Scotland is engaging with other European regions to learn, develop, design and co-invest in pilots and projects in areas of specialism for Scotland. This includes through our membership of the Vanguard Initiative. This Initiative brings together more than 20 innovative European regions who aim to both influence EU innovation and industrial policies by sharing and presenting their own experiences to the European Commission and Parliament and, through collaboration across regions and engagement with industry, to develop projects in key priority areas that will deliver economic benefits to the participating regions and Europe as a whole.
In March 2015, Scotland hosted more than 110 senior delegates from the member regions of the Initiative, in Edinburgh, alongside key participants from across the European Commission and other Regional stakeholders. The delegates reflected on the progress that the Vanguard Initiative has made to date and to agree the actions required to consolidate and build on the early work of the Initiative.
The event was organised by our Brussels office, Scotland Europa and the Innovation Team in Glasgow. Speakers at the event included the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, and Didier Herbert, European Commission Director of Enterprise Competitiveness, Industry and Growth Policy. Both speakers highlighted the importance of looking beyond our own regions for the solutions that will deliver jobs and growth and confirm Europe’s international competitiveness.
As an active and engaged partner in the Vanguard Initiative, Scotland is involved across the full range of activities. In the project space this includes jointly leading a pilot project with the Basque Country on the development of Advanced Manufacturing for Energy Related Applications in Harsh Environments. The aim is to strengthen a sector of European manufacturing which is well positioned to dominate global markets. The combination of EU regional strengths across energy and advanced manufacturing domains within the Vanguard Initiative (and beyond) has significant potential to generate new ideas, technologies and applications. Ten other EU regions have committed to taking forward this activity and a focused mapping exercise has been completed which provides the initial basis on which to understand mutual strengths and capacity. There is a recognition that this exercise must be led by industry and an inventory of industrial capability is being built as this process develops. This will allow for the identification of matching opportunities – i.e. where ideas, approaches, expertise, infrastructure can be brought together to generate projects and investments for enhanced market development, linked to global market needs.
Engaging the EU Institutions
On policy, the Vanguard Initiative is viewed as an exemplar by several Directorate Generals in the European Commission. For example, the Vanguard Initiative was heavily referenced as an exemplar in a recent DG Regional Policy publication on Smart Specialisation and the Growth Agenda and was been asked by DG Grow to support the development of its new clusters policy which will be a key part European Industrial Policy. In this instance the Vanguard Initiative produced a position paper that informed the Commission consultation. This took the form of prepared conclusions from a Vanguard Initiative clusters policy specialist meeting (Scotland was represented by Brian McVey, Director of Strategy for Scottish Enterprise) at which the Commission were present. The key messages and conclusions from this meeting were then repeated directly on behalf of the Vanguard Initiative to a wider European audience by the Basque Minister who was speaking at the Commission conference on the same issue later in the day.