View this email in your browser

                           Newsletter #06      

                                      July 2022       

Dear Readers, 

Welcome to the sixth Newsletter of the BETTER project! BETTER is an Interreg Europe project that focuses on the promotion of e-Government solutions. With our project we aim to create a win-win situation for everyone by enhancing the use of e-Government solutions. Using these instruments local and regional authorities can stimulate regional innovation while private individuals and businesses gain better public service. In the following pages we would like to give you a short overview of our initiative. You will find information on the BETTER partnership, objectives and methods, and the steps we will make to reach our objectives.
The BETTER Newsletter has been published in every semester through a 3-year period. We have used these materials to keep you updated on the progress achieved as well as elaborate on plans for the next period of the project. Sadly, this newsletter is the last one in this sequence. But no worries, BETTER will make itself heard in the next months too.
Just visit our website and find us on social media, where we welcome your questions and comments. We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter!

The BETTER project team!

In a nutshell
BETTER supports public authorities to develop their regional innovation strategies and improve them with e-government services to stimulate regional innovation chain.
NO TIME TO READ? See BETTER's video about its structure and timeframe.

The project

BETTER offers an innovative approach to a crucial priority for the EU: encouraging Public Authorities to develop Regional Innovation Strategies in which e-Government solutions can stimulate Regional Innovation chains, as well as improving their services.

The main problem addressed by this project is the need to support Public Authorities in the development of innovation infrastructures and be the drivers of smart specialization strategies; Insufficient public sector investment in innovation activity poor adaptation to specific needs, particularly in less developed countries has contributed to the 'technology gap' between EU regions and tends to perpetuate or increase the 'cohesion gap'.

Information Communications Technologies (ICT) are crucial in ensuring that citizens have easy access to local government information, services and decision-making processes as well as in helping and improving citizens’ participation and consultation of towards local governments. However, the level of innovation among EU regions is not measured only by ICT tools but by the general strategies that regions put in place in order to support and enhance innovative local dynamics and improve the performance of their regional innovation systems.

The EU regions show a wide diversity in regional innovation systems. The implication of this diversity is that there is no one-size-fits-all policy that can be applied to any region.
Rather, policies need to be adjusted to specificities of the industry, innovation culture, political system, and the level of autonomy held by regional authorities.

The partnership includes 5 partners from 5 Member States covering a balanced geographical spread from North (SE&EE) to West (UK), South (IT) and East (HU).
The partners are all Public Authorities selected for their specific abilities related to the project topic. Genoa and Birmingham are already working on digital tools in the IE “Pure Cosmos” project and want to strengthen their competence in regional innovation strategies; Tartu, Gävle and Nyíregyháza have specific skills in Digital Transformation and RIS strategies.

BETTER will link e-Government with the “innovation chain” to create a win-win initiative. On the one hand, municipalities and regions need to improve public services, while cutting costs: e-Government is one way to do this. On the other hand, adopting e-Government solutions could be used in turn to stimulate the local or regional innovation chain: for example the design, supply and maintenance of specialist services, such as Artificial Intelligence.

The consortium will:
- analyse partners’ plans through four Thematic Events;
- identify good practices that will improve these plans, studying them through Study Visits, importing them via special workshops and Regional Action Plans;
- build the capacity of all relevant public authorities including ERDF Managing Authorities;
- increase the societal impact of the innovation process outcomes.



With BETTER - as an overall objective - we aim to: strengthen the role of Public Authorities as stimulators of regional innovation chains by improving e-Government solutions by 10% by 2022. This goal will be focused along with the sub-objectives as follows:

1) develop by 2022 at least 3 innovative instruments (e.g. digital platforms, Artificial Intelligence) that will improve municipal services

2) increase by 10% by 2022 the societal impact of the innovation process outcomes thanks to the development of new e-Government services.

3) increase by 20% by 2022 the effectiveness of key decision makers’ involvement in Regional Innovation chains and related investments in order to meet their innovation objectives

4) increase by 20% by 2022 the horizontal and vertical cooperation between the different levels of government and relevant actors (including investors) in the development and implementation of the RAPs
Sub objectives 1 and 2 are related to the progress that the partners can make in the field of research and innovation infrastructures. Here ICT systems play a strategic role in ensuring that citizens have easy access to local government information, services and decision-making processes. They are the focus of Public Authorities. They will improve the level and the quality of Public Authorities services in the partners areas.

Sub objectives 3 and 4 are specifically related to the Involvement of stakeholders and Managing Authorities in the decision making. BETTER will not only actively empower the Regional Stakeholders to offer concrete improvements to the policy instruments via the RAPs, but will also empower them through building their capacity – both the key decision makers and the organisations themselves – for continuing effective action after the project-end, applying to R&I programmes and Smart approach.
BETTER brings together 5 partners from 5 countries, offering an innovative approach to a crucial priority for the EU: encouraging Public Authorities to develop Regional Innovation Strategies in which e-Government solutions can stimulate Regional Innovation chains (as well as improving their services).
To reach this aim and - more specifically - the abovementioned objectives, the project includes a wide range of activities. such as:

  • THEMATIC EVENTS that involve staff and Regional Stakeholders, focusing on: Physical and virtual infrastructure/assets to support the process for innovation; Development and application of new innovative products and services; Processes to support new business models and ways of working across private public sector and with citizens; People and skills to make it happen
  • a REGISTER OF GOOD PRACTICES to collect and document the good practices that are relevant to partners’ needs.
  • BETTER RIS Matrix as a management tool to ensure that Project Partners’ learning needs are met, and to provide a guide on good practices to enable policy makers to decide upon investment priorities.
  • 10 in-depth STUDY VISITS using the register of good practices. The good practices will be selected by the partners for their relevance to the identified specifications.
  • ’IMPORT WORKSHOPS’. Experts from other partners will assist the importing partner and regional stakeholders to import their good practices and draft their Regional Action Plan.
  • policy owners using the Regional Action Plan (RAP) to “improve its policy instrument”, with continued support from project-partners.
  • partners monitoring the adoption and implementation of their RAP
  • a European-level conference to disseminate experiences. Partners will undertake an impact survey #2 to measure impact to 2022.


  Municipality of Genoa (IT) 

                                                  Tartu City Government (EE)


                                               Birmingham City Council (UK

                                                    Gävle Municipality (SE)

                                         Municipality of Nyíregyháza (HU)
Project duration
Phase 1 - Interregional Learning (3 years, semester 1-6) August 2019 - July 2022

Phase one will include activities to help each partner develop a regional action plan to improve European Regional Development Fund policy instruments.

Activities comprise:
  • thematic events for interregional learning
  • study visits
  • an import workshop where the good practice is transferred from one region to another
  • a regional event
  • 6 stakeholder meetings

Phase 2 - Monitoring (1 year, semester 7-8) August 2022 - July 2023

Phase two will involve monitoring the results of the policy change. The objective of the project is to obtain an increase of 10% in regional innovation activity stimulated by eGovernment initiatives by 2022.

How have we proceeded since the last newsletter? 

It's been busy months! Semester #6 was one of the most vibrant stages of the whole duration of the project. With it, we are closing the phase of international learning, and it is safe to say that the results are better than expected. Even though the coronavirus pandemic influenced the interaction between the partners in the last two years, the cities had excellent exchanges of ideas, experiences and inspiration. All partners worked intensively to transfer their experiences into their own ‘Regional Action Plans’ that comprise activities based on or inspired by good practices learned from each other. These strategic documents contain the partners’ visions and steps of how they will stimulate their regional innovation chains. The plans are regarded as the primary outputs of the first phase of the project, which is now nearing completion.

But how have we got there? Well, the BETTER approach is about identifying good practices (Thematic Events) that will improve the situation of the partner cities, studying them through Study Visits and importing them via Import Workshops and Regional Action Plans. As the Thematic events have already taken place in the first half of the project, they have been reported in previous newsletters. For them, check our BETTER subpage.

Since the last edition, we have organized three Study visits, and six Import workshops to lead us to complete our Regional action plans. We have also had four regional disseminational events to introduce our learnings to the greater public.
For detailed information about the events visit our BETTER library.

This newsletter is completed to inform you about the outputs of the last months.

Study visits in a nutshell


Import workshops in a nutshell



Regional action plans

What are them? A Regional action plan provides details on how the lessons learnt from the cooperation will be implemented in order to improve the policy instrument tackled within a given region. The document specifies the nature of the actions to be implemented, their time frame, the players involved, the cost (if any) and the funding sources (if any.)

All BETTER partners worked intensively to transfer their experiences into their own Regional action plan that comprise activities based on or inspired by good practices learned from each other. These strategic documents contain the partners’ visions and steps of how they will stimulate their regional innovation chains. The plans are regarded as the primary outputs of the first phase of the project. For the documents in their entirety, plase visit our website.
ACTION – Developing the touristic portals and designing the touristic offer of Genoa

Locals and visitors of the city can discover its heritage through several web portals and an app. This diverse variety can lead to confusion and dispersion of the users looking for easy to understand, simple and fast results. Therefore, it is necessary to simplify the whole service: fostering a better user experience and cutting steps through process mapping. Based on the example of Gävle and its Digital Renewal Team working with the design thinking/service design methodology successfully in the past years, Genoa created a working group which will be responsible for the following sub-activities:

(1) Phygital development and revamping the "Visit Genoa" website
"Phygital" is a concept according to which it is possible to use technology to build a bridge between the digital and physical worlds, with the aim of providing the user a unique interactive experience. The term is used to define all actions to create an integrated ecosystem in which the physical and digital worlds coexist. The starting point for this is a Google Maps walking path in the Old Town with a guide: cultural, artistic and historical points of interest will all be included.

(2) Augmented Reality App
The app will store paths, holograms and audio guides and will be able to accompany the user through the streets of Genoa.

(3) Digital Marketplace
Through a web app, the user can find themselves immersed in a virtual Market Square, a three-dimensional municipal market where they can enter shops virtually and enjoy an alternative customer experience. All in all, the main outcome will be an e-platform to aggregate all data, services, graphic elements, audio and video.
ACTION – Digital Innovation in Public Services (DIPS) project
There are growing demands on Birmingham Council in how best to address complex needs for citizens within a framework of cost savings. A policy pathway was agreed to develop new services utilising digital technology with the private sector, particularly SMEs. However, there are barriers to this engagement in that SMEs are less able to access new technologies and to invest in new solutions, both made more difficult by public procurement processes.
The action was inspired by Study Visits in Tartu – where a system for cooperation was demonstrated with city challenges at its heart, engaging with citizens for problem definition and SMEs to develop prototype ideas to test – and Gävle with its Digital Renewal Programme using a service design approach.
The DIPS project consists of six stages: (1) Challenge definition by BCC Service Departments, (2) Invitation of solutions from SMEs, (3) Exploration, (4) Business Accelerator run by Innovation Birmingham/Bruntwood to develop the ideas, (5) Prototype phase, and (6) Pre-commercialisation.
There are four BCC Departments to date with identified challenges – Adult Social Care, Public Health Food Team, Planning & Development and Transport for West Midlands. The project completed its "challenge definition" stage by late 2021 and the progress on emerging themes and SME engagement was reported in an Import Workshop in February 2022 for partner feedback.
Once tested and evaluated, the aim is to mainstream the approach within BCC and then develop a model for other Local Authorities in the region. The outcome is a structured challenge-based system enabling intrapreneurship in the public sector – a new mechanism for public sector procurement.

ACTION 1 – Developing an internal "supporting package" to achieve service design skill growth and more effective process management of development projects in Tartu

Within the BETTER project, the partner got a good overview of the working methods of Gävle's Digital Renewal Programme – their experience was very important since in the spring of 2020 a public service development team was established in Tartu, too. Currently, their operating principles and work processes are largely under development which enables the adoption of even more practices from the partner municipality.
Sub-activities: (1) Working out and approving principles with sample processes for public e-service development projects, (2) Compiling and implementing a learning programme to increase the service design skills of municipality employees (12-15 people), (3) Developing and testing at least one new public e-service using the design thinking principles.

ACTION 2 – Fostering e-engagement to increase citizens' participation and it's efficiency

There are several opportunities for citizen participation in and reporting about issues around Tartu, but these channels have been left largely unchanged for more than 10 years. The feedback and engagement opportunities on the website are visually poor, outdated and resolved with minimal resources. Moreover, there are no common tools to facilitate the processing of submitted proposals and problems, data collection, regular analysis and feedback.
During BETTER, the city got acquainted with several solutions on how local governments and NGOs promote involvement – Gävle's error-reporting website, the Hungarian Urban Dialog platform, etc.
Sub-activities: (1) Implementing the ArcGIS Hub fully – one public seminar to introduce the community engagement platform with study videos and at least one survey/project to test it with; (2) Carrying out a user survey to reform and improve the city's online participation possibilities.
ACTION 1 – Making municipality (public) services more user-friendly and innovative

When visiting Gävle for the first Thematic Event and meeting with their inhouse expert team that supports the municipal departments and companies in their development work by using service design, Nyíregyháza was certain that introducing the methodology locally would be an important step towards making the city's services better. After ironing out the details with the experts of Gävle in the framework of an Import Workshop, Nyíregyháza tested a pilot version of the locally adapted methodology – based on it, the city plans to organize two more service design workshops within the municipality. These events have three main goals:
1. Making the two services selected as the topics of the workshops more user-friendly by introducing digital (and other) solutions with the involvement of the users – the citizens – themselves
2. Introducing the service design/design-thinking mindset to as many public officials as possible
3. Testing the methodology on a larger scale and – by achieving quick and "easy" wins through focusing on one service at a time – enabling its inclusion in other government-funded projects and its integration into the municipal system.

ACTION 2 – Creating the foundations for data-driven public administration

Nyíregyháza had several opportunities to learn about the GIS solutions of Tartu. Since most of the services a city must take care of and provide are connected to spatial data, the municipality was interested in how to create an integrated platform which can manage data from different sources and also be used for sharing information with the citizens. The thematic expert of the project is a colleague of the Lechner Knowledge Centre in Hungary – they were responsible for developing web applications based on spatial data recently, using Monor as a test subject: the Municipal GIS Platform (an easy-to-access map application) and the Municipal Public Building Database (which organizes the municipality-owned and -managed buildings into a digital 3D model database). Joining digital platforms like these must be preceded by careful preparation:
(1) Within the municipality (and the city), it is necessary to find out who are really interested and motivated to participate, creating a local data partnership.
(2) Based on the User Manual and Methodology Guide of the platforms, the municipality and the stakeholders must discuss what available data sources can be added to the platform and which data layers can be of real benefit to the city, designing a demo interface plan.
If this planning phase is successful, the city will try out some features through a demo interface in 2024.

ACTION 3 – Providing input for the Digital Transformation Agenda and the Digital Action Plan of Nyíregyháza

The learnings from the BETTER project should appear in the strategic documents of the city in order to achieve a structural change and lead to new projects, showcasing the impact of the knowledge transfer. The Digital Transformation Agenda is a subchapter of the SUDS – funding from the national Operational Programmes can only be applied for based on the thematic priorities and intervention areas which are included in it. Therefore, if Nyíregyháza wants to requisition more money for regional innovation and digitalization in the next few years, they had to focus on influencing the content of the Agenda which was due in February 2022. The exact methodology and timeline of designing the Digital Action Plan is not known yet, but 2024 is the deadline to produce it, therefore, Phase 2 is in the ideal time range to write a proposal based on the BETTER project – a paper including specific projects based on the partners' good practices. The city commits itself to include the content of this paper in the Digital Action Plan either within Phase 2 (if possible) or after the project ends.
The overall goal for the Gävle Action Plan is to develop a joint innovation process – municipality and stakeholders together (based on the DIPS process from Birmingham and Tartu Smart City) and to test at least one municipal challenge in the process - in order to increase innovation (private and public sector), collaboration and the testing and uptake of new ideas/solutions in the municipality.

ACTION – Developing a Quadruple Helix-model based Innovation process and increasing the Output of Innovative solutions

The Thematic event in Tartu and the following online study visits gave Gävle important information and insights on the good practices from Tartu and the importance of collaboration and the city´s key roles as Enabler, Steward and Innovator & testbed - that they bring with them in the development of their QH Innovation process. The online Thematic event and study visits (online and physical) to Birmingham as well as  Gävle's participation in the preparations of the DIPS project (contributing with feedback from our GPs on Digital renewal and Service design) gave the Swedish team the insight that the DIPS project (six steps method: 1) Challenge definition, 2) Invitation of solutions (SMEs), 3) Exploration, 4) Business Accelerator to develop the ideas, 5) Prototype phase, 6) Pre-commercialisation) integrated many of the questions they were trying to find answers to – and is therefore an important part of this Action Plan.

Activity 1.1: Capacity building in innovation leadership & management and innovation procurement
Activity 1.2: Developing a process to identify, prioritize and package municipal challenges, to bring them to businesses and to get their innovative solutions
Activity 1.3: Testing the developed innovation process with minimum one challenge

Regional dissemination events

In Semester #06, partners held their regional events, targeted at key decision makers and all stakeholders. Their purpose of these events is to promote the importance of the regional action plans, and to inform the greater audience about the results achieved. See our montage of the concluded events. For more about reional dissemition please visit BETTER's library.


Lessons learnt

In BETTER we  have been actively involved in the learning activities through project events and other interactions. Let us share some of our main takeaways with you.


The project had the (not very secret) goal of capacity and competency development in the participating municipalities. Some of the good practices led to hard knowledge in the fields of user-centred (internal or other) service development, geospatial solutions and digital participation. However, the project also instilled and developed a number of "general" skills supporting the operation of cities on a daily basis: project (especially transnational) management, time and task management, visual communication, etc. The pandemic also forced the partners to greatly extend their IT skills – their knowledge of organizing Zoom meetings and working together in MURAL, for example.
The COVID-19 pandemic could only hamper but not block the progress of the project. It was good to hear what other municipalities are doing, how they are solving similar problems, getting a closer look at their success stories and shortcomings, giving each other new ideas and sharing experience to foster innovation and provide BETTER services. In some cases, this has even led to new connections formed within a partner city between organizations which previously haven't known about each other (like Tartu City Government and the local university's Sandbox programme).
Some of the partners' experiences – like the use of 5G to transform healthcare and emergency services in Birmingham – are still a long way away on the road for the others (with many necessary developments in between), but the principle of helping people to not be afraid of new things by extensive testing beforehand, being honest about the results (the failures, too) and explaining how they work was still a crucial takeaway.
On the other hand, the service design methodology of Gävle – utilized by the municipality's digitization unit – has become the focus point of several partners' Regional Action Plans for many reasons:
  • Design thinking emphasizes the importance of identifying the real problems/needs and working together closely with the target groups – this mindset should migrate from the world of business to the design of public services, too.
  • The approach encourages to "try-fail-learn" – the public sector is notoriously bad at this, but fear of (public) failure puts a break on innovation, leading to doing things the same way without trying to be BETTER (pun intended).
  • The entertainingly named Zombie Hunt aspect of the practice was especially liked by the partners – it means unearthing and eliminating ineffective steps in municipal processes to make them more "streamlined". One of the partners had this to say about it: "As a person working in an organization that is extremely bureaucratic, I come across several processes and practices in our services that are unnecessary, inconvenient (for clients and administrators), impractical, outdated or just simply not client friendly. Design thinking... proved to be effective in revising municipal services for the benefit of all parties."
Tartu also garnered a lot of appreciative attention due to its digital-minded leadership and high performance in education, digitalization and technology in the last 30 years – the partner was full of good ideas about how the others can reach the same level of performance.                         

What now?


We carry on

In Phase 1 of the project (August 2019 – July 2022), more than twenty events – including ‘Thematic Events’, ‘Study Visits’ and ‘Import Workshops’ – were held to develop a clear picture of the good practices of all five cities and to learn from each other. With Semester #6, we are closing the phase of international learning, and it is safe to say that the results are better than expected. Even though the coronavirus pandemic influenced the interaction between the partners in the last two years, the cities had excellent exchanges of ideas, experiences and inspiration.

All partners worked intensively to transfer their experiences into their own regional action plans.

It’s time to take action!

In Phase 2 (August 2022 – July 2023), partners will undertake activities to implement their action plans. As a result of these steps, innovation and e-government solutions will be better embedded in local policies. The BETTER consortium is looking forward to getting started with the implementation and thus improving their services through e-government solutions. Using these instruments, local authorities can save resources while private individuals and businesses gain better public administration. Of course, coordination between the partners remains important for the successful implementation of the plans. The BETTER partners will meet again in 2023 at the final conference to report on the impact of their actions and discuss ways to maintain the cooperation in the longer run.
For the results of Phase 2 keep following us at our platforms.


Do you want to be updated? Get in touch with us through:
Lead partner: Municipality of Genoa
Contact person: Mrs. Enrica Spotti

For more information about project news, please visit our website and find us on social media!

Click for more of BETTER
Copyright © 2020 Interreg Europe | Les Arcuriales, Entrée D, 5e étage, 45 rue de Tournai, 59000 Lille, France

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.