On February 11 2021, the P-IRIS projects Final Conference on Policies to improve rural areas' innovation systems by professionalising network activities and use of innovation tools took place online. The Conference, hosted by the Lead Partner of P-IRIS project Vestland County Municipality was a final thematic and publicity project event that served as a platform for higher-level consultation forum for experts, EU level actors, policy-makers and to enrich project outcome. The Conference addressed the achievements and findings from partners’ 4-year long work.

Welcome speech on behalf of the host, Jan Heggeheim, Vestland County Municipality was followed by a presentation on the core of the P-IRIS done by Lars Hustveit from Vestland County Municipality. The conference gave the opportunity for an open discussion on how experience gained by partners in implementing P-IRIS project can be useful to Managing Authorities in partner regions to improve innovation systems in rural areas.

One of the topics that were quite important in the P-IRIS project was co-working spaces as it was the focus for 3 of the 6 partner regions. Danijel Bertović, from P-IRIS project partner PINS (Croatia), presented the main discoveries on rural co-working spaces from Croatia, Finland and Slovenia. The main finding about rural co-working spaces is that they are different from urban ones. Rural co-working spaces are mainly used for networking, socializing and education of entrepreneurs, less for traditional distant work to avoid commuting. Rural co-working spaces are also often used as multifunctional spaces combined with other activities such as caffee, drop off point, on-line market place, pop-up store… whereas urban co-working spaces are used predominantly as office spaces.

The other important topic of the project was the creation of the Tool-box for innovative networks. Ingjerd Skogseid, Vestland County Municipality presented Innotool. The purpose of Innotool is to give access to a set of tools useful in developing and maintaining innovative networks. Innotool has a practical approach. The tools consist of short introductions to the current topic and a set of exercises. You will also find cases along the way, providing useful context and inspiration. The target group for the toolbox is anyone working to achieve cost-effective, commercially oriented collaborations for innovation and restructuring of industries.

After the short break, the remainder of the conference was dedicated to P-IRIS position paper. Lars Hustveit presented the position paper and recommendations as 7 key messages. This was followed by a round table with representatives of Managing Authorities from 6 partner regions moderated by Simona Muratori from P-IRIS project partner Poliedra (Italy). Representatives of Managing Authorities from 6 partner regions spoke about which of the 7 key messages from the P-IRIS Position paper were especially important for their region. The P-IRIS message to create co-working spaces got a lot of attention. Which did not come as a surprise since the global pandemic brought a shift in perspective on remote working. Several of the MAs pointed at the importance of targeting the digital skills of young people as an asset for the future. The MAs of Lombardy and Vestland pointed at skills in managing innovation networks as important.

The partnership is excited that the representatives of the MAs promised to follow up on our 7 messages in their respective regions.

Rounding up the conference was Etienne Verhelle, Policy Officer, Interreg Europe Secretariat who presented the new Interreg Europe call. He highlighted that two pilot actions (Croatia and Slovenia) focusing on co-working spaces and skills development are the strength of P-IRIS project as well as an active contribution at the programme level. Jan Heggeheim with closing remarks, whishing everyone to keep the good relations, keep working together and striving for changing policies.

Read the 7 key messages. At the end of the document, you will also find a summary of P-IRIS’ good practices.

Final Conference materials

Video of the Final Conference