Implications of disruptive digital technologies for ERNACT regions

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Core members meet in Timisoara (EU Capital of Culture) to discuss opportunities for AI on innovation policy and public service delivery
15 May 2023 - ERNACT  project
The first ERNACT International Management Committee (IMC) meeting of 2023 took place in Timisoara, European Capital of Culture, on the 10th and 11th of May at the Polytechnic University, kindly hosted by our core member representing Romania's West RegionWest Regional Development Agency or ARDVEST. During the meeting, ERNACT members have reviewed the implications for innovation and public service policies of the unprecedented acceleration in the deployment of emerging digital technologies, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

The recent IMC meeting allowed partners to progress with key business planning, including management, budget, new project proposal development, marketing and new digital transformation priorities. They were also able to experience West Romania's participation in Timisoara's European Capital of Culture. AI is already influencing culture and artistic expression and the hosting of this ERNACT meeting provided a stimulating environment in which to consider not only a series of discussions, but also the wider implications for society, community and people.

ERNACT Programme Manager Dr Margaret Quinn presented some examples of emerging digital technologies (AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, Computing, AR/VR and 5G). Also, their various uses, among others, in cybersecurity, manufacturing, Big Data and computing models, and the sectors that they are already impacting: h
ealthcare, finance, transportation, construction, retail, agriculture, blue economy, energy and decarbonisation, tourism and culture, education and training, communication and marketing and public services. In addition, Dr Quinn has shared pilots and good practices from the ERNACT led disruptive projects that are exploring and benefitting from emerging technologies (ENAIBLER, Data2Sustain, TIDE, The Public Link, INNOCAP, EMERGREEN, IaaS and SMARCTIC). "AI, in particular, is predicted to impact most jobs and will require Europe's regions and cities to rethink, not just public service delivery, but also innovation, entrepreneurial and investment policy", she mentioned.

Implications for ERNACT
The discussion commenced with considerations on how to prevent a growing Digital Divide by investing in Digital Skills (upskilling and reskilling). In parallel, members exchanged views on how to increase opportunities and mitigate the risks of job displacements through, firstly, applied digital research (university and tech competence centres); and, secondly, digital innovation. They highlighted ideas such as building a supportive innovation ecosystem (university, SME, government, community), fostering collaboration between industry and academia (I4.0 / I5.0), promoting innovation and entrepreneurship (incubators, accelerators, clusters, DIH, EDIH), and developing regulatory frameworks for ethical use and security.

The n
eed for emerging technology adoption in the public sector was also brought into the spotlight through three main steps: building capacity (awareness and understanding), experimenting (public-private partnerships working with Living Labs, piloting and Open Innovation) and, leading the way on smart region initiatives such as demonstrators and promoters of smart solutions. "The meeting occurs at an historical inflection point, when one of the most powerful disruptive digital technologies known to humankind, Artificial Intelligence, captures the attention of society, government and politics and moves with incredible speed into the core of business, innovation and service delivery", stated ERNACT General Manager Colm Mc Colgan.

ERNACT anticipated the development of AI and this IMC meeting has brought the opportunity to celebrate network's unprecedented success in attracting funding for emerging digital technology projects. Core members have celebrated the approval of a new basket of EU projects with a total investment of €6.6 million, which allows member cities and regions to pilot AI and related disruptive technologies for public service delivery and to study its implications for regional innovation policies. Commenting on the achievement, ERNACT Chairperson Jorge Muyo, General Director of Innovation, Technology Development and Industrial Entrepreneurship at Regional Government of Cantabria (Spain), added that: "ERNACT regions and cities wish to champion, at regional level, the implementation of AI in accordance with the European values of privacy, transparency, ethics and equality". 

Finally, ERNACT members got the chance to formally welcome the region of Upper Franconia (Germany) to their first IMC meeting. Anne-Christine Habbel, Head of Research Marketing at Hof University of Applied Sciences, presented its research orientation, which topics the research institutes are working on and which projects have taken place within a European framework and the Upper Franconian region. 

Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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Core ERNACT regions
Newfoundland & Labrador
South Ostrobothnia
Upper Franconia
West Romania
Derry & Strabane
United Kingdom