Survived another edition of the Open Days, the annual must-be-part-of-it carnival of the regional policy community in Brussels, where hordes of regional delegates descend on Brussels in search of data, information, knowledge and wisdom and for a bit of socialising with the likeminded. While EU funding is the driver, the ultimate gain is knowledge. „We are in the knowledge not the funding business“, I concluded speaking at O6C13 (“Capitalization and knowledge management for effective European territorial co-operation”), a workshop co-organised with John Walsh of the innovation unit of DG Regio.

I was alluding to my impression that programme managers in the TC programmes often seem to be more preoccupied with correct financial performance of projects than the ultimate quality and the knowledge produced, so a stronger focus on managing the knowledge flows all along the programme/project cycle would do some good. We looked at some good practice and promising initiatives, such as the “Keep” database of INTERACT and the thematic poles of URBACT and I presented shortly what the challenges are for European networks such as ERRIN in terms of better documenting and making available all the formal and tacit knowledge exchanged.

And what better place to speak about the need for better management of our knowledge flows than the seemingly chaotic Open Days with their overkill of competing events. To me the Open Days always had a paralyzing effect. There is so much stuff going on at the same time that I would have had to cut myself in pieces to follow all I am interested. So this is really about setting priorities. It helps to be a speaker because then you don’t have to register for the events and can engage in seminar hopping.

Innovation was written all over the event and a lot of workshops addressed the topic in on way or the other. I have to admit that I used to be a bit critical in the past of the quality of some of the events I had been visiting at the Open Days and of the overall organisation. But in its 7th year I get the feeling that this event has really matured into a great show and, what’s more, a good mix of quantity and quality of events, while there is still room for improvement, such as allocating more time for discussion and less for presentations. I think our workshop was a good practice in that respect with John’s excellent moderation skills limiting us speakers to their allocated time and drawing the audience in for debate.

While my ERRIN members were busy with their regional delegations and their own Open Days events as part of the regional consortia they had joined, we’ve tried a new concept as ERRIN this year and put together an interactive exhibition of good practices in the registration tent, on invitation from Inforegio, DG Regio’s information service. Under the motto “Creativity, design and play as drivers for innovation in ERRIN regions”, we showcased a hands-free game that worked by sheer willpower, fruit of an Open Innovation scheme with students at Tampere University, a brainstorming tool, developed by Flanders D.C (District of Creativy) and the award-winning game Medical Investors by Eindhoven/Brainport.

While our team was very enthusiastic and we put on a good show, we felt, we could have gotten more out of this. For once, the tent, the one they put up at the Rue Archimede side of the Berlaymont, did not benefit from a strategic location, so did not receive a lot of visitor flows. And DG Regio, as well as ourselves, could have put more effort in marketing the exhibition to the Open Days visitors. For next year, if they are doing it again, it would also be nice to have Internet connection, to make it easier to run online applications. Apart from that, good initiative, which we hope will be continued in the future.

P.S. Looking forward to next week’s “European Innovation Summit”, to take place in the European Parliament, where I have the honour of moderating a workshop on “Location Matters”. Roland Strauss and his team at Knowledge4Innovation did a great job in organising this: 120 speakers and 800 people signed up. And Commission President Barroso is coming along as well. Chapeau!

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