During the Thematic Smart Specialization Platforms Steering Committee, there was a specific session devoted to regional funds supporting the interregional dimension of S3. The region of Tuscany, Andalusia, Danube and Lapland shared their experiences.
Regarding Andalusia, the region sent a commitment letter to the European Commission in May 2016 in order to get the approval for a Thematic Partnership on Traceability and Big Data in the agrifood value chain (T&BD hereinafter) within the S3 Agrifood Platform. The OK from the Commission arrived at the end of that year, letting Andalusia start working on this but the approval came without any budget.
The Commission granted T&BD with expert support, thus letting the partnership define a very complete scoping note, but how a region can coordinate a Thematic Partnership without a budget?
As for any other region, this thematic partnership was a new activity for Andalusia too, that means that there was no action line in the regional planning with the name of the partnership and this was a problem, there was neither regional budget nor European funding for this. This situation was unsustainable in time and Europe was clear concerning funding, therefore, regional funding should be the only option to explore.
After 6 months of carefully studying and internal negotiations, the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Andalusia obtained specific budget to work in T&BD in June 2017.
That programming period had already started when the partnership began and the different strategies and planing documents for Andalusia had already been designed. Operational Plans for the different European Funds were also elaborated and regional budgets were allocated. There was a gap between the European initiatives and the regional programming.
Andalusia first studied its Employment Agenda – Economic plan for Andalusia 2012 -2020. This document was the instrument for the strategic planning of the regional development of Andalucia and it stated that the transformation of the production model was a global process that drew a new socioeconomic scenario where several changes in crucial trends were identified. Amongst these, the Employment Agenda identified the following one:
• the transforming role of digital economy based in the information and communication technologies with a double function: be a key element in the production innovation and the basis of a new social and institutional relationship model.
If this was identified in the overarching strategy for Andalucia, then, more specific issues could be identified in other strategies and maybe in operational plans.
Also the Strategy for Innovation in Andalucia 2014 -2020, RIS 3 Andalucía, was studied. This strategy was based in 3 main pillars or principles:
Also, a vision of Andalucia for 2020 was agreed in that document. This vision said, amongst other issues:
• A more active and more entrepreneurial Andalucia.
• A more advanced and innovative Andalucia.
• A more internally cohesive and worldwide open Andalucia, etc.
And this vision would be reached in a framework of smart specialisation, where ICT and support infrastructures could let the development of creative frameworks where network and social and technical innovation were basis for the development of Research, Development and innovation, the innovation in businesses and a more efficient industry.
Looking at the different priorities of the document, Priority 6 concerning Agrifood industry with action lines referred to:
• Improvement in quality, traceability and food security
• Innovation in processes and products in agrifood industries.
And also Priority 8 talked ICT and digital economy, with action lines such as:
• New ICT developments
• ICT for the business development
• Innovation in digital contents
The following document to analyse was the Andalucia European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020 Operational Plan (ERDF OP, hereinafter). It contained different actions related to innovation and new technologies in the agrifood industry. Concretely:
• Priority Axis 1 with the objective of fostering research, technological development and innovation.
• Priority Axis 2 aiming at improving the use and quality of information and communication technologies and the access to them.
Two action lines where identified where the necessary activities to coordinate the Traceability and Big Data in the agrifood value chain Thematic Partnership could be include, which were:
• Assessment and Studies
• Information and Communication.
Taking into account that most activities within the partnership would be attending events, organising them, communicating the partnership and doing some studies, such as how the partnership can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, the coordination team of T&BD realised this was the correct place to ask for money.
After all that, the Regional Ministry faced the last part of the process. The ERDF OP had been designed and budget lines had been assigned according to activities, then, to include a new activity with a new budget line there other budget lines should have been reduced.
The only way was to identify which unitis within the Regional Ministry had budget coming from the ERDF OP and start a negotition with them. This internal negotiation was held with success, ending with the modification of the Andalusia ERDF OP, including a budget line to coordinate the S3P T&BD thematic partnership.