The European Commission recognised 77 European regions for driving innovation in active and healthy ageing

As the coordinator of the WE4AHA project, providing coordination and support services to the European Innovation Partnership of Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA), Funka has managed the evaluation process of Reference Sites in collaboration with external experts. This involved analysing proposals from different regions to assess their level of progress in driving innovation and addressing the challenges of delivering health and care services to the ageing population.

This year, 77 regions were awarded Reference Site status at the 2019 Conference of Partners. The regions are recognised by this title for their ability to foster innovation and knowledge sharing across sectors in the field of active and healthy ageing, becoming a reference for other areas of Europe.

Being a Reference Site has brought funding opportunities to Northern Ireland such as the Sunfrail project which focuses on frailty. It has enabled us to learn from other EU regions and to scale up Northern Ireland’s good practice, says Elaine Colgan, Head of eHealth and European Branch, Department of Health, Northern Ireland.

Reference Sites successfully bring together a wide range of stakeholders including representatives from industry, civil society, academia and government authorities at a regional and local level. These collaborations drive change far beyond the scope any single organisation could achieve on its own, helping to create an environment for other regions across Europe to learn, transfer and adapt knowledge to local realities, with regional, social and economic development as the long-term objective.

The work of the Reference Sites represents an invaluable potential to successfully respond to the challenges of our ageing societies and turn these challenges into opportunities for companies, policy makers and researchers. Ultimately, this work will greatly improve the well-being of European citizens, says Anett Ruszanov, EU Project Manager at Funka and Liaison with European Reference Sites.

A new level of sophistication

Funka has been responsible for putting in place the evaluation methodology for the Reference Sites in order to measure their level of sophistication, establish the peer review evaluation system and organise the Reference Sites Award Ceremony.

According to their level of sophistication, successful regions received a rating of between 1 to 4 stars as a result of the peer-review and expert review process, according to their impact on active and healthy ageing. For the first time, six 4-star Reference Sites have been awarded a “Special recognition for excellence” for their outstanding work in improving the quality of life of the ageing population, making health and social care delivery more sustainable and stimulating economic growth and competitiveness. These Reference Sites include: South Denmark, the Basque country, Andalusia, Catalonia, HANNN in Northern Netherlands and Scotland. This recognition, however, is only the first step towards a long and hard-working journey now for the 77 enthusiastic regions.

Funka would like to congratulate these regions and we look forward to working together in driving regional innovation in pursuit of helping older people in Europe to lead healthier and more active lives.

This initiative was carried out as part of the WE4AHA project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework programme. Funka is coordinating the WE4AHA project.

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