Bridging the Gap with VIADUCT | An Interreg Europe Project

From 22-23 March 2023, the consortium partners working together on the Interreg Europe project, VIADUCT, met to kick-off the project at the University of Zaragoza, Spain. 

The consortium partners travelled from Finland, Romania, France, Lithuania, Italy, Ireland, and the Netherlands to launch the mission to Valorise publicly applied research to drive technology transfer and commercialisation through the creation of spin-off companies. 

VIADUCT intends to create a collaborative network to define and implement policies and regional strategies to allow the capitalisation of research results developed by Public Universities and Research organisations to promote the creation and development of new technology-based spin-off companies in the framework of regional smart specialisation strategies.  

Spin-offs are a notable source of innovation and allow for increased knowledge transfer among Public Universities and Research Centers and their environment, mainly with the regional productive sector. They provide qualified jobs and high value-added products and services and can become a key element in a move towards a new productive model based on research and innovation. 

The project will tackle the main barriers to success: idea valorisation, entrepreneurial skills, legal framework, and access to finance, related to spin-offs creation and consolidation. 

Before getting down to the business of defining deadlines, methodology, and responsibilities in order to achieve VIADUCT’s goal in the coming 4 years, the partners were welcome to the University of Zaragoza Vice-Rector of Innovation and Technology Transfer, Gloria Cuenca Bescós, and Yolanda Sancho Serrano, Head of Universities Department, Government of Aragon. Also in attendance were local business leaders from the Aragon region. Many of whom were examples of successful spin-outs and beneficiaries of local government support.  

Interreg Europe is the only programme where the 4 European latitudes can cooperate: north, south, east, and west. It brings together a fixed number of policy-relevant partners from different regions who exchange and transfer experience to identify fresh solutions to a shared regional development issue for 4 years. 

Representatives from each of the consortium partners attended the kick-off meeting, hosted by the project leader, University of Zaragoza Spain. Viaduct partners are from 7 regions in 7 countries spread over Europe with a balance of advanced and less advanced regions. 

The project’s partners demonstrate well Interreg Europe’s inter-regional cooperation scheme due their geographical spread and diverse regional economic and social development. 

The VIADUCT partners are:  

University of Zaragoza Spain, the main research centre in Aragon, 3 campuses, supporting 3,257 researchers and 30,000 students. 

West Regional Development Agency, Romania, an NGO for public utility and innovation ecosystem facilitator. 

SATT CONECTUS Alsace, France, an official innovation provider, Technology Transfer Acceleration Company (SAAT). 

Kaunas Science and Technology Park, developing ecosystems, supporting start-ups and providing greater service value to an innovative community in Lithuania. 

Western Development Commission, Ireland, the Regional Development Agency advising the government on issues that impact on the Western Region and to promote government policy directed at improving social and economic standards. 

Municipality of Pieve di Soligo, Italy, a municipality about 60 km from Venice with a master plan for revitalization, in which the municipal administration is investing with various actions, one of which involves the recovery of unused houses to include them in a " hotel diffused " project to support tourist and economic development.  

Council of Tampere Region Finland, a regional development authority of Tampere Region. 

ASTP, based in the Netherlands, is Europe’s premier association for knowledge transfer professionals in Europe and shall be an advisory partner in this project.  

On day two of the Zaragoza visit, the Project partners had the pleasure of visiting the CEMINEM Research and Development lab and the Spin-up Business Incubator where they saw the work of the spin-off and the support injected to the by the University of Zaragoza and the regional Government of Aragon 

The visit was concluded with a tour of the ground-breaking ETOPIA Center for Art and Technology. Conceived as a global centre for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in the city, its aim to promote the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The state-of-the-art building, constructed in  2013, houses a business incubator, a residence for creators and researchers, audio-visual and technological creativity labs, classrooms, exhibition rooms, and co-working spaces available to the community. 

VIADUCT’s next face-to-face meeting will take place in June 2023 in the western Romania city of Timisoara where partners shall update each other on the development of their research on Good Practices, and on the Joint Thematic Survey. West Regional Development Agency shall be hosting this meeting.