Over centuries, necessity drove innovation in mountains
Interview with Carla Lostrangio, Euromontana
Innovation is too rarely associated to mountain areas. Is that true?
Mountain areas are often impacted by remoteness, lack of services, depopulation, ageing and climate change. People often believe that these factors limit innovation in mountains. Indeed, innovation studies teach us that innovation can be opportunity-pulled or necessity-pushed. Opportunity-pulled innovation is generally what happens in urban and metropolitan areas, where the pool of opportunities facilitates innovation. Otherwise, innovation in mountains is mainly necessity-driven: over centuries mountain residents had to find solutions to many challenges. For them, innovation became a requirement to address many issues related to society, the environment, the local economy and have a good quality life.
Can you give us some examples of innovation in mountains?
There are multiple forms of innovation, but overall, it is important to distinguish between digital innovation and social innovation. We usually associate digital innovation to technological upgrades and the advancement of digital technologies in our everyday’ s life. Few examples are the use of tele-medicine to bring healthcare close to remote mountain citizens in the Alps, or the effort done by the Greek authorities to reinforce the broadband network in more than 5,000 rural and mountain areas. Social innovation is equally relevant to bring change in mountain areas, such as it happened in the mountains of Southern Bulgaria, where it was used to support youth employment in the sectors of circular economy and health tourism. These few examples received the financial support of the European Cohesion Policy.
What is the future of innovation in the mountains?
Today, the number of challenges that mountains have to face is on the raise. From climate change, to increased market pressures due to globalisation and demographic challenges, mountains need for innovative solutions more than other territories. Mountain innovation can count on a number of good practices and funds to flourish. Among the available funds, over the 2021-2027 period, the European Union will channel about one third of its budget through the Cohesion Policy. Mountain organisations can benefit from the Cohesion Policy’s budget to finance projects or initiatives on innovation in their region. For instance, the European institutions explicitly claimed that the Regional Development Fund will support the implementation of the Smart Villages concept in mountain areas, whereas the Interreg Alpine Space programme aims to promote e-learning and remote working structures in marginal areas.
We believe that the 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy is a huge opportunity for mountain regions and we call on mountain stakeholders to take advantage of these funds to meet the challenges of mountain regions. To this end, Montana174 published a thematic factsheet on how the Cohesion Policy will finance innovation in mountains and it will organise a series of local workshops to prepare mountain stakeholders to uptake these funds.