Innovative Sector Exchange | 2 Mers Seas Zeeën


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Innovative Sector Exchange

Priority Axis

Technological and Social Innovation

Specific objective

Framework Conditions for Innovation

Lead partner

Kent County Council


Start Date


End Date


Project budget

2 855 597

ERDF amount

1 713 358

ERDF rate



    Common challenge

    The majority of businesses in the 2 Seas area are SMEs. They employ a large proportion of the population and their growth is vital to develop the economy and boost employment. SMEs grow as they innovate and internationalise and they often request coaching and support. Innovation (process, product & service enhancement) and internationalisation (collaborations/tech-transfer) are closely linked but many SMEs lack awareness of how this can apply to their sector, regional context or in new markets. ISE's support packages are a value for money solution to help more than 500 SMEs address these challenges.

    Main Achievements

    ISE is an Interreg 2 Seas project which supports businesses from 5 regions (Kent, Hauts-de-France, East & West Flanders, and the SW of the Netherlands) with becoming more internationalised & innovative. The 7 project partners helped SMEs to enable them to grow their business & find international contacts. ISE focused on 4 target sectors: Food & Drink, Mechatronics, Digital & Creative & New Materials. Since the start of ISE, over 1000 SMEs have benefited from the project by taking place in the following activities:

    • 31 Taster Sessions which introduced innovation methods to SMEs
    • 8 workshops on innovation and internationalisation topics with speakers and experts sharing from the other partner regions (162 SMEs)
    • 117 innovation & internationalisation 1-2-1 diagnostic assessments with small businesses to provide recommendations and new contacts
    • 12 sector-focused ‘Innovation Pathway’ events in France, Belgium, England and the Netherlands which brought companies together for 2 days programmes to focus on innovation, market insight etc. and to network and make new business contacts (272 SMEs involved)
    • Organising 2 cross-border conferences (141 SMEs) including one digital innovation summit
    • 4 cross-border clusters formed with 2 being further developed - food & drink and digital & creative. The 2nd has launched itself as the ‘Imagineers International’ cluster which will continue beyond the life of the ISE project.
    • Organising 7 visits for companies to major international trade shows to focus on market trends and contact building as well as ISE ‘pitching sessions’ and networking activities to encourage joint working and contacts between businesses from the different regions (117 SMEs). The Major Innovation Events were Horecava (Amsterdam) in January 2020, CEBIT (Hannover), JEC World (Paris), Hannover Messe, Tech Open Air (Berlin), Anuga (Dusseldorf), Industry (Barcelona). Our final planned event, Tavola 2020, was cancelled due to Covid-19

    Feedback from participating companies was very positive:
    “I could not have achieved our exports without the ISE project.”
    “I have hugely profited from ISE by acquiring valuable business growth information. It has been helpful to share information and contacts with networking groups, especially in Europe. We have also been able to sign up with one of the UK’s well know artisan food wholesalers recently thanks to ISE networking influence.”
    "I met new businesses and learnt about new processes, materials and applications"



    VOKA Kamer van Koophandel West-Vlaanderen

    VOKA Kamer van Koophandel Oost-Vlaanderen

    Stichting Innovatiehuis

    Provinciale Ontwikkelingsmaatschappij (POM) West-Vlaanderen

    Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

    ADITEC Pas-de-Calais (Association pour le Développement de l’Innovation et de la Technologie )


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    Establishment of a group of new sector-focused cross-border clusters in the 2 Seas region

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Network
    Target: Cluster organisations - Regional development agencies, Chamber of Commerce - SMEs /enterprises

    Programme of Hands on Innovation Workshops led by HEIs

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Service
    Target: Innovation agencies - SMEs /enterprises - Universities and research centres

    Programme of cross-border innovation workshops delivered to support SMEs as a new innovation service

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Service
    Target: Business support centres and agencies - Innovation agencies - SMEs /enterprises

    Cross-border innovation guide created

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: Innovation agencies - Organisations representing SMEs - SMEs /enterprises

    'Innovation Pathway' programme delivered to help companies apply innovation techniques

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Service
    Target: Innovation agencies - Organisations representing SMEs - SMEs /enterprises

    Programme of innovation taster sessions delivered to support SMEs as a new innovation service

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: Business support centres and agencies - Local, regional and national authorities - SMEs /enterprises

    Updated diagnostic tool developed to help SMEs assess innovation & internationalisation potential

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: Business support centres and agencies - Cluster organisations - SMEs /enterprises