The kick-off meeting, held on October 22nd 2019 in Bari (Italy), launched the Interreg Europe financed project “Key tools to assess and improve soft innovation policies – PASSPARTOOL”. The overall objective of the project is to improve the capability of public policymakers to develop efficient policies supporting non-formal, soft and open innovation processes, with a focus on non-R&D -driven and social innovation.

Eight partners from seven countries participate in the project, with the Regional Agency for Technology and Innovation of Puglia as the lead partner. Other territories involved are Lithuania (LT), Extremadura (ES), Northern Netherlands (NL), Donegal County (ER), Rzeszow (PL), North Karelia (FI).

The partnership will particularly focus on devising tools and methods for the assessment and monitoring of soft innovation processes and impacts.

The meeting was opened with an introductive session, after which the gathered partner representatives directly engaged in first discussions on how to design a robust joint learning process. Guided by Prof Thijs Broekhuizen (University of Groningen) and lead partner representatives, the group implemented a participatory approach to create a common level of understanding for the first of the project's main themes of analysis: non-R&D-driven innovation. An important follow-up of the meeting will be the development of a methodological framework for the clear understanding of this and the other three project themes (SMEs innovation, Social Innovation, Cultural Innovation and Creativity).

On Oct 23rd, project partners received a better understanding of the Apulian territorial context through hands-on case studies and practical discussions with representatives of the regional government who presented regional policies that support non-formal, soft and open innovation dynamics.

Case studies included a visit to the interactive museum “Perle di Memoria” in Locorotondo, a cultural innovation project of research, participative construction and restitution of historical memory, to “G.Lan – Laboratori urbani” in Lococotondo, an urban aggregation centre dedicated to the involvement of young people from the local community in social innovation activities, as well as to “InresLab” in Monopoli, whose representatives illustrated a system of project implementation based on the participation of the local community. The founders of “Ultimi Fuochi Teatro”, a young theatre company with innovative performance offers operating in the southern part of Apulia, shared their story as young professionals directly involved in managing territorial innovative actions with the support of regional policies.

Representatives from the Apulian regional government's “Youth Policy and Social Innovation Department”, as well as from the “Education and University Department”, presented three regional policies targeted to young people with innovative ideas, which aim to support education, skill development, entrepreneurship and vocational training as well as the requalification of public spaces. Representatives from the regional government's “Innovation and Research Department” presented a policy instrument focused around the concept of living labs and the active involvement of the citizenship in development processes.

The meeting was closed after two intense working days full of active discussions and hands-on experiences, and laid the grounds for a fruitful and successful cooperation in the years to come. Through a methodological process of experience sharing and joint learning, the partnership will add additional value to its many joint interests and existing synergies and define good practices and new tools for understanding and measuring soft innovation processes which so often enrich the entrepreneurial and social contexts of a territory and still cannot be adequately documented.