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Unlocking local potential: the role of communities in EU innovation strategies

It is a fact, innovation is the driving force behind progress, propelling societies, industries, and economies into the future. Yet, innovation is not a solitary endeavour; it thrives within a dynamic and intricate web of collaboration known as the innovation ecosystem. In this article, I explore the key players within this ecosystem and examine how communities collaborate with them to foster groundbreaking ideas, nurture startups, and transform concepts into tangible innovations.

Who are usually considered the architects of innovation?

Entrepreneurs and innovators are considered the heart of the innovation ecosystem are the visionary individuals who conceive novel ideas and solutions. These pioneers challenge the status quo and take calculated risks to bring their visions to life. They often launch their ideas through startups, which serve as the incubators of innovation. These nimble, agile enterprises provide the fertile ground where creative concepts can grow into market-ready products or services. Incubators and accelerators further support these early-stage ventures by offering mentorship, resources, and funding. The Enablers of Innovation

Then, as innovation requires financial support, investors, including venture capitalists, play a pivotal role in providing the necessary capital. They identify promising ventures and inject funds to help them scale and reach a wider audience. Moreover Research and Development (R&D) Institutions like Universities, research centres, and corporate R&D departments are the engines of discovery and innovation. They conduct groundbreaking research, develop cutting-edge technologies, and often serve as the birthplaces of revolutionary ideas.

Who nurtures the innovation?

Government and Regulatory Bodies wield substantial influence in shaping the innovation landscape. Through policies, funding initiatives, and regulations, they can either foster or hinder innovation. Government-backed grants, tax incentives, and infrastructure development projects are common ways they support innovation.

Who creates connections among innovations?

The collaboration platforms. Collaboration is the lifeblood of innovation, and various platforms facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas and expertise. These platforms can be physical spaces like innovation hubs or virtual communities, connecting innovators and entrepreneurs, fostering partnerships, and sharing knowledge.

And… What about communities? An important question in the panorama of European growth, however, concerns the role of local communities as propellers and accelerators of innovation: it is also from them that Europe expects the initiative in the request for declination of political priorities into programmes and actions that are able to make effective that support to the Member States to which each of them contributes, in various measures. Expressed needs are the guide for policies and the market, but also latent needs, and this is an issue that touches local communities, which are sometimes poorly able to identify needs and systematise to demand answers, and not very aware of their own weight in the allocation of resources. But they also often feel very distant from government bodies to deal with even minimally structured private realities already oriented to achieve objectives also for the common benefit but through a structured process.

The Innovation Dance

Collaboration within the innovation ecosystem takes various forms and communities can indeed be change gamers in these value building systems.

Knowledge Sharing

Innovators and R&D institutions often share research findings and insights with startups and entrepreneurs, enabling them to build upon existing knowledge. Communities possess the most interesting insight for any type of organisation, be it public or private: the interest of citizens and their state of maturity with respect to specific needs and awareness. As well as the levers that increase engagement. The community then, in its components, is a source of knowledge of the scenario.


Investors provide the capital needed for start-ups to develop their innovations. This financial support is often contingent on the potential for growth and market disruption. But does every investment depend on a demand? Does the world need this? Can this thing become a need and integrate with the way of life of people and communities? And again, will it have a massive impact on society or will it remain an idea with a good execution plan?

Mentorship and guidance

Established entrepreneurs and experienced professionals often mentor start-ups, offering valuable advice and guidance based on their own journey. But let’s not forget that every organization lives in a context that hosts it: engaging the local community literally reduces the gap between a good Value Proposition - or a viable product - and the certainty of employing resources sustainably in an innovation that will truly make a difference.

Policy support

Government agencies create policies and regulations that encourage innovation. These may include tax incentives, research grants and support for infrastructure development. A lot has to be done to make them known and any of these opportunities can only be taken if a project is really solid on the values for which the policies are created. Grassroots innovation, user-driven innovation, and innovation within community-based settings win this game, because addressing specific challenges can reduce complexity.


Collaboration platforms, both physical and digital, bring innovators together, fostering partnerships, promoting the exchange of ideas and accelerating innovation through networking events and initiatives. Engage communities offer differentiated opportunities to take the best from the local context.

The innovation ecosystem is a thriving network of diverse players, each with a unique role to play in driving innovation forward. By collaborating effectively with the local communities, also accepting their driving role in identifying needs and ideas, these key players create an environment where groundbreaking ideas can flourish, start-ups can thrive, and innovations can transform the world into what its inhabitants, the people, want for their future.

If Konrad Adenauer stated ‘We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon’ in the perspective of European competitiveness and a vision of innovation, collaboration between different players will be the key that will guide us towards truly useful, thoughtful, sustainable and accepted innovation.