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DISTINCT will explore the application of Disruptive Technologies in public service provision

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The NPA area will benefit from the results obtained through this new ERNACT led project
05 October 2020 - DISTINCT  project
We are delighted to announce that DISTINCT, or ‘Disruptive Technologies Transforming Northern Periphery and Arctic Communities’ project, has kick-off led by ERNACT. Our network will coordinate activities with Karelia University of Applied Sciences (Finland) and Umeå University (Sweden) during 18 months, with a budget of €153.845,93, to explore the practical application of Disruptive Technologies in public service provision. 

The three partners will explore the usage and benefits of Disruptive Technologies, including, use of Virtual Reality (VR), Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain in health and social care, environmental management, and training. Partners will work together to jointly achieve project’s main result: three Northern Periphery and Arctic regions with significantly enhanced capacity to deliver future-proof viable public services using disruptive technologies as a result of increased awareness, preparedness and innovation planning.

“The universities, clusters, research centres and knowledge/innovation centres in the NPA tend to be located in a limited number of larger cities or towns. This is exacerbated by the fact that the disruptive technology capacity of these types of organisations in the NPA is still in its infancy, with different specialisms in different locations”, explains ERNACT General Manager Colm Mc Colgan. Consequently, a transnational approach will be one of the most efficient policy approaches to assist diffusion of disruptive technologies to the public sector, citizens and businesses in the large sparsely populated and remote communities where it is most needed.

Mc Colgan mentions that, “an intelligent application of disruptive technologies can save costs, increase viability, improve use of scarce human resources, span distances and improve decision making”. However, even though the multiple benefits of using this kind of technologies, the small number and concentration of disruptive technology research and innovation centres, allied with low levels of awareness, present serious blocks to realising this improvement.

In consequence, the approach of DISTINCT project is to work on a transnational axis, producing discrete outputs to help overcoming the mentioned blocks and challenges. “We will use technology foresight techniques and structured engagement with public sector and research/innovation workers to estimate demand and identify applications, models and solutions”, continues Colm Mc Colgan. The three partners will also deploy demonstrators and develop disruptive technology rollout roadmaps to build awareness, confidence and implementation knowledge in distinct public sector areas. “We will document existing disruptive technology centres of capacity and best practice options to improve innovation and diffusion”, concludes the General Manager. 

Territorial challenges
The three areas present some common territorial challenges related to delivering public services in peripheral regions: high costs of delivery, restricted capacity for R&D and its exploitation, youth out-migration and brain drain, ageing, skill shortages, sustainable exploitation of natural resources and costs of managing climate change. All of them will be tackled by the project, very relevant in the three areas because of their different maturity levels in disruptive technology in public service delivery. “North Sweden, with three universities, possesses significant disruptive technology research and innovation capacity and breadth. North Karelia, with one university, is ahead of the Irish Border Region, which has an applied university only. All three regions are trialling a limited range of the technologies in research, EU projects and pilots for companies”, explains Jose Manuel San Emeterio, Programme Manager at ERNACT. 

According to him, the public sector of the three areas currently deploys IoT and VR in a number of energy efficiency, social care and environmental pilots but there is no discernible use of AI or blockchain in service delivery. “In all three regions, there is a striking contrast between the levels of activity in universities with the low level of uptake in the public sector”, continues San Emeterio. To mitigate this scenario, citizens, businesses, staff and stakeholders will be directly involved by participating in the focus groups, questionnaires, workshops, technology foresight and development of innovation best practice and implementation roadmaps.


Join us during EU Regions Week for a workshop on ‘Disruptive Digital Technology & Cohesion Policy’, hosted by the ERNACT network!



Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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