Interregional Partnership VSCT

S3 Pilot Action – Interregional Partnership “Virtual and Smart Cultural Tourism”

Funding Background

Within the framework of the European Union’s corona virus response and recovery plan, the Commission initiated a new support action for interregional partnerships, aiming to mobilise regional and national innovation actors to address the impact of the corona virus. This new pilot action, which builds on the successful experience of a similar action on “interregional innovation projects” launched in late 2017, now supports interregional partnerships in four different areas:

  • Corona virus-related innovative solutions
  • Circular economy in health
  • Sustainable and digital tourism
  • Hydrogen technologies in carbon-intensive regions

Selected partnerships benefit from the Commission experts’ support, providing, among others, advice on how to best combine EU funds to finance projects. In addition to this hands-on support from the Commission, each partnership can benefit from an external advisory service of up to 100.000 EUR for scale-up and commercialisation activities. The money is provided by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The partnerships will run as a pilot action until the end of 2021. The pilot stimulates interregional cooperation, with the possibility for the partnerships to apply for support under the new programmes and the “Interregional Innovation Investment” instrument from 2022 onwards.

Successful Project Submission

The Time Machine Organisation was authorised by the state of Thuringia/DE to answer the above mentioned “Call for expression of interest for Covid-19 Response and Recovery Partnerships – Pilot Action for Interregional Innovation” and to submit a partnership application in the area “sustainable and digital tourism” that was selected for funding in January 2021.

In this one-year pilot action the following seven European regions will join forces:

  • Thuringia, Germany (lead) | Represented by Sander Münster (FSU Jena) & Heiko Kahl (Digitalagentur Thüringen) regional starting advisor
  • Saxony, Germany | Represented by Georg Fertig (U. Halle / Computer Genealogy Assoc. / Leipzig Time Machine) & Thomas Köhler (TU Dresden)
  • Lower Austria | Represented by Thomas Aigner (ICARUS)
  • Cyprus | Represented by Marinos Ioannides (Cyprus University of Technology – CUT)
  • Paris, France | Represented by Valerie Gouet-Brunet (National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information – IGN)
  • Greater Amsterdam, Netherlands | Represented by Julia Noordegraaf (University of Amsterdam)
  • Southwest Euroregion, Spain – Portugal | Represented by Juan Castro (CRUSOE, Conference of Rectors of the Universities of the European South West)

The interregional cooperation will develop advisory and support structures for research institutions, companies, regional authorities and cultural institutions such as museums or heritage sites to receive advice and help in establishing new digital formats.

Business cases emerging from these seven regions will be supported through concrete actions including co-investment models, Internet Protocol and certification support, business coaching and consultancy, linked with EU-funding instruments.

Kick-Off Meeting, March 2021

In its Kick-Off Meeting held on 30 March 2021, the Pilot action brought together stakeholders from partnering regions (Thuringia/Germany, Saxony/Germany, Lower Austria/Austria, Cyprus, Paris/France, Greater Amsterdam/Netherlands, Galicia/Spain) as from public authorities, research institutions, cultural institutions, SMEs, industrial companies, EC representatives from DGs REGIO, and EAC. Partners discussed and agreed on the bottlenecks and joint actions to remove them together with the engagement of regions and EC. Partnering regions spoke about their servicing and consultancy needs (regional and European scale) to remove bottlenecks against market uptake and discover interregional and European support linkages. The Draft Action Plan for the VSCT Pilot is presented and discussed for the next steps of defining and supporting business cases to be prepared for implementation by using EU funding instruments.


The partnership has set up a Survey (open from March until June 2021) to map and identify possible business cases, services and service providers on regional and EU level, as well as barriers against successful commercialisation and innovation uptake and specific needs for support.

The aim of this survey is to gather stakeholder input for designing and implementing interregional structures and support mechanisms for successful innovations, scale-ups and commercialisation of business cases in the field of virtual and smart cultural tourism. The project sees virtual and smart tourism as the application of digital technologies to learn, discover, experience and consume cultural attractions in a tourism destination.

Submissions can be made focusing on the following fields of interest:

  • Propose a business case: The partnership will select a set of 4-8 business cases for intensive support and consultancy (e.g. on financing, business planning, marketing etc.) towards realization
  • Nominate demands: The partnership will shape a toolkit of services on EU/regional scale to support stakeholders in the regions to overcome bottlenecks (e.g. access to funding, legal support, IPR) of digital cultural tourism
  • Advise EU/regional development: The partnership examines the current state of digital and sustainable tourism in the regions in order to advise EU and regional authorities in shaping targeted actions
  • Open your services/ expertise for new users: The partnership will shape a toolkit based on services/expertise on EU/regional/local scale to be included in the consultancy offers for stakeholders in the regions

Additionally, regional stakeholder workshops will be organised in cooperation with partnering regions to bring together researchers, innovators, business support agencies, regional public authorities and investors etc. to work on joint business and use cases.

After the start-up phase, supported by the European Commission, the partnership is to be expanded to other European regions, in particular from the network of the Time Machine Organisation, where the growing amount of Local Time Machine Projects build an easily accessible and valuable stock of potential use cases.

Shortlist of Business and Investment Ideas

  • Idea #1 Digital Heritage Marketplace: A European B2B marketplace specialized on digital applications and content for cultural heritage destination management.
  • Idea #2 Digital Heritage European Academy: A centre for digital competency and entrepreneurial skills in the field of cultural heritage. Provide training, access to training materials, best practice exchange and certification.
  • Idea #3 Digital Heritage Development Platform: Servicing environment for digital software applications and content development.
  • Idea #4 European Heritage Funding Hub: A consulting and servicing structure to obtain funding from European programmes. Provide support to develop project proposals, to develop consortia, and support management of EU grants.
  • Idea #5 European Heritage Funding Accelerator: European Heritage funding accelerator, access to investments, finance and crowdsourcing for innovations and commercialisation.

International Event

In case you missed our information and matchmaking event “Digitisation, Cultural Heritage and Smart Tourism – Info Day and Matchmaking Event” held on 9 June 2021 click below for a short summary:

Successful conclusion and positive evaluation by the EC

After the end of the project runtime (early Spring 2022), the team submitted a conclusive summary to the European Commission, showing the results of the partnership and outlining subsequent initiatives already envisioned by the participating entities – such as progressing work on the identified business cases and other cooperation activities.