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NimiWater Smart Connect
YhteyshenkilöBailey Lähdesmäki
KuvausWater Smart Connect will take its starting point in seven focus regions; Sjælland (DK), Pohjois-Savo (FI), Centre-
Val de Loire (FR), Occitanie (FR), Friesland (NL), Aragon (SP) and Catalonia (SP). These regions were selected for
the consortia based on valuable involvement in Water Smart Territories (WST), their capacities and variety of the
regional ecosystems (for example, Water-Food-Energy nexus), connections with industry actors, innovation
maturity, the broad variety of water related challenges they cover (due to different climatic conditions) and their
smart specialisation strategies (S3). Together with the partners, the project will assess the capabilities, potentials
and priorities in their innovation ecosystems to identify opportunities for transformative activities (TA) in relation to
their S3 smart specialisation strategies.

The model has three core objectives:
1. Ensure a focus on TAs and create according action plans;
2. Provide a process to implement Synergy Diamond combined with cluster initiatives;
3. Enable cross-regional cooperation.
KehittämistarveToday’s economic situation across Europe depends on the recovery of our small and medium enterprises which
represent 95% of all European businesses and account for more than half of Europe’s GDP. SMEs bring innovative
solutions to tackle challenges such as climate change, resource efficiency, and social cohesion and spread innovation
throughout Europe’s regions. They are therefore central to the EU’s triple transition to a sustainable and digital
economy, securing Europe’s competitiveness and prosperity, industrial ecosystems, economic and technological
sovereignty, and resilience to external shocks. After the decline of the EU economy in the COVID-19 context, the
recovery is slow and further support to SMEs needs to be implemented, so they can play their central role in the
revival of the economy and become engaged in the necessary transition pathways.

An essential aspect of tackling climate change is ensuring resource efficiency and driving innovation so that the EU
does not overexploit its essential natural resources. Water has thus been identified as a core structural risk for all of
society. Water scarcity and droughts have become increasingly frequent and widespread within the EU. Indeed in
some regions, the severity and frequency of droughts has led to issues around water scarcity, while overexploitation
of available clean water resources has exacerbated the consequences of droughts. Further deterioration of the water
resources in Europe is expected to worsen over the coming years. Water scarcity is already a serious problem in 11%
of EU territories and it is predicted that those facing water scarcity problems will grow to 30% by 2030. In 2019 38%
of the EU population was affected by issues brought about by water scarcity with droughts costing the region €2 to
9 Billion.
ToimenpiteetThis project will take a threefold approach to “unpick” the relevant regional S3 regional strategies via cross-regional
innovation within the water-smart focus area, by:
1. Identifying Transformative Activities through prioritisation of key water-smart innovation areas;
2. Developing Cross Regional Actions by creating key actions to drive a water-smart society;
3. Setting-up the long-term joint actions plan by bringing together the cross-regional actions and driving
matchmaking activities in preparation for implementation.
Based on the above 3-step approach, the specific objectives (SO) of the project are the following:

SO1: Map and analyse regional capacities and potentials for a Water-Smart Society. This will be done by:
a. Analysing regional innovation agendas, strategies, plans and activities utilising input from other initiatives
(for example, Water Smart Territories) (WP2);
b. Identifying and convening key ecosystem stakeholders within the sectors and regions (WP2);
c. Mapping sector specific challenges and potentials for regional competitive advantage and develop 1 SWOT
analysis per focus region (WP2);
d. Identifying complementarities and gaps across regions (WP2);

SO2: Identify at least 7 TAs (at least one per region) with potential to drive water-smart transformation across EU
ecosystems by:
a. Convening ecosystem stakeholders within the sectors to identify technical, market and industrial niches with
promising growth potential (WP3);
b. Identifying TAs which can be developed through cross-regional and cross-sectoral strategy/partnership
building (WP3);

SO3: Develop one joint cross-regional actions plan within identified water-smart areas by:
a. Identifying financing- and ecosystem support mechanisms (WP3);
b. Identifying regional and cross regional actions for co-creation, co-planning and co-investments with a focus
on PPI, matchmaking, R&D projects and development of critical skills (WP4);
c. Developing recommendations for implementation and monitoring WP4);

SO4: Prepare the ground for implementation of the joint actions plan for cross sectoral and cross regional
collaboration by:
a. Disseminating the actions plan, success criteria and parameters for monitoring to key stakeholders in the
focus regions and across the EU (WP5),
b. Adapt an existing platform which can (WP5):
I. Connect innovators with public and private buyers;
II. Provide innovators with visibility to potential investors and partners;
III. Connect startups and SMEs with universities and RTOs;
IV. Targeting gender and diversity equality within the platform

SO5: Test and validate the S3-Innovation Model methodology for development of Transformational Actions
to develop concrete actions for a Water-Smart Society. This will be done by:
a. Incorporating a proven methodology as the backbone of the work package tasks (WP1);
b. Evaluating and adjusting the methodology throughout the project duration (WP1);
c. Disseminate the methodological learnings to enable other consortia/projects to apply it in other
regions and contexts (WP5);
TuloksetThe project’s primary focus will be to set in motion a process whereby a Water-Smart Society can be realised through recognising the true value of water, and utilising water as an enabler to address cross-sectoral challenges. The Water-Smart Society aims to manage all available water sources in such a way that water scarcity and pollution of water resources are avoided, water and resource loops are closed, the water system is resilient against the impact of climate change and involves all relevant stakeholders in its governance. Building on the work of Water Smart Territories (WST), the project will mobilise a group of actors targeting related technical, market or industrial areas and identifying the potential to significantly transform existing industries, value chains and ecosystems.

Identifying and planning TAs across European innovation ecosystems enables regions to develop and accelerate
value chains and jobs in innovative new fields with high growth potential. To this end, the consortium will apply a
systematic innovation model and convene quadruple helix stakeholders in order to develop a joint actions plan to
address the challenges and potential drivers for achieving the strategies of the regions. To drive structural
transformation, the project will focus specifically on actions towards developing and accelerating innovation within
the water-smart focus area. The partners will identify and plan TAs by opening the dialogue, preparing the ground,
and facilitating the agreement on transformative action plans across different regions in the EU. The partners will
leverage the International Cleantech Network (ICN) and WST among others to ensure engagement of other regions
across Europe. ICN is a partnership of 20 cleantech clusters, with 13 from the EU, that have an extensive history of
collaboration and a member base that includes regions, public authorities, utilities, SMEs, research institutes and
citizen representation organisations.
RahoittajaHorizon Europe