Pioneering new type of transnational project collaboration in the Baltic Sea Region

The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) has a principle of “no new funding”, but rather to ensure a strategic alignment of funding. In line with this approach, a network of Managing Authorities (MA) of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programmes in the Baltic Sea Region has been established.

During the spring of 2017, this network – known as the ERDF MA-network – initiated a pilot project called “Cleaner Growth”.  The objective was to develop transnational collaboration proposals to help regions implementing smart specialisation strategies focusing on cleantech.

The pilot project “Cleaner Growth” has jointly with PA-Innovation delivered five pioneering project collaboration proposals to the ERDF MA-network. The ERDF MA-network embraced all of the project proposals and chose to move forward with four of them:

Theme: Clean-tech collaboration to enter new markets:

  • Jointly entering new challenging markets

Theme: Clean-tech collaboration for feasibility studies, to test and verify solutions:

  • Commercializing forest-based protein
  • Municipal operator symbiosis-circular economy


Theme: Clean-tech collaboration for technology and knowledge transfer:

  • Testbeds for testing and verifying new clean tech solution

The project collaboration proposals are based on true regional demand, supported by regional innovation planners and developed by regional innovation actors from 13 different regions in the Baltic Sea macro-region. The ERDF MA-network is committed to align activities and resources from various funding sources (mainly ERDF programmes) to initiate a pioneering type of transnational collaboration. This way contribution to the shared objectives described in the smart specialisation strategies and the EUSBSR would be addressed.

The ERDF MA-network provides an alternative transnational collaboration structure as a complement to Interreg or other funding instruments, where joint concrete and “simple” activities such as targeting new markets, feasibility studies and knowledge transfer will be in focus.  At this stage, transnational activities and resources will be aligned by amending activities and budget to existing projects, or make space for transnational activities within existing project budgets. Following the good initiative, the ERDF MA-network believes that support structure for transnational collaborations (funding alignment) could be further developed in the upcoming years.

The current 4 project proposals are expected to be approved to start collaborating by 31st of October 2107.

A mindset shift – new opportunities for transnational project collaboration in the Baltic Sea Region

The ERDF MA-network is providing ongoing projects with an opportunity to consider additional transnational activities that can enhance the benefit and results of their project. However, a mindset shift among project partnerships is necessary to make full use of this opportunity. Projects need to have a macro-regional outlook to identify strategic collaboration partners to fully utilize their project and the potential within their smart specialisation strategy.

PA-Innovation’s view is that it it is essential that the regional development community across the Baltic Sea Region come together to develop transnational match-making events, to support implementation of smart specialisation strategies. This platform will be targeting regional innovation planners and potentially the regional innovation actors across the Baltic Sea Region and beyond. The events will be used to share knowledge, identify partners to design joint collaborations, implement shared objectives using the ERDF MA-network as a complement to Interreg or any other funding instrument to start project activities that are simple, tangible and concrete.

Key dates to watch out for:
On the 13th of June, the ERDF MA-network will launch their communication on how to fund the four endorsed project proposals.

Do you have ideas for new pilot themes for transnational implementation of smart specialisation strategies? Then we would love to hear from you! Just get in touch with Niclas Forsling, PA-Innovation coordinator, nicfor@norden.org