Organised as part of the agenda of the 21st European Week of Regions and Cities, a dedicated session on the I3 Instrument took place on 11th October 2023 at the SQUARE Brussels Meeting Centre. The workshop on the I3 Instrument featured high-profile Commission speakers from the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) and Directorate-General for EU Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO).
The workshop highlighted the Interregional Innovation Investments (I3) Instrument's role within the innovation support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and in relation to Horizon Europe. Emphasis was placed on the role of the Cohesion Policy in bridging regional innovation gaps, with particular emphasis on less developed regions.
With a strong commitment to strengthening EU value chains, the I3 Instrument encourages interregional collaboration and aims to enhance the global competitiveness and resilience of EU value chains. I3 Instrument combines the place-based dimension with bottom-up innovation dynamics emerging from smart specialisation. Identifying the indispensable role of SMEs and innovation actors, the I3 Instrument prioritises their support, fully acknowledging their central contribution to the innovation landscape. A noteworthy mention was the introduction of the I3 Support Facility, set to launch in 2024, as a comprehensive support mechanism for current and future I3 Instrument beneficiaries.
Public authorities have a key role to play in the I3 Instrument. They act as facilitators to create preconditions for the development of I3 projects, they can lead I3 proposals, or they can be involved as third parties in the governance of the I3 projects.
Key discussions revolved around the I3 Instrument's core objectives: scaling innovations across Europe, using smart specialisation as a coordination principle for interregional cooperation, strengthening existing value chains and creating new ones in less developed regions, de-risking innovative investments in SMEs, addressing critical EU challenges, and empowering eco-systems in less developed regions.