Writer: Deivydas Čepas

On 28-30th of April 2020, Lithuanian Business Confederation (LBC) together with partners from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Poland and Lithuania hosted an important online meeting aimed to discuss the progress and future opportunities of the “ECOLABNET – Network of Service Providers for Eco-innovations in Manufacturing SMEs” project.

“ECOLABNET” project is carried out as part of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region (BSR) program, aimed at creating a network of service providers supporting ecological innovations in manufacturing SMEs from the BSR region.

LBC together with project coordinator (Design Centre MUOVA) started the first day of the meeting with an introduction to the current stage of the project as well as the challenges caused by the pandemic crisis. The following sessions of the day were open to all SME’s, RDI, public and private and public entities or other potential partners that are interested to join the network. These public presentations (made by MUOVA) were aimed to show already designed services aimed to support companies in sustainable eco-innovation development.

All presented videos will be used in the dissemination event which will be organized in autumn.

The main vision of this meeting was to improve already started initiatives and tools that will promote successful collaboration in the future network that will include various service providers to support eco- innovations in manufacturing SMEs. Therefore, the second day of the meeting was held by partners from Denmark and Poland. VIA University College (Denmark) conducted few workshops focused on creation of expertise requirement and specific models for external collaboration with potential network members.

These workshops where immediately supported by partners from Poland (Czestochowa University of Technology – CUT) who are directly responsible for development of digital collaboration tool aimed to promote communication with the network. Here CUT presented all possible designs and available options for further work.

Various analysis and reports show that Lithuania has increasingly positive performance index in development of eco-innovation initiatives. One of the main reason for this result relates to the financial support received from EU structural funds (ERDF, ESF, etc.). This support continue to be a major driver for eco-innovation However, we can also see the great importance of individual efforts of new associations and NGOs which have sprung up in the last few years. These entities have made it their goal to increase awareness on circular economy, ecofriendly practices and other areas related to eco-innovation. Therefore, during the last day of the meeting partner invited one of the major player that support innovation (in any stage) in Lithuania – Lithuanian Innovation Centre (LIC). LIC representative Mr. Tautvydas Pipiras provided partners with important overview of innovation support and funding services provided in Lithuania.

Final public workshops where held by partners from Finland (Centria University of Technology), Design Centre MUOVA), Estonia (University of Tartu) and Lithuania (Vilnius UniversityLabsamera MB) who had a chance to present prototyping activities and developed products needed for future demonstrations and representation of network capacity.

Due to current pandemic crisis both project partners and meeting guests had a special opportunity to get to know each other without leaving their home or workplace. Even for large international team from six countries this meeting was quite unique. However, this certainly did not cause any challenges or technical problems to solve complex project tasks. This time projects partners gave successful video presentations and workshops that were prepared based on latest requirements. Therefore, everyone had a chance to express their opinion about the importance of sustainable eco-innovation development support for SME’s.