Interview with the Lead Partner of MISTRAL

The communication team sat down for an interview with Ms. Apollonia Tiziana De Nittis from the Emilia Romagna Region, Lead Partner of MISTRAL, to have an enlightening discussion on the project.

What is the MISTRAL project? Can you describe the nature of this project and explain the key elements that distinguish it from other projects of the MED programme?

MISTRAL is an integrated project that means the possibility to implement different kinds of activities, ranging from Studying & Research to Test and Transfer up to Capitalizing expertise, knowledge and best practices in the Blue Economy. With a triple helix approach, we are involving Public, Research and Industry Entities, with a partnership of 8 Countries represented by 8 Regions, 5 Maritime Clusters, 3 Research Centres, 2 Ministries and 6 innovation policy and technology transfer leaders, supported by 9 Associated Partners.

Our distinguishing elements lay on the approach adopted to carry out the activities, on the motivated and wide partnership,  representing very well the cooperation area and sharing a common goal: to develop a wider governance, enabling innovation potentials to be unlocked, transferring knowledge from research to Blue Economy, strengthening transnational cooperation and harmonizing initiative, projects, strategies & policies in the MED area.

What is the main reason of MISTRAL’s launch? Why is it being implemented? 

The current innovation performance of the Blue Growth sectors in the MED area is lagging behind the EU average, due to fragmentation and lack of transnational and crosscutting cooperation between the triple helix actors. MISTRAL project wants to bridge these gaps and to increase innovation performance by designing and testing new tools and targeted services for the Blue Economy. In other words, MISTRAL is a challenging, ambitious and, thus, risky project, however, the strong partnership and the clear implementation plan will drive us to the achievements of our objectives. At the end of the day, being approved out of a total of 51 submitted project proposals is a promising starting point!

What are the main tangible results that the project aims to achieve?

During the 1st implementing period, we have completed the Studying phase, aiming  to investigate the state of the art at EU and International level of applied research, innovation strategies, market trends, societal and economic megatrends in all the 5 Blue Growth sectors: Blue Energy; Fishing & Aquaculture; Maritime Surveillance; Biotechnologies and Coastal and maritime tourism. This will ensure stronger planning, providing impact orientation for addressing the revision of national and regional RIS3 and to identify the greatest innovation potential sectors. The MISTRAL Blue Book is a tangible result, available on our website.

We are now approaching the Testing phase, meaning that based on the outcomes of the Studying phase, we will design two complete service packs: the first focusing on innovative business creation and the second on increasing the networking capacities of the different actors of the Blue Growth ecosystem. The objective is to share tools and methodologies to facilitate technology transfer, enterprise creation, open innovation processes and international cooperation.

The Transferring phase is composed of 2 main activities: the first about transfer processes towards regional and MED operators, through workshops, learning labs and dissemination events; and the second defining policy recommendation. The main goal is to raise attention and present the most innovative maritime technologies to a wide set of players (from clusters to regional governments and from SMEs to big corporations), giving concrete tools and methodologies for implementation. The transferring wants to support clusters in developing international standards for exploiting innovation and to increase the capacities of branding, cooperation and lobbying.

Finally, Capitalization, one of the core activities of the project will exploit outputs of the pilots, results of former projects and initiatives at wide-scale through an open “platform” of debate allowing the engagement of the Regions and other relevant committed stakeholders (BIG MED Forum). The first BIG MED Forum has been organized in Ravenna - Italy, on July 2018, involving politicians of both partners and associated partners and the second one was hosted in Sines - Portugal, on May 2019, aiming to keep all policy representatives duly informed and actively involved in the project activities.

What is the current status of the project? What steps can we expect in the coming year?

We have just "celebrated" the first implementation year of the project and as the starting phase, we are very satisfied with it! Our Studying module has been completed as planned so we have drafted the MISTRAL Blue Book,  supported by the MISTRAL methodology & tools, in order to map the Blue Growth sectors and to collect BPs that have required a very intensive cooperation work, collecting interesting data on enabling factors for each subsector of the Blue Growth, suggesting, through a scientific analysis, where to focus more in order to improve and to innovate.

We are now in the testing phase that means based on the outcomes of the studying phase we will create a concrete pilot. This part of the project has just been launched, in our recent meeting in Sines (Portugal) in May 2019, right before our participation in the European Maritime Days in Lisbon, having a dedicated space within the expo area. In the coming year we will design and test two innovation service packs:

a) Blue MED business plan competition (services to create innovative businesses in the Blue Growth sector). The service pack will be tested both at national and transnational scale to improve the Blue Growth operators’ skills (innovation centers, clusters, technology transfer offices, business support organizations) to support business ideas and startup development. This will be a pilot carried out by 7 partners (ASTER, FVG, HCMR, ADRAL, PMM-TVT, ZADAR and CHRISALYSLEAP) that, following a common methodology and guidelines, will select up to 10 beneficiaries (research teams, enterprise spinoffs, intrapreneurs etc.) to be supported by an acceleration program. The final phase of the competition will gather the best projects coming from different national phases and will be hosted by PMM-TVT.

b) Blue Growth Matchmaking Events, to increase the collaboration and networking capacities of different actors of the Blue Growth ecosystem and the MED Community, following an open innovation approach. Starting from the assessment of innovation needs of SMEs/large companies/clusters and from the scouting of new technologies and research results, matching and networking activities will be carried out to give impulse to durable collaborations and partnerships in an integrated international context. Events will be organized in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia.

Last but not least, next November, MISTRAL consortium will meet in Croatia to monitor the activities described and to assess together the ongoing developments. 

What is the added value that MISTRAL brings to the European Mediterranean region?

As MISTRAL motto says: “The Blue wind of Innovation in MED area is blowing” our ambitious target is to support the development of Innovation in the area to make it more competitive, to fill in a gap.  According to many studies and researches,  as mentioned previously, Northern European Countries are very competitive and there is a lot of knowledge and expertise that can be shared and transferred also in the MED area meaning that potentials and commitment are there, so it is of us to create together the conditions to make it happen; MISTRAL will strongly contribute to it.

Undoubtfully, I would also add that MISTRAL partnership is an extraordinary multilevel representation of different kind of interests, thematic excellence and territories at both interregional and transnational level. This partnership places MISTRAL in a unique position to help the boost of the BG sector in MED area.