Knowledge Exchange on Improving the Competitiveness of Functional Areas in the EU
KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE: FAs IN THE EU
Takeaways from the Knowledge Exchange on improving the competitiveness of functional areas in the EU
Discover the main insights from our workshop on enhancing competitiveness in functional areas in the EU, which was attended by 72 representatives from various functional areas. This workshop is part of a series of knowledge exchange activities organised under the “Functional Areas in the EU” project.
At the beginning of the workshop, Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, Senior Urban Development Specialist at the World Bank, delivered an insightful and informative presentation on policy changes at the EU, national, and local levels that have the potential to enhance the competitiveness of functional areas within the EU. Drawing from the World Bank’s Golden Growth report, various strategies to improve competitiveness were highlighted. One key suggestion was the establishment of an EU Stock Exchange, which would provide companies with easier access to capital. The need to shift the focus in the 2028-2034 programming period from regions, often artificially constructed entities, to functional areas was also emphasised. Strengthening universities within the EU was proposed as another avenue for enhancing competitiveness. Additionally, the presentation focused on the importance of sub-national administrations for generating their own revenues to support long-term competitiveness, as these funds can be used for strategic public capital investments. The capacity to attract individuals, including digital nomads, was identified as crucial for the performance of functional areas. Lastly, proactively attracting private investments and nurturing the development of local companies were emphasised as critical factors in bolstering the competitiveness of functional areas.
Following this, Ionuț Mărieș, Senior Urban Development Expert at the World Bank, delved deeper into the topic of sub-national administrations generating their own revenues as a means to enhance the economic potential of functional areas. The presentation emphasised that City Halls play a pivotal role in fostering economic growth by creating opportunities to attract skilled human capital, investors, and innovative companies to the city. Essential instruments for achieving this include citizen and companies’ engagement, effective policy-making, strategic and spatial planning, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, infrastructure development, access to capital, investment attraction, industry clusters, job creation, and improving the overall quality of life. Additionally, transparency is crucial when dealing with income-generating public investments and the presentation offered a few examples of such income-generating infrastructure. The presentation also focused on ways to attract investors and ways to reduce municipal costs.
The last presentation, by Viorela Sfârlea, Senior Urban Development Expert at the World Bank, focused on enhancing the competitiveness of universities in attracting talent and boosting research and innovation, with a direct impact on the long-term growth of functional areas, and the economy of the EU in a global context. The intervention provided an overview of endowment funds for universities, highlighting their key features, benefits, and operational mechanisms, along with presenting best practices. To scale-up the creation of university endowment funds in the EU, several steps were proposed, including: facilitating knowledge-sharing through study visits and online events, connecting with other universities with experience in endowment funds, mapping potential stakeholders who could contribute to establishing the fund’s management structure (shareholders, investment professionals, legal and accounting services, and a board of trustees), and identifying potential investors (such as large companies interested in university development and influential local and national figures willing to support the establishment of the endowment fund and mobilise alumni networks). Finally, the need for a coordinated discussion at the EU level on how these approaches can be supported to increase the global competitiveness of the European Higher Education Area was highlighted.
The workshop offered valuable insights and recommendations to enhance the competitiveness of functional areas for policymakers and other stakeholders at the EU, national and local level. It also provided practical strategies for sub-national administrations to generate their own revenues and strengthen the economic vitality of functional areas. Additionally, it presented a comprehensive framework for universities to establish endowment funds, enabling them to attract resources, drive research and innovation, and contribute to the long-term development and competitiveness of functional areas.
If you are interested in learning more about how to enhance the competitiveness of functional areas in the EU, we encourage you to review the presentations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the ideas discussed in this article.