts according to Clarysse et al (2014): “the Knowledge ecosystem (the research economy) and Business ecosystem (the commercial economy) are partially separate but intertwined within the broader context of innovation activities”. In this perspective an innovation ecosystem would be an inclusive concept that gather both research and business dimension. 

Oh et al (2016) refer to innovation ecosystem as a vague concept, lack of consistency in the literature. According to the authors it would overlap with the concepts of innovation systems, triple helix model and clusters and would be a not rigorous term to indicate essentially market driven processes of aggregation. 

Other scholars tried to clarify the elements of distinction: Ritala et al (2017) argued that: with respect to regional or national innovation systems and the triple helix initiatives, the ecosystem seems to be more market-driven but it would not be in contrast with the public-driven activities.

 Scaringella and Radziwon (2018) conducted a systematic review of the literature identifying four types of similar entities: business ecosystems, innovation ecosystems, entrepreneurial ecosystems and knowledge ecosystems, comparing the ecosystem approach to the territorial approach and reached the conclusion that the concept remain hardly definable in a univocal direction.

Given the extreme variety of the different perspectives, what can be the specific characteristics of a knowledge and innovation ecosystem? According to Grandstram et al (2019) it is possible to enucleate some basic characteristics that would distinguish an innovation and knowledge ecosystem from other similar entities such as: industrial districts, Marshallian districts, regional innovation systems, new industrial space, regional cluster and others:

– More explicit systemic interactions
– Extended digitalization of the innovation process
– Open innovation (open access to the relevant data)
– More attention to the specific and differentiated role of the actors involved
– Greater importance given to market forces than to the role of the government, although public institutions and the existence of significant public objectives maintain a fundamental role in the definition and in the effective practices of the ecosystems
– Possible crucial focus on the environmental sustainability of the innovation process.

Let’s recall now the foundational principles of ERA Hubs intended as multistakeholder research and innovation collaborative ecosystems based in specific territories:

– Directionality: mobilization of the public and private stakeholders around shared objectives.

– Multi-level governance processes: multi-level in its intervention, composition and membership. 

– Horizontal integration: formal bridge to other knowledge ecosystems, independently of regional or national borders.

– Holistic approach: an ERA HUB brings together all the public and private stakeholders. Aims to support co-creation and joint ownership of the goals and process. Promotes cultural and practical systemic change in both private and public institutions.

Overlaying conceptually the general characteristics that could define an innovation and knowledge ecosystem to the foundational principles of the ERA hubs already reported, we can try to verify, if and how, the 15 case-studies deemed in the research overlap with this theoretical framework; and above all, the different way in which each group of ecosystems is approachable to the concepts mentioned.

5.2 Are the ecosystems analyzed classifiable in this theoretical framework? 

In the light of the above mentioned characteristics we could argue that most of the ecosystems considered in our research possess the requirement discussed, although in a different way and with a different intensity among them. 

Undoubtedly in all the case-studies analyzed there is an overall mobilization of the public and private stakeholders around shared objectives. The directionality is a common element of all the ecosystems. However, as we have already seen and we will see again in next paragraph, the way through which the directionality is applied varies deeply in the different cases.

The multi-level governance is also a recurring characteristic that can be considered multi-level with respect to their intervention, composition and membership, being the result of a synergy among distinct actors: companies, research centers, territorial agencies, public institutions, third sector subjects such as non-profit associations and foundations etc. Again, the way the multi-level governance is effectively applied varies according to the management and governance rules of the groups.

The horizontal integration is systematically encountered as a constant behavior in all the ecosystems analyzed, but intensity and geographical limits of this tendency are quite different in each ecosystem.

The holistic approach is more difficult to prove. If it’s clear that the ecosystems bring together all the public and private stakeholders (although in different proportions and with a deeply diversified relative influence) it is less evident that cultural and practical systemic change in both private and public institutions are effectively pursued in all the ecosystems deemed and it could be stressed that this kind of tension can be found only in a group of ecosystems.

Furthermore, in relation to the elements of distinction pointed out by the literature we could argue that: 

  • In all the ecosystems considered there is an explicit systemic interaction among the actors involved.
  • An extended digitalization of the innovation process seems to be widespread in the ecosystems but not in all the cases is explicitly stressed.
  • It has been clearly verified that in each case-study there is a particular attention to the specific and differentiated role of all the actors involved.
  • The equilibrium between the centrality of the market forces and the achievement of collective objectives varies a lot among the ecosystems (see next paragraph).
  • The focus on the environmental sustainability of the innovation activities is certainly a common characteristic of all the clusters but its relevance changes deeply among the cases deemed.

5.3 Three essential dimensions for the analysis of the ecosystems

Knowing that there is a countless number of dimensions along which the knowledge and innovation ecosystems can be understood , we try to focus now our attention on three specific dimensions that seem to us particularly significant from the perspective of the policy makers, since they allow to understand better the mechanisms that ultimately guide the ecosystems: 

1) Territoriality

2) Public/Private dimensions and ultimate goals 

3) Role of the sustainability

5.3.1 Territoriality

Let’s recall the territorial dimension of the ecosystems seen in chapter 3. Among the 15 ecosystems we have found: 

in 7 cases mainly a national dimension, 

in 3 cases a balanced regional and national dimension; 

in 4 cases mainly a regional dimension an

in 1 case a national/international cross-border dimension.

For a schematic representation of the geographical characterization of the ecosystems see the Table below:

As already stressed before, some countries (Norway, Poland, Croatia, Portugal) seem to have a tendency (confirmed in the wider sample of 26 cases) to have national-oriented ecosystems while in other countries (notably Italy and Spain) there is a tendency to have regional-oriented ecosystems. 

It would be conceivable that this characteristic could be linked to two basic aspects: 

  1. the level of overall decentralization existing in the different countries and the relative importance of the regions as territorial centres of autonomous policies in different domains; 
  2. the dimension of the countries, as it is evident that the wider the country the more appropriate is for an economic entity to act also on regional scale.

Let’s observe the level of decentralization of the European countries through the decentralization index elaborated by the European Committee of the Regions.

It is not obvious to find an immediate correlation between the prevalence of regional or national ecosystems and both the decentralization of the countries and their dimensions. The relation would be verified for Spain, one of the most decentralized countries in Europe and with a wide extension where numerous ecosystems have a strict regional dimension. Norway seems to contradict this relation having mostly ecosystems operating at a national scale or both regional/national scale despite the big dimension of the country and the relatively high level of decentralization. A third interesting case is Italy (quite wide dimensions and relatively high decentralization) with a mix of regional ecosystems (of recent creation) and other cases of more traditional clusters/districts that had a territorial dimension but acted often at national scale (e.g. IMAST). 

If dimension and decentralization can partially explain the prevalence of a regional or national scale in the ecosystems, certainly other elements, more contingent, contribute to the explanation.

For instance, Norway has had a strategy to strengthen industry clusters through a national cluster program since the beginning of the 2000s while in Spain, on the contrary, the autonomous communities (region) were at the basis of the strategy. 

What is sure is that, independently of the regional or national scale, the territoriality tends to remain an essential element of the ecosystems. Even when the clusters act at a national scale, the projects they performed are often connected to a territorial dimension and involve local partners and stakeholders such as local governments, regional agencies and local associations. 

The development of the local territory is a recurring aim also in those ecosystems that show a wider geographical scale of influence and action.

It is also important to stress that the territorial vocation goes together with an intense internationalization. The two tendencies don’t seem to be in contradiction with each other. On the contrary most of the ecosystems experienced strong connections with other ecosystems as well as other types of organizations based in other regions and countries within the European space and beyond. In Table 16 is shown a schematic representation of the type of connections that each ecosystem has.

After all the indispensable need for the internationalization has been stressed in the literature related to the innovation process. According to the recent OECD Outlook 2023 “Enabling Transitions in times of Disruption” on Science, Technology and Innovation: “major global challenges in the transition to sustainable development trajectories cannot be fully addressed by a single scientific domain or country. It will be important to address entrenched geographical, disciplinary and sectoral silos. Actors from across countries, scientific disciplines and sectors must come together to better understand, navigate and develop solutions that advance the collective position, while engaging with conflicting priorities and interests. Shepherding such complex interactions will require new approaches to governance that are capable of facilitating, enabling, and uniting bottom-up and decentralized initiatives with broader top-down and future-focused strategies. national science systems can – and must – evolve to function as part of a balanced, well-connected and inclusive global science ecosystem” (OECD 2023 Outlook on Science, Technology and innovation).

5.3.2   Public/Private dimensions and basic goals of the ecosystems

The second aspect along which the ecosystems can be classified is the prevalence of a public or private dimension. As we have already seen, in short, in chapter 3, this prevalence can be analysed under four key-elements: 

  1. the basic aims pursued;
    2. the nature of the partners involved;
    3. the nature of the initiative that brought to the creation of the ecosystem;
    4. the origins of the financial resources. 

Without getting back to the details already stressed, let us dwell here upon a general remark about the intimate nature of the ecosystems in the light of the research carried out on the 15 case-studies. 

The question addressed at the beginning of chapter 5 returns here: what is exactly a knowledge and innovation ecosystem? Is it a private group that protects and develops the economic interests of a business community? Is it a driver to develop territorial/national economies increasing the attractiveness of a territory, its GPD, employment and collective welfare? Is it an instrument to promote deep systemic economic and cultural change in the society and to develop crucial strategies for the well-being of wide communities? Is it an instrument of industrial policy?

There is no clear answer to these questions, but, essentially, each ecosystem is some of those things together, while it is never just one of those things and it is very unfrequently all of those things together.

With this in mind, it is possible to create different models of ecosystems knowing that there are not true or false ecosystems but all of them, in their effective different forms, give substance to a permeable concept, whose boundaries seem to be quite wide but not as wide as to be completely undefinable.

In the light of this, we can draw a set of typologies identifying in our sample three general models of ecosystems 

  1. MODEL 1: Ecosystems promoted by a private initiative and essentially aimed at fostering and strengthening an entrepreneurial fabric and a group of companies in a territory with a weak role of the public subjects (and a low or zero level of public direct funds), but with a possible relevant public impact and possible systemic changes.
  2. MODEL 2: Ecosystems promoted by a public (or mixed private/public) initiative aimed at strengthening an entrepreneurial fabric and a group of companies in a territory with a relevant, but not predominant, role of the public subjects (and possibly a significant share of direct public funds) and a strong public impact and possible systemic changes.
  3. MODEL 3: Ecosystems promoted by a public initiative and essentially aimed at developing public collective objectives and systemic deep changes in line with general regional-national and European strategies, with a predominant role of the public subjects (and a predominant share of the public direct funds), and with a consequent strong impact also on the entrepreneurial fabric.

In the first group (MODEL 1) we can classify 7 ecosystems:

. Biokraft (Sweden, Norway)

. Waste Management and Recycling Cluster (Poland)

. Intelligent Energy Cluster (Croatia)

. RENERGY – Renewable Energy Cluster (Norway)

. Mazovia Cluster ICT (Poland)

. Packaging cluster (Spain)

. Transilvania IT Cluster (Romania)

In the second group (MODEL 2) we can classify 6 ecosystems:

. VTT Technical Research Centre (Finland)

. INTEMAC (Czech Republic)

. RAISE – Robotics and AI for Socio-economic Empowerment (Italy)

. IMAST – Italian Technological District For The Engineering of Polymeric and Composite Materials and Structures (Italy)

. H2 Valley (Spain)

. CoLAB – ForestWISE (Portugal)

In the third group (MODEL 3) we can classify 2 ecosystems:

. Bioeconomy Austria (Austria) 


The classification within the three groups is just a schematic approximate representation that does not exhaust the complex nuance of each case. It is clear that some ecosystems could be better placed between two groups (e.g. VTT could be placed between groups 2 and 3, while IMAST and H2 Valley could be better positioned between group 1 and 2).

In the table below we have organized a schematic representation of the ecosystems classified and divided into the three groups as well as a specification of the role of the sustainability in their mission and activities (see next point).

5.3.3 Sustainability: core/added value

The third dimension along which the ecosystems could be classified is the role of the environmental sustainability. If a certain relevance of the sustainability in the basic mission can be recognised as a common characteristic of all the ecosystems deemed, its specific weight seems vary a lot. 

In the last column at Table 17 above is reported a classification made assigning a binary value to the sustainability: either core of the mission or just an added value of the activities. 

Knowing that this division is too sharp and does not grasp the nuances, it can work as a first level, simplified description. 

There would be 8 cases in which the sustainability lies at the core of the project and 7 cases in which the sustainability can be seen as an important value and sometimes a precise aim of the activities, but it does not lie at the core of the mission.

Apparently, there is no direct correlation between the private/public orientation of the cluster and the position the sustainability has within its activities.

5.4 Final remarks 

We conclude this research with a short open reflection about the role and the raison d’être of the knowledge and innovation ecosystems in Europe. In the light of what has been argued so far, we can reaffirm that, given a wide variety of real experiences, it is difficult to give a precise and sharp definition of what is a knowledge and innovation ecosystem.

The variety of members/partners; the strongly varied balance between private and public actors, objectives, and sources of the financial revenues; the different role and importance of the sustainability within the strategies; different legal forms, management rules and systems of governance; different territorial scale of the activities and level of internationalization.
All these elements make hard to envisage one unique approach of analysis of the ecosystems. 

Nevertheless, the knowledge and innovation ecosystems deemed in our research share a common ground essentially based on these elements: 

  • A territorial vocation 
  • A multi-level governance process 
  • Explicit systemic interactions among the actors
  • A strong dynamic towards innovation processes 
  • Specific and differentiated roles of the actors involved
  • A balanced (although in a very diverse proportions) equilibrium between private and public actors, private and public aims, and private and public financial sources
  • A common focus (although variable in the intensity) on the environmental sustainability of the innovation process
  • An intense mobilization of the public and private stakeholders around shared objectives and common strategies of economic and industrial development 
  • A clear horizontal integration through widespread connections towards other knowledge ecosystems, independently of regional or national borders.

All these elements can be seen as a starting point to reach in the future a more precise and adequate definition of ERA Hubs as an element of the European entrepreneurial fabric, basis for future European appropriate policies. 



CoR, 2021, Opinion of the European Committee of the Regions — A new European Research Area (ERA) for research and innovation (2021/C 106/0)

EC, 2017 Strengthening Innovation in Europe’s Regions: Strategies for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth (COM 2017 376 final)

EC, 2020 A new ERA for Research and Innovation (COM 2020 628 final)

EC, 2021 Briefing Note for Stakeholder Consultation, Technopolis Report

FoSS, 2021 ERA Hubs as an engine for transformative place-based innovation investment priorities – Policy note for the  JRC-CoR joint workshop on Smart Specialisation for the Recovery

OECD, 2023 science, technology and innovation outlook 2023 – “Enabling Transitions In Times Of Disruption”

OECD, 2013 Innovation-driven Growth in Regions:  The Role of Smart Specialisation (last access 30 June 2023)

Granstrand, O., & Holgersson, M. (2019). Innovation ecosystems: A conceptual review and a new definition. Technovation, 102098

Jackson B D J 2011, What is an innovation ecosystem? Washington DC, Retrieved from ( Ecosystem_03-15-11.pdf

Oh, D.-S., Phillips, F., Park, S., & Lee, E. (2016). Innovation ecosystems: A critical examination. Technovation, 54, 1–6.

Ritala, P., & Almpanopoulou, A. (2017). In defense of “eco” in innovation ecosystem. Technovation, 60-61, 39–42

Scaringella, L., & Radziwon, A. (2017). Innovation, entrepreneurial, knowledge, and business ecosystems: Old wine in new bottles? Technological Forecasting and Social Change



Annex 1 –  Questionnaire on Research and Innovation ecosystems

Annex 2  –  R&I ecosystem information sheets 

In this Annex you can find the Information sheets of the Research and Innovation ecosystems included in the sample case studies analyzed in depth in the present research. Please note that for the 6 most representative case studies you will find the information sheet in their respective paragraphs at chapter 4.


Annex 2.1  –  Biokraft information sheet 


Biokraft AS




Biokraft has the ambitions to eventually convert forestry biomass, forest waste, and marine energy crops (such as seaweed) into biofuels.

General domain

Bio-based circular economy

Specific domains

Renewable energy based on compressed biogas and liquefied biogas

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Coordination of the production processes; Design and management

Co-creation and co-production processes

Partnerships and investments have been established in companies and foundations deemed strategic, materializing in processes of co-production and co-creation ( ex. partnership with Andion Global Inc. for the construction of a large facility for the production of liquefied biogas).

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. National level (ex. Connection with Drive LBG Cluster)

Role of the public administration

Funder and stakeholder

Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Mainly private objectives  / Private initiative

Partners involved

Companies, research centers 

Stakeholders involved

Customers, investors

Stakeholder mobilization

Webinar gathering all stakeholders

Juridical form

Public limited company

Methods for defining strategic priorities

Being a publicly traded company, strategic priorities are defined through a strategic planning process involving key leaders of the company, such as the board of directors and senior management

Governance processes and sustainability

The R&D process focuses on a detailed understanding of microbiological processes in biogas, involving a diverse team of researchers, technicians, and engineers. Through the development and evaluation of new concepts, the goal is to provide key data for engineering and implementation phases.

Funding and financial sources

Private+ Public funds not disbursed directly

Results evaluation

As a publicly traded company, performance indicators follow the logic associated with a publicly traded company.

Critical areas



Annex 2.2 – H2 Valley information sheet


H2 Valley




The Vall de l’Hidrogen de Catalunya  is based on the purpose of bringing together all the agents that make up the value chain of green hydrogen and driving forward the understanding, production and implementation of this alternative source of energy.  Now, the mission is to implement green hydrogen as the key vector of the energy transition.

General domain

Clean Renewable energy

Specific domains

Production of green hydrogen; Implementation of green hydrogen in industry and mobility

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Projects design; networking; collaboration and partnership with institutions and business.

Co-creation and co-production processes

The Valley has a board which represents the different stakeholders interested in the association. The stakeholders cooperate through the boad in the innovation process

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. National and European level; There are relationships with other ecosystems working on the same domain. Working in association with the National authorities the valley collaborates with different clusters and associations, but not only in Catalonia, also with European regions.

There are furthermore strategic alliances in Spain thorough the Hydrogen Ebro corridor (Catalonia, Aragon, Navarra, Basque Country); cooperation Catalonia-Baden Wùrtetemberg (Germany); Relationship with Japan

Role of the public administration

Funder (partially) and promoter, stakeholder

Private/Public objectives, initiative

Mainly private objectives / Balanced initiative

Partners involved

Companies, association, public institutions, research and knowledge centres

Stakeholders involved

Productive fabric

Stakeholder mobilization

One of the approaches is working on procurement. If a request of development of a technological solution comes to the association, it identifies the right actors able to satisfy that request

Juridical form

Not for profit association

Methods for defining strategic priorities

The Consortium verifies possible areas of overlapping and complementarities and on the basis of the results of this periodic review develops ReD projects. A second route consists in organizing meetings among the participants to the association aimed at anticipating the technological developments. Once defined the interest priorities of the partners projects of development are developed.

Governance processes and sustainability

Valley has designed the Knowledge Alliance, which integrates the top fifth institutions in the R&I activities (two universities: UPC and URV, and three research institutions: ICIQ, EURECAT and IREC).

This alliance is a member of the board and participates in all the meetings.

Funding and financial sources

Private fees and Public funding through competitive projects (percentage unknown)

Results evaluation

They do not have a specific procedure, they are working on the formalization of regulations

Critical areas

Decarbonization and H2 industry are changing so fast that is difficult to predict the next steps. It is a whole change of the society and must be integrated by different stakeholders. 

The different groups has different points of view and different speeds for changing, integration of all of them is the most critical point.


Annex 2.3– Intelligent energy cluster information sheet


Intelligent Energy Cluster




As a business network of SMEs, the mission of IEC is to create new green jobs through production of solutions and systems as well as through delivery and continuous care for installed plants and technology

General domain

Clean Renewable energy

Specific domains

Focus on green technologies in areas of hydro-energy (small hydro power plants), solar-energy (PV and thermal systems), biomass and energy efficiency

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Promoting energy efficiency and sustainable development; Joint appereance on domestic and regional market; Business ventures; Development of modern technological solutions; transfer of experience and knowledge; creation of basis for financial investors support

Co-creation and co-production processes

Transregional cooperation services offered by cluster to small and medium-sized enterprises

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. EU level (ex. Connection with AFIL Cluster (Italy), Technology Park Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Role of the public administration


Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Mainly private objectives / Private initative

Partners involved

Companies, universities, public institutions

Stakeholders involved

Productive fabric

Stakeholder mobilization

Seminars, conferences and meetings gathering all stakeholders

Juridical form


Methods for defining strategic priorities


Governance processes and sustainability


Funding and financial sources


Results evaluation


Critical areas

Lack of vision and strategy

ANNEX 2.4 – INTEMAC information sheet




Czech Republic


INTEMAC is a research and innovation centre that inspires and supports companies in the creation of modern technologies and their introduction into production.

General domain

Sustainable Manufacturing

Specific domains

Construction, control and diagnostics of mechanical engineering technology.

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Consulting programme focused on the digitalization of manufacturing companies; Support in improving the properties of manufacturing machines; Developing autonomous production units

Co-creation and co-production processes

Co-creation and co-production with industrial and technology partners for developing autonomous production units

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. Regional (connection with the  South Moravian Innovation Centre -JIC) and EU level ( ex. connection with COMET Scrl – Friuli Venezia Giulia Mechanical Engineering Cluster (Italy))

Role of the public administration

Promoter, funder, stakeholder

Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Mainly private objectives / Balanced initiative

Partners involved

Innovation center

Stakeholders involved

Productive fabric

Stakeholder mobilization

Webinar, workshops and seminars gathering all stakeholders

Juridical form

Limited company

Methods for defining strategic priorities

The cluster is part of the South Moravian Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS). The RIS is the result of a broader discussion in the ecosystem (also in the form of focus groups), which also includes companies. The RIS defines what is significant, important, and strategic for the region. It then allocates the different agendas and tasks among the implementers

Governance processes 

R&D projects are conducted at both the national and international levels through forms of cooperation

Funding and financial sources

Public+ Private (public funding 50%; competitive projects 30%; sale of services 20%)

Results evaluation

There are systems of evaluation of the investments performed and the research carried out

Critical areas

Setting the conditions for funding and support, grants and calls. It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain such support; accurate communication and coordination of all the players sometimes are difficult


ANNEX 2.5 – Mazovia Cluster ICT  information sheet


Mazovia Cluster ICT




The mission is to have a positive impact on the country and region in the economic and social area through creation and management of innovations. They use and optimize the innovation potential of the region and the country, and promote it on the international arena.

General domain

Clean Renewable energy

Specific domains

ICT, Energy

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Implementation of consortium projects; support for  entrepreneurship initiatives; establishing cooperation between partners from different sectors (networking); support for the development of R+D activities

Co-creation and co-production processes

The Cluster implements consortium projects based on co-creation and cooperation. The cluster aims at achieving common goals and building shared value for members and the ecosystem. The Cluster actively involves its members in activities and cooperation. Strategy creation is also the result of co-creation and collaboration

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. National level. Mazovia Cluster ICT is a member of the Polish Clusters Employers’ Association and is one of the National Key Clusters, so it is in constant contact with other clusters or knowledge ecosystems operating within these clusters. Also international projects are carried out

Role of the public administration

Stakeholder. No governance and steering role. Complete autonomy of the cluster from the PA.

Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Mainly private objectives / Private initative

Partners involved

Companies, research centers and institutions, representative of the PA

Stakeholders involved


Stakeholder mobilization

Public and “private” goals  are coherent:  economic development, improvement of the quality of life, development of new technologies. The Cluster strives to make both parties understand that cooperation is a synergy that allows for maximizing effects in the context of achieving these goals.

Juridical form


Methods for defining strategic priorities

The  cluster identifies  a strategy in a key document that defines the cluster’s activities in a three-year perspective. The Cluster organizes workshops during which it talks to representatives of the partners. This allows to identify societal challenges. the cluster uses the available knowledge in the form of reports or publications

Governance processes and sustainability

The Cluster  does not directly implement  R+D projects that are carried out as part of purpose vehicles established by the cluster and other entities involved, including members of the cluster. This allows to combine  competences and resources to create innovations. The Cluster participates in the R&D process as a coordinator, advisor, especially in commercialization and business modeling.  

Funding and financial sources

Membership fees; revenues from services provided by the cluster; Projects co-financed (by the European Commission, national and regional authorities).

Results evaluation

The Mazovian ICT Cluster monitors the implementation of the strategy by assessing the degree of achievement of strategic objectives. To this end, indicators  have been assigned to each objectives. Tools and methods for monitoring and evaluating these indicators have been established. The indicators are updated every three years. Tthe  Cluster evaluates the quality of the services  offered by surveying the satisfaction of customers.

Critical areas

Maintaining the status of the National Key Cluster; support of public policies for clusters; lowering the level of public support for the internationalization of enterprises, which has been one of the leading activities of the Cluster.


ANNEX 2.6 – RAISE information sheet


RAISE- Robotics and AI for Socio-economic Empowerment




The project aims to support the development of an innovation ecosystem based on the scientific and technological domains of AI and Robotics, focusing on the specific needs of a regional context, namely the Liguria Region

General domain

Bio-based circular economy (also SM)

Specific domains

Robotics and artificial intelligence; Cities and environment; Health and digital medical assistance; protection of the local territory; Safe and sustainable harbors.

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Transfer of technology; intermediary between research and industry; development of innovative solutions and technologies.

Co-creation and co-production processes

The ecosystem is a co-creation mechanism in itself. There is a platform of co-design used to widen the extension of the ecosystem. Furthermore the final users are constantly involved to make the strategies consistent with the main need of the citizens.

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. National level mainly. Collaboration with Ecosister (ER) Nodes (Val d’Aosta Piemonte), Musa (Milan). Other collaboration with PNRR MUR initiatives  are hoped for

Role of the public administration

Partner (region), Funder (PNRR)  Promoter, Stakeholder

Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Balanced objectives / Public initiative

Partners involved

Governmental institutions, universities and academic institutions, research institutes, companies and industrial cluster.

Stakeholders involved


Stakeholder mobilization

There are mechanisms of constant dialog among the stakeholders. In spite the variety of actors a continuous monitoring of the common needs ensures the mobilization of all the part involved  

Juridical form


Methods for defining strategic priorities

Intense multidisciplinary partnership between the private and the public actors and strong interaction between the for profit and not for profit logic

Governance processes and sustainability

The spokes program the activities of the Ecosystem identifying  the executive responsibility of every single partner. the coordination within the SPOKE, among them e between the SPOKES and the HUBs constant and essential to achieve the final objectives in this structure the relations with the external ecosystems are framed

Funding and financial sources

Funds from:  public, National Recovery and Resilience Plan (96%) and private fees from the partners (4%)

Results evaluation

KPI system of impact evaluation . There is a mechanism of collection of the data. A Report of the progress is share with the ministry. There are physical and economic Targets envisaged.

Every 4 months there is a target moment with a technical report form every single partner for every single mission that is sent to the ministry and to a team of expect assigned by the ministry.

Critical areas

Too short times to develop a strategy; too complicated rules to recruit researchers and to spend money for goods and services; PNRR (that funds the ecosystem) is an extraordinary plan not accompanied by adequate extraordinary procedures


ANNEX 2.7  – Transylvania IT Cluster Information sheet


Transylvania IT Cluster




Transylvania Cluster aims at representing the interests of the companies of IT sector generating added value for them and contributing to the development of the regional ecosystem

General domain

Sustainable Manufacturing

Specific domains

Information technology

Geographical dimension

Regional and national

Kind of activities

Networking (workshops, conferences with the stakeholders); capacity building program; technical training; creation of innovation opportunities; help in funding

Co-creation and co-production processes

Bringing together companies and universities in the digital innovation transition promoted by EU as director of the project

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes (National and Regional level); National connection with 7 digital innovation hubs in Romani. At regional level there is a partnership with other domains clusters: manufacturing; energy, agro-food

Role of the public administration

Stakeholder; just the presence of public universities

Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Mainly private objectives / Public initiative

Partners involved

Companies, universities, NGO.

Stakeholders involved

Productive fabric

Stakeholder mobilization

Through Forum networking, newsletter, email, social media group and one annual general assembly the stakeholders define the strategic priorities providing opportunities to the member companies

Juridical form

A not for profit association NGO

Methods for defining strategic priorities

The strategic priorities of the cluster are defined every year among the partners on the basis of a general aim: supporting employees of member companies in the acquisition process of technical and soft skills and offering a platform of knowledge and training for the implementation of collaborative projects.

Governance processes and sustainability


Funding and financial sources

Membership fees: 10-15%, 80-85% from European competitive projects.

80-85% from European competitive projects

Results evaluation

There is a monitor of the networking activities. Quantitative approach (number of participants); Qualitative approach (satisfaction service after the event); Annual questionnaire (google form) of the members and the participants.

Critical areas

Huge gap between the resources we get from the fees and the ones coming from the European projects. Instability of the financial resources. Need to borrow money from the bank system.


ANNEX 2.8- VTT information sheet 


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd




VTT ‘s main objective is translating research and technology into practical and innovative solutions for industry and society.

General domain

Clean Renewable energy (also BBCE and SM)

Specific domains

Carbon neutral solution, sustainable products and materia, digital breakthrough technologies in industrial biotechnology; food solutions, industrial chemistry, biomaterial processing and products

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Developing systemic and technological solutions; creating sustainable processes, technologies, materials and products; advising on digital technologies that include microelectronics, quantum technology, sensing solutions, foresight, and data economy

Co-creation and co-production processes

There are co-creation and co-innovation mechanisms, jointly funding. The most notable example is the VTT FutureHub Living Lab.

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. Local level (ex. connection with Smart City Innovation Cluster)

Role of the public administration

Funder, partner, promoter, stakeholder

Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Balanced objectives / Public initiative

Partners involved

Companies, university

Stakeholders involved

Productive fabric, society

Stakeholder mobilization

Webinar, congress, free online courses, exposition  gathering all stakeholders

Juridical form

Non profit State-owned Limited Company

Methods for defining strategic priorities


Governance processes and sustainability

There is an important building for R&D projects, VTT FutureHub Living Lab. The building is utilised in research projects related to local optimisation, virtual power plants, energy communities and regional operator models, for example. It is also integrated into the research laboratories and simulation environments of VTT.

In terms of project sustainability, there is an international dimension with the representation of 50 nationalities within the cluster. The presence of numerous individuals from abroad highlights Finland as an attractive country, even in the log run.

From a financial sustainability perspective, it is necessary to address the issue of long-term public funding.

Funding and financial sources


1/3 funded by the State

1/3 funded by companies

1/3 funded by competitive projects

Results evaluation

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) system

Critical areas

How to simultaneously meet the various needs of stakeholders

How aligning the activities with the general objectives of the government in the domain of the sustainability.


ANNEX 2.9 – Waste Management and Recycling Cluster Info sheet 


Waste Management and Recycling Cluster




Waste Management and Recycling Cluster – National Key Cluster creates raw material facilities for industry, integrating the industry and strengthening the competitiveness of member companies in accordance with the Circular Economy model

General domain

Bio-based circular economy

Specific domains

Creation of raw material facilities for industry

Geographical dimension


Kind of activities

Support service for companies in developing and enhancing products, services and business models; Services for companies seeking competencies and tools for innovation management and digital transformation; Training; Promoting sector integration, Networking

Co-creation and co-production processes

Ongoing projects that result in training courses involving various stakeholders

Connection with other ecosystems

Yes. EU Level  (ex. connection with MNU (Norway), Cleantech (Latvia), Iceland Ocean Cluster (Iceland), Maritime Cluster Northern (Germany))

Role of the public administration


Prevalence of Private/Public objectives and initiative

Mainly private objecives / Private initative

Partners involved

Business companies, public centers of research (private and public)

Stakeholders involved

Companies, istitutions

Stakeholder mobilization

Congresses, conferences, forums and webinars gathering all stakeholders

Juridical form

Not for profit Limited Company

Methods for defining strategic priorities

Scanning the environment to identify & prioritize strategic issues is crucial and identify who are the stakeholders; developing a good understanding of the most important stakeholders, so that you know how they are likely to respond, and how we can win their support.

Governance processes and sustainability


Funding and financial sources

Public+ Private

Results evaluation

Through collected surveys from participants of the event

Critical areas



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