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ESPON seminar in Helsinki "State of the European Territory: Digital Innovation paving the way for Territorial Cohesion"


“We need all of you -the ESPON Community- to promote the work we did together in ESPON and be proud of it. If you are a stakeholder or a researcher, a consultant or an ECP you have contributed to creating this knowledge database that gives shape to a new way of developing strategies a way that is called place-based approach, but I would say it is actually a people-based approach”.

This quote of Ilona Raugze, the director of ESPON EGTC summarizes the message of the ESPON seminar in Helsinki 27-28 of November, that was held in cooperation with the Finnish Presidency of the EU.

According to Ms Marja-Riitta Pihlmanin, the Director-General of the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment “The ESPON 2020 Cooperation Programme is an excellent starting point when designing a new programme”. “A lot of effort has been put into producing timely and policy-relevant territorial evidence,” she said in her welcoming speech.

And indeed, ESPON evidence comes at a perfect timing. National and local authorities are looking for input that will help them better assess their needs and benchmark them against European pioneers. They are also looking for tools and hands-on support for this exercise.

The programme of the Seminar was based on the new publication of ESPON “The State of the European Territory”- a comprehensive synthesis of the key policy messages from ESPON research that was presented by Terry Martin, DW anchorman. The State of the European Territory provides insights from the recent ESPON projects in five chapters matching the five Policy Objectives of the 2018 proposal for a Common Provision Regulation.

This report summarizes ESPON’s contribution to support programming of the post-2020 period. As Ms Raugze noted in her speech, “we are sitting on gold, a mountain of information that could benefit almost any local or regional authority in Europe. We want to share this gold and enrich the opportunities of local, regional and national policymakers to make evidence-based decisions for the future”.

Τhe seminar will also focus on Digital Innovation in urban areas – a core theme of the Finnish Presidency. EURACTIV journalist Samuel Stolton presented the new ESPON Policy Brief “Digital Innovation in Urban Environments”. This ESPON policy brief aims to support cities to work together with their citizens and their partners to co-design strategies to transform into platforms of open innovation. Samuel noted that the Finnish Presidency aims at going ‘beyond the smart city’, changing the perspective from a technology-dominated approach towards a human-centric and holistic approach to the digital city.

We would like to put the focus on cities and citizens – as actors for the digital shift: In their new role, citizens can be seen as sources of urban data, as active subjects of civic-led governance and co-creators of innovations”, as Ms Pihlman said before.

The presentation of the two publications was followed by a plenary debate with the Vice President of the Committee of the Regions, Mr Markku Markkula, former MEP, Lambert van Nistelrooij, Ilona Raugze and Juhana Rautiainen, Senior Specialist from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. Panellists complimented the findings of the presented reports and they focused on two needs: To elaborate further on these findings and to take onboard these messages and apply a territorial approach in policymaking in Europe.

The content of the State of the European Territory Report was further analyzed during the working groups of the afternoon, each one dedicated to one of the report’s chapters: Smarter Europe, Greener Europe, More Connected Europe, More Social Europe.

This time ESPON seminar introduced a highly interactive approach for its sessions. A network session on ongoing and future ESPON activities allowed participants to follow different workshops focusing on a number of topics from open data to macroregions and from ageing population to land use and brownfield regeneration.

The second day four parallel sessions linked ESPON to the Urban Agenda Partnerships on Digital transition, Energy transition, Circular economy and Housing. 

You can see, download even share your photos from the Seminar in our Google Photo Album. All the videos from the event -also cropped in short versions for each speaker- are available on our youtube channel. You can also see how participants commented and interacted on Twitter and Facebook during and after the event. 

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Special Service for Strategy, Planning and Evaluation

Last modification date: 19/12/2019