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Story by David Townsend Jones, Adastra Cymru, Swansea

The prototype Rainova Regional Innovation Observatory is now live on this website and can be accessed via the pane at the top of this Rainova news page. Click on any flag to access the login for the Observatory, where you will need to register if you are a first-time user.

At the time of writing this article, the Rainova partners are still adding new content to the Observatory. If you look first in, say, June 2014 at the Observatory, you may think it offers only lightweight content. But then, when you next look, perhaps a few months down the line, you will get a different and more heavyweight impression. Like all observatories, this one is going to be a melting pot of new information, destined to grow and grow.

The Regional Innovation Observatory has long been one of the key elements of the Rainova project. The Rainova partners always saw a major role for a new regional observatory which had a clear focus on serving three distinct audiences who share common overlapping interests concerning innovation:

  • European SMEs, who are the key actors in regional innovation
  • VET training providers, who are the skills trainers and providers of R&D support for SMEs
  • Regional governments and agencies, who not only set the innovation agenda for innovation in the regions but also provide strategic support frameworks

The Rainova Regional Innovation Observatory has been designed to provide an observatory service specifically tailored to the environment of these three closely linked communities. It offers a distinctive specialised service, addressing regional needs not well served by existing observatories, which typically have much broader remits.

In adopting a fully devolved solution, Rainova has chosen a radical – one might even say revolutionary – approach to developing a regional observatory service. This approach would seem to fit perfectly with the new spirit of European regionalism. The Rainova Regional Innovation Observatory is not a single centralised observatory but a constellation of regional observatories from every part of Europe. Each one of these regional observatories shares one common design and methodology, and they all sit together in one single and freely available web space.

Although the bulk of the published content is specific to individual regions, transnational and pan-European content is additionally shared between them all. Also common to all the observatories is a single extranet through which Regional Innovation Networks (another key Rainova output) can communicate and collaborate in a European community of regional innovators.

Structure and technical character

The Rainova Regional Innovation Observatory is a fully scalable resource integrated into the public Rainova website. Therefore everything associated with the Observatory is supported by Joomla, the open-source content management system that powers the website. This open-standards approach is designed to ensure that the Observatory will remain widely accessible across multiple hardware platforms and operating systems. It will also help to ‘future-proof’ the Observatory.

In its current prototype form the Observatory is based initially on 11 regions represented by partners in the Rainova Consortium. The post-project Observatory will be incrementally expanded to add regional observatories from any or indeed all of the countries of Europe.

Currently access to the prototype Observatory is based on a pane representing the 11 participating regions. Doubtless in future this will have to be replaced by a more scalable interactive feature when the Observatory starts to expand to accommodate new member regions.

Users can access the following range of topics: Regional News (broken down into Policy News, News about SMEs, News about Clusters, and News about Universities and VET Providers), Case Studies, Innovation Systems, Support (broken down into Technical Support and Financial Support), Organisations, Events, and European News. The final topic, which is common to all the regional observatories, provides European-level analysis, commentary and links to external stories and features concerning innovation work and innovation systems. In addition there is a link to the regional extranet powered by VCP (Virtual Community Platform: www.vcp.biz)

Conclusion

The Rainova Innovation Observatory has two main functions. First and foremost it is a practical tool to bring up-to-date topical, useful and speedy information to help makers, inventors and innovators in SMEs to do their daily work. Secondly it provides an interactive channel, based on communication and information exchange not just among SMEs but also between them and their training and technical support network in their regional VET institutions and learning communities.

At a strategic level, the Rainova Regional Innovation Observatory exists to actively encourage and support collaboration and community working among actors in every area of innovation throughout the regions of Europe.


This project is partially funded under the European Community's Lifelong Learning Programme (LLL/2012-2014), grant agreement no. 2011 – 4134/001 – 001.
This website reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Website and Observatory production by Adastra Cymru (a Rainova partner). Design and development by DP Freelance.