University Collaboration in Regional Development Spaces
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unicreds-final-report-webThe final report from the UNICREDS project has been published today. The report is the culmination of three years of work by the fifteen partner regions with the project.

Entitled 'University Partnerships for Prosperity: How Higher Education Can Help Build Regional Knowledge Based Economies in Europe', the report summarises the results from each of the key topics considered by UNICREDS partners, from establishing the partnerships necessary to get things started, the nurture of an innovative business culture and ensuring that economic benefits are embedded in the community, through to the development of sustainable R&D activities that support regional needs.

The report highlights a number of illustrative case studies from the partner regions, showing how the good ideas actually work in practice. From the project's findings, the partners have been able to make recommendations for future policy that will help regions to develop strategies for triple helix (university-government-industry) collaboration that will strengthen and sustain regional knowledge economies.

Download the report

Further details about the good practices in the report and others identified during the course of the project are available here.

The UNICREDS project partners warmly invite you to join us for a reception on Wednesday 10th October from 5.30 – 7.00pm at the South West European Partnership Office in Brussels, after the EU Open Days workshops. The reception will be an exciting opportunity to hear about and discuss the findings from UNICREDS.

  • Peripheral regions with underperforming economies need cooperation between all their sectors to enable them to be competitive
  • How can triple helix partnerships foster a culture of innovation that reaches across organisational boundaries?
  • What role do universities play in regional development?


The report on the work of the UNICREDS partners on the theme of "Achieving Excellence - building research and innovation capacity within a region to secure long-term sustainability" has been published. Turning a lagging, disadvantaged or peripheral region into a nationally or internationally well-known centre of excellence is a long-term process, and the report pays particular attention to the processes and policy measures through which excellence can be achieved, through the development of regional research and innovation capacity and triple helix collaboration.

Download the report and the appendix containing research data and good practices from parter regions.

The presentations given at the UNICREDS conference Achieving Excellence on 12 June 2012 in Seinäjoki are now available. Please follow the links below to download a pdf copy of each presentation.

WP5 Conference: Achieving Excellence

Tuesday 12th June 2012, Seinäjoki, Finland
Venue: Frami B – Seinäjoki Center for Technology and Innovation, Kampusranta 9 C, Seinäjoki

Chair Dr. Juha Alarinta, Research Director UCS

Welcome to Seinäjoki, one of the most appealing cities in Finland
How do we manage to accomplish growth?
Dr. Jorma Rasinmäki, Mayor of Seinäjoki

Welcome to WP 5 Conference
Nicolas Wallet, UNICREDS Project manager

Research & Innovation and Structural Funds: Strategies for Smart Specialisation
Mr Marc Botman, Head of Unit, European Commission, Directorate General for Regional Policy

Comments from the Region: Regional Competitiveness and South Ostrobothnia
Dr. Asko Peltola, Regional Mayor, Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia

Achieving Excellence through regional leadership
Professor Markku Sotarauta, Dean, University of Tampere School of Management

The role of Enterprises
Mr Pertti Kinnunen, Managing Director, South Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce

The role of Technology Centres
Mr Hannu Kantonen, Managing Director, Frami Ltd

The role of the university
Professor Sami Kurki, Director, University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute

Closing remarks
Dr Juha Alarinta, Research Director, UCS

WP5 Case Study: Regional competitiveness and development network
Chair: Ms Satu Alapiha, Frami Ltd


Frami Ltd, Seinäjoki

Representatives from seven European regions met in Finland last week for the final working conference of the UNICREDS (University Collaboration in Regional Development Spaces) project. The findings from this conference, and the rest of the three year programme, will be presented at a closing event in Cornwall, UK, in October 2012.

Taking place in the city of Seinäjoki in Finland on Tuesday 12 June, the conference focussed on how to achieve excellence in regional research and innovation, in order to drive long-term economic growth. As well as presentations from the various Finnish hosts regarding their experience, there was also a keynote speech from Marc Botman, Head of Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Regional Policy, addressing the issue of ‘smart specialisation’.

Marc Botman explains: "Smart specialisation means identifying the unique characteristics and assets of each country and region, highlighting each region’s competitive advantages, and rallying regional stakeholders and resources around an excellence-driven vision of their future. These strategies are so important that they are a pre-condition for ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) funding for the period 2014-2020.” 

Nicolas Wallet, Project Manager for UNICREDS, concludes: “This is our final working conference for the project. Each of the events has looked at a different element under the overarching theme of developing high value, knowledge-based economies in peripheral regions, through universities, business and the public sector working together. The findings and case studies presented at the event will feed into ‘best practice’ recommendations that will be submitted to the European Commission later this year, with the aim of helping other regions facing similar issues.” 

The UNICREDS project aims to develop a transferable model for future education and regional development programmes that can be adopted by the European Commission. The €2million project is majority funded by the EU in addition to co- financing from each of the 15 European partners and made possible by the INTERREG IVC programme. All the regions involved with UNICREDS share similar characteristics relative to the rest of their countries, such as distance from major cities, population demographics, and reliance on declining traditional industries.

UNICREDS papersThe report from the work undertaken by UNICREDS partners on the theme of 'Nurturing an Innovative Business Culture and Reaching Isolated Groups' has been published today. The report, written by partners at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland, UK draws on the experiences of the project partners from all seven UNICREDS regions in the ways that universities and the public sector are working with businesses and communities.

Key findings

It has been found that communities from across the UNICREDS partner regions agreed that enhanced communication was the key to nurturing an innovative business culture and reaching isolated groups. Specifically, future initiatives should make a much greater effort to:

  • Understand the needs of local businesses and communities in isolated areas;
  • Ensure that two-way communication becomes the key tool for developing innovation systems;
  • Ensure that isolated businesses and communities are made fully aware of the opportunities and benefits of;
    • Innovative practices;
    • Collaboration;
    • Cooperation;
    • Funding for collaborative innovation projects.

From this work a new “connected quadruple helix “model is proposed to better describe innovation in remote and rural regions.

Download the full report here.

UNICREDS took its experience and expertise to the Czech Republic last week, where the seven partner regions met to discuss how best to nurture an innovative business culture.

The conference took place at České Budějovice in the Czech Republic on Tuesday 17 January 2012, hosted by the University of South Bohemia and run by the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. As well as looking at how education establishments can help nurture an innovative business culture, delegates also debated how to reach isolated groups.

A focal point of the event were the keynote speeches from Christian Saublens, Executive Manager of EURADA (European Association of Development Agencies), and Frank Rennie, Professor of Sustainable Development and Head of Research and Post-Graduate Development at Lews Castle College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Read the full press release here.


The third report from the UNICREDS project was published today. The report explores the benefits of collaborative universities within the local economy and communities and the processes by which those benefits are embedded. Written by UNICREDS partners at the Combined Universities in Cornwall, the report draws on the work of the project partners in all seven UNICREDS regions, bringing a wealth of experience and aspiration which underpins the research findings.

The dominant view in development theory and policy is that knowledge is a key condition of economic growth and wealth creation. In recent years, governments have stimulated knowledge-based economic development through the commitment of public funds, economic policies and a wide variety of other supporting measures. Higher Education Institutions are given an important and mostly new role: to be a direct institutional partner – thus going beyond a response of individual academics to the challenges and opportunities in their respective field - in achieving better balanced development and growth in the local, regional and national economy.

As part of the work leading to this report, a large number of economic and community benefits have been identified, that can be attributed to virtually every Higher Education Institution in the Western world regardless of their specific location, circumstances, scope and mission. These give a further picture of the wide range of benefits that investing in higher education brings to regional development. The report then focuses in on individual UNICREDS regions to see what What specific economic and community needs are addressed in these different regions and the benefits that higher education brings for regional development. Finally, best practice examples and policy recommendations are given.

Download the report

The fourth issue of the UNICREDS newsletter has been released. Download a pdf copy from the website and sign up to our mailing list in the grey box to the right to receive future newsletters direct to your email in-box.

SettingSailsThe theme of the conference was Baltic Sea Region Setting Sails for co-creative multilevel governance. The conference was organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture and took place in Turku, Finland. Nearly 200 guests met to discuss and hear topical themes of multilevel governance and EU 2020 Strategy. The conference took place on a unique site: the culture centre in Logomo, a recently renovated engine shed.

The conference utilized the open space working method. UNICREDS hosted one pre-arranged session with another Finnish project, under the combined name "Distinctive mark of success – Triple Helix". Representatives of the University Consortium of Seinäjoki and Frami Ltd planned the programme and material for the session. Participants had a free schedule to attend sessions and even to arrange a new session. The ultimate aim was to produce action plans on selected topics.

Among the conclusions drawn during the conference were that for co-creative multilevel governance we need social capital: trust between people, to organizations and between organizations, informal interactions, feeling of belonging/sense of togetherness. We need head, heart and feet for actual cooperation. Also new culture for cooperation is important. It includes adequate, but simple and flexible structures and also leadership.

One practical experience was encouraging. In open session conferences people may wander between different sessions. Visual roll-ups help to stop participants to hear the key message, also if they arrive with different schedules.


Professor Juha Alarinta at the Baltic Sea Region Setting Sails conference

The results from our work on geographic and community ‘fit’ and partnership development were published in June. As the UNICREDS model begins to take shape it is clear that the themes chosen by the project are closely interlinked and will bear updating as the project progresses. Early results show that the ways that universities operate are changing in response to the needs of students and to regional economic drivers.

Innovative partnerships between multiple universities and further education institutions, local government and industry are building a new type of university, based on a common drive to build a competitive knowledge economy. These universities offer flexible, accessible higher education for students, delivered through a blend of class-based and distance learning, supported by local learning centres where students can work alongside their peers – overcoming many of the geographical and social boundaries to education.

Partnership with regional government can help to reduce rural depopulation and regenerate local businesses through the provision of skilled graduates to support essential regional requirements in areas like healthcare and engineering. Courses developed in partnership with local businesses help to ensure employable graduates with the skills that businesses need and relevant continuing professional development for existing staff.

The economic benefits from the vital connection between university research and innovative businesses can be maximised through smart specialisation into research areas that build on the region’s existing assets, supported by strategic policy decisions by local government. These university-industry-government collaborations often grow out of existing partnerships within a region, but the initiative can be with the universities, the regional government or with businesses to start a partnership even in a region where there is currently no university presence.

These are just a taster of some of the work covered so far. The complete reports and good practices identified during Work Packages 1 and 2 are available for download on the project website at

The next UNICREDS conference will look at the theme of nurturing an innovative business culture and reaching isolated groups. Hosted by the South Bohemian Regional Authority and the University of South Bohemia, the conference will take place in České Budějovice, Czech Republic on Tuesday 17 January. Read more and register at

České Budějovice, Czech Republic

CUCreceptionRepresentatives of the Combined Universities in Cornwall and the University of the Highlands and Islands recently visited Brussels to host an event at the EU Open Days.  Entitled “Universities and Smart Specialisation: Driving Growth in Lagging Regions”, the CUC Brussels Reception on 11 October was attended by around 50 guests including MEPS, European Commission officials, education and regional stakeholders and presented the Cornish and Scottish experience of using Higher Education to drive the knowledge economy.  Oversubscribed and full to capacity, the evening reception included a contribution from former EU Commissioner Danuta Hubner MEP and a lively debate about how universities can contribute to regional growth and what other European regions can learn from Cornwall and Scotland’s experience. Representatives from the University of Exeter, Plymouth University, the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health and the CUC Partnership Office were joined by colleagues from the University of the Highlands and Islands in their visit to the Brussels Open Days to host the CUC Reception and while in Brussels took the opportunity to hold meetings to discuss and better understand how Cornwall’s Higher Education institutions can make a contribution to future EU policy and programmes.

Picture: Chris Pomfret (Chair of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP), Dr Sue Brownlow (Director of CUC) and reception speakers Marion Dewar  (Cabinet Member of EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation) and Mikel Landabaso (Head of Unit for Thematic coordination and innovation, DG Regional Policy)

The Setting Sails conference is now taking place in Finland (5 - 6 October), bringing together officials of European, national, regional and local administrations, experts from universities and research centres, and representatives of the private and third sectors, for a visionary look towards an innovative and smart growth driven Europe 2020.

During the first day of the conference yesterday, UNICREDS hosted the workshop “Distinctive marks of success - Triple helix”, along with the University Consortium of Seinäjoki and Best Practises in the Baltic Sea area project, Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo.

As a result of the two day collaboration over the course of the conference, the participants will create new ways to implement multilevel governance in the context of EU 2020 and the Baltic Sea Region Strategy.


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