Case Studies

Vanguard Initiative: Supporting new opportunities for inter-regional industry collaboration

Scottish Enterprise, The Scottish Government, Scotland Europa.

The Vanguard Initiative is a politically-driven EU regional network which was started in late 2013 and has since grown to 30 members. Member regions have joined forces to identify areas of common industrial strength – through their Smart Specialisation priorities. They focus on areas where there is recognised potential to generate new scale opportunities to support EU competitiveness in international markets. Scotland has been an active member of the Vanguard Initiative (VI) since its inception.

A key strand of activity for the VI has been the setting up of industry-led pilot initiatives which allow the VI regions to work together in areas of complementary strength across regional industry bases. This requires strong business / industry intermediaries (such as cluster managers and industry bodies) to work together to identify mutual interests where a current gap or opportunity exists and which cannot be addressed by the efforts of one region alone. Currently, the VI has set-up five such Pilot actions, with Scotland leading on one and taking part in a further two.

The VI Pilot actions present a new opportunity for EU policy development and EU competitiveness ambitions. This is an area of EU inter-regional activity, and EU policy, which has been largely untested and which lacks a clear evidence base of either process or outcome.

The European Commission has expressed strong interest in the VI’s Pilot model as a mechanism to support and improve EU industrial competitiveness through creating new, scale opportunities for EU businesses in international markets.

The VI is keen to make a contribution to this emerging policy area, demonstrating the inter-regional, industry-led dimension to the EU’s Smart Specialisation agenda.



To grasp this opportunity, the VI needed to define a common Pilot approach, which applies to all VI Pilot actions and could be readily transferred to any EU industrial setting. Developing a common Pilot approach requires strong linkages (including communication, research and analysis) across the different Pilot settings.

Within the VI, there was a clear lack of capacity to co-ordinate and drive the process underpinning this research. Equally, it was recognised that the absence of such an evidence base might impact negatively on the VI’s ability to create a level of coherence and consistency in the on-going activity of the Pilots.

Scotland Europa and Scottish Enterprise recognise the need to support the EU policy development process outlined above since we stand to benefit from emerging EU tools and measures to support our business internationalisation ambitions. In addition, the visibility of Scotland in playing an active role in this process provides a clear signal to EU institutions and other EU partner regions of our commitment and expertise in this area.

The above task requires a strong collaborative effort from the five VI Pilots. Scotland Europa and Scottish Enterprise have played a unique role in supporting this process, while ensuring the visibility of Scotland in taking this forward.

Scotland Europa provided the expert skills and resourcing to undertake a research exercise to identify a common process linked to the Pilot actions, which could be readily replicated across Pilot actions or EU inter-regional, industry-led projects. This required a comprehensive consultation process across the Pilots, seeking to establish areas of commonality in how the Pilots are operating.

Furthermore, there was an opportunity at the VI’s Policy Forum in Edinburgh (March 2015) to present emerging research and the outline common model underpinning the development of the Pilots. The audience at this Forum included all VI regions (senior policy directors and staff involved in the Pilots) as well as a number of officials from the European Commission.

Building on this work, Scotland played a leading role in securing EU competitive funds (from the Interreg Europe programme) worth over 2.5 million Euros for 10 VI regions (of which over 250,000 Euros has been secured for Scotland), working in partnership to develop new approaches to mobilising industry across partner regions to work together in areas of mutual interest.


Lessons Learned

The work underpinning the development of a Pilot model with replication potential across any area of EU industry inter-regional engagement is being progressed. The evidence base remains a work in progress as the Pilots are working towards demonstration and replication. However it is clear that the expertise provided by Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Europa in commencing this activity, and the increased visibility of its importance which we facilitated through the VI’s Policy Forum have been key factors in encouraging the VI to continue with this exercise.

In addition, Scotland Europa and SE have been influential in encouraging the European Commission to play a more active role in translating the VI’s Pilot activities into an area where emerging EU policy could provide significant added value to the efforts of EU industry.

Early signals of the Commission’s intention to take forward this activity as a joint partnership can be seen in the €400,000 non-competitive grant which the Commission asked the VI to apply for, in order to further develop the Pilot model for inter-regional industry engagement. This grant funded a large-scale matchmaking event in Brussels in 2016. SE facilitated the engagement of 10 Scottish organisations at this event. These included businesses, intermediary organisations and research/academic institutes and centres of excellence in energy and bioeconomy.

There is clearly scope to encourage greater engagement and open up new collaborative opportunities for Scottish businesses and organisations, to support Scotland's innovation and internationalisation performance, which would not be feasible in the absence of the underpinning VI Pilot model of industry collaboration.


For further information about Scotland Europa’s engagement in the Vanguard Initiative, contact

  • Status
  • Live
  • Project Launch
  • 01 November 2013
  • Project completed

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