11 November 2020
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Summary of the #EURegionsWeekUniversity session: Localised Trends and Strategies for SDGs

Image - Summary of the #EURegionsWeekUniversity session: Localised Trends and Strategies for SDGs

Organiser: Dr. Katerina Ciampi Stancova, European Commission, JRC

This session was one in a series of webinar sessions in the framework of the EU Regions Week University to showcase current academic research and to promote knowledge exchange between policymakers and researchers.



Video on demand: https://euregionsweek2020-video.eu/video/euregionsweekuniversity-localised-trends-and-strategies-for-sdgs

Dr. Katerina Ciampi Stancova: Smart specialisation (S3) is a place-based innovation-led transformation agenda for growth and sustainability. The updated Smart Specialisation methodology includes SDG mapping that allows to directly link the STI roadmapping process with the Agenda 2030.

Prof. Enrico Giovannini: EU countries and regions are challenging major coordination challenges when it comes to the implementation of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility. Topics such as environmental sustainability and productivity will be supported from multiple funds at different levels of governance and authorities should ensure policy coherence to maximise the impact.

 Short description

In post-COVID era, we have to make sure that economic recovery and socio-economic development is sustainable and aligned with the European Green Deal and 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. Environmental commons and climate change as well as sustainable food system are of uttermost importance to local communities. Quality education and international partnerships are enablers to achieve the system change. The objective of the session was to discuss these key sustainability issues and reflect upon the localisation of policies, actions and instruments. All this was approached also from the optics of international collaboration and partnering for the achievement of SDGs.

Detailed description

In order to achieve the objectives of Sustainable Development Goals, governments will face complex and systemic challenges that require the combination of interconnected actions at the local, national, regional and global levels. Surely, top down approach is important but bottom up is necessary to mobilise actors. It has been proved that local communities are more agile, responsive and flexible then national authorities when it comes to addressing the socio-economic, developmental and environmental challenges. Therefore, localisation of strategies to achieve desired objectives and impact seems inevitable. Smart Specialisation for Sustainability is one of existing Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Roadmap methodologies implemented by EU countries and regions and piloted in non-EU countries promoting research and innovation for the achievement of SDGs. Smart Specialisation for Sustainability puts emphasis on international cooperation across countries and sub-national territories (SDG17)  because it is instrumental for knowledge exchange and learning, development of new value chains or easier access to existing ones, easier identification and unlocking of international investments, sharing of STI capacities, infrastructure and knowledge and more efficient technology transfer.

During the session, three academics presented scientific work and evidence on environmental commons and climate change, sustainable food system and education. These are among the most important policy areas for the European Union for the next multi-annual programming period 2021-2027, as well as important entry points and horizontal actions to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The three presentations were followed by a discussion of four representatives from local, national and supranational authorities. The discussants reflected upon scientific evidence and presented specific actions in support of Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals, in particular on climate action, food system and quality education. Specifically, representatives of two regions (Andalusia and Food Valley), the country (Italy) and the European Union (DG DEVCO) will present their work on Sustainable Development Goals from the perspectives of local authorities and international partnerships.


Dr. Katerina Ciampi Stancova, European Commission, Joint Research Centre


Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece, Title: Climate challenges and the need of a systemic economic change under the aegis of UN Agenda 2030 (17 SDG) and European Commission’s European Green Deal

Recent generations, including ours, lived – and are still living – through at least four global crises: the financial crisis 2007-08, the refugee crisis, the climate crisis, the COVID-19 crisis. If we continue attempting to face each new crisis with the same socio-economic model that gave rise to the crisis, we will fail to find a sustainable and resilient socio-economic- environmental pathway. In downturns, as Darwin surmised, those who survive “are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”

I believe that we can even do better than just react to crises by adapting to the new crisis-born reality.  We can use the science -as we are using science currently for designing measures to restrain the diffusion of COVID-19- to design economies that will mitigate the threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pandemics. We need to leverage the power of people to achieve the vision of a prosperous, inclusive, climate and pandemic resilient society with a circular, net-zero emissions economy. The IPCC report explicitly refers to the need for “rapid far-reaching and unprecedent changes in all aspects of society”. Incremental changes will not be enough. What is needed now is a fundamental transformation of economic, social and financial systems that will trigger exponential change in strengthening social, economic, health and environmental resilience. We need big thinking and big changes. System innovation and transitions thinking can help and calls for intense public participation.

Now is the time to usher in systemic economic change and the good news is that we have our blueprint: it’s the combination of UN Agenda 2030 (17 SDG) and European Commission’s European Green Deal. Now is the time, for financial institutions and governments to embrace EU taxonomy for sustainable investments (2019), to phase out fossil fuels by deploying existing renewable energy technologies, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies  -amounting to 5.2 trillion per annum- and redirect them to green and smart climate mitigation and adaptation infrastructural projects, invest in circular and low carbon economies, shift from industrial to regenerative agriculture, exploit the limits of the digital revolution and reduce transportation needs.

Prof. Angelo Riccaboni, University of Siena and Chair of PRIMA programme, Italy, Title: Sustainable innovation to tackle Mediterranean food challenges: evidence from the field

In the post-COVID scenario in the Mediterranean, issues of food security and the need for greater food quality must be added to other issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, unbalanced demographic growth and migration flows. To deal with such issues, technological and social innovation is crucial. A major challenge is how to bring innovation to smallholders and SMEs. Evidence will be discussed presenting some good practices from the field, in order to better understand enabling factors and conditions for scaling up such practices.

Prof. Alessio Cavicchi, University of Macerata, Italy, Title: Higher Education Institutions dealing with Agenda 2030 and EU Green Deal: co-creation pathways and multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainability.

Recently, many studies provided empirical evidence that, to address the challenges of sustainability, universities need to play new functions and missions, going beyond the traditional economic focus of the third mission and conventional technology transfer practices. This presentation will outline some case studies explaining the role played by some HEIs embedded in different regional contexts to promote and boost multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainability.


National level:

  • Italy – Prof. Enrico Giovannini, ex-Minister of Labour and Social Policies, The Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, Italy

Local level:

  • Region of Andalucia – Ms. Carmen Sillero, Head of Division for Strategy and Programmes, Agency for Innovation and Development of Andalusia, Spain
  • Regio Foodvalley – Mr. Jos Berkvens, The Netherlands

European Union:

  • Directorate General International Cooperation and Development – Ms. Anna Lixi, Team Leader – Local Authorities


Before giving floor to the speakers, we had a poll on the main topics of this session.

Question: 1. How many Sustainable Development Goals do we have?

  • 15
  • 17
  • 19

Answer 1: 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets together with 231 unique indicators.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not legally binding. Nevertheless, countries are expected to take ownership and establish a national framework for achieving these Goals. This means that the countries were asked to develop and implement their own sustainable development plans, strategies, policies, programmes and instruments. Statistics are collected globally by responsible UN agencies such as FAO, UNESCO or UNIDO.  In addition, Governments have been asked to develop their own national indicators to assist in monitoring of the progress made on the goals and targets.

Question 2: What is EU-27 progress towards the SDGs over the past 5 years – the most significant progress?

  • Good health and well-being (SDG3)
  • No poverty (SDG1)
  • Piece, justice and strong institutions (SDG16)

Answer 2: Piece, justice and strong insitutions (SDG16)

Question 3: What is EU-27 progress towards the SDGs over the past 5 years – moderate movement away?

  • Gender equality (SDG5)
  • Life on land (SDG15)
  • Climate action (SDG13)

Answer 3: Gender equality (SDG5)

The #EURegionsWeekUniversity Webinar Series was organised by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), advised by the Regional Studies Association European Foundation (RSA Europe), and with the cooperation of the European Regional Science Association (ERSA) and the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP).

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