The Inno4Sports project brings together five regions that all aim to improve the performance of innovation clusters around sport and vitality, that have emerged in these regions in the EU. In a new series we interview all the project partners about their goals, learnings and efforts to put sports and vitality on the map. In the first episode we talk with Marc van der Zande and René Wijlens of Cluster Sports & Technology from the Brainport region in the Netherlands.

Why did you decide to join the Inno4Sports project? 

“The Cluster Sports & Technology is the initiator of this project. In Europe there are lots of innovation initiatives around sports and vitality. We know of projects where individual cities work together, share their local ambitions and think about the future role sports can play for society. But on an EU level a stronger impact could be achieved if regions would step up and make innovation for sports and vitality part of their regional strategy. That’s why we started Inno4Sports in 2018. We wanted to create a project where different regions in Europe could come together and learn from each other in order to better embed sports in regional policies. Because we participate in other European programs and networks, we knew which other regions in Europe could be interested in joining the project. Thanks to our network the regions in Spain, Hungary, Finland and Poland got on board.”

How do you put sports on the map in the south of Netherlands? 

“We closely work together with regional authorities in the South of Netherlands. In the province Noord Brabant and several regional cities, sports is to some degree already embedded in regional and local policies. As Cluster Sports & Technology we’re part of the team that’s shaping and strengthening the innovation and impact of sports&vitality in the South of Netherlands.” 

“To stimulate people to a more active and healthy life we started several projects such as the ‘The Vitality Living Lab-project’. Together with authorities, businesses, universities and knowledge institutions we move together for innovation for sports & vitality. Our goal is to create a globally appealing ecosystem for innovation, start-ups and business development in South Netherlands in the domain of sports and vitality.” 

What did you learn so far in the Inno4Sports project? 

“Thanks to Inno4Sports we gathered knowledge from clusters in other countries. By visiting the other regions, we got inspired as well. For example, after the study tour in Valencia we decided to expand the Vitality Living Lab Project. Before we were focused our innovation actions on stimulating activity of people in the public space. After the trip to Valencia we decided to also focus on innovation in the working environment. In Valencia we also learned how we could get the care system more involved in the Vitality Living Lab project. Doctors or physical therapists play a crucial role there in supporting people in a healthy and active lifestyle.”  

How can Inno4Sports help in reaching your goals? 

“This project gives us the opportunity to learn from others. During the study trours you learn about good practices and discuss how you could implement those in your own region. When something works very well in a region, it’s sometimes easier to convince others to start something similar in your own region. The good practices help getting things done, because the concept has proved to work.” 

“Besides this, the Inno4Sports project also brings us in touch with a lot of people and business. We can expand our network and work together with foreign parties.” 

What is the ultimate goal for Cluster Sports & Technology? 

“We would like to start an Innovation Hub for Sports & Vitality to bring innovations and innovators related to sports and vitality together. Like we said earlier, the goal is to create a globally appealing ecosystem for innovation, start-ups and business development in our region in the domain of sports and vitality. Once we accomplish this, we can even better demonstrate the role sports can play for society.” 

Read the interviews with the other partners: