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Home About us Projects PRELUDE (2003-2005)

PRELUDE (2003-2005)

PRELUDE project (IST, 5th FP) had the aim to bring forward the regional and local dimension of research, technology and innovation within ERA (European Research Area) and eEurope 2005. Clustering was the main methodology that PRELUDE used to support emerging regional and local networking, involving administrations. At the end there were 9 European Clusters for Innovation, creating sustainable networks of co-operation in eGovernment, eBusiness, eLearning & Knowledge Management, and eInclusion. But the general conceptual framework of “the digital business ecosystems model” was unable to take into account all different processes in regional territories. The necessity to create an alternative model (Societal Learning Model or SLM), taking into account the societal and process dimensions operating in the regional and European clustering emerged. Committee for Science, Innovation and Research (SIR Commitee) was created to continue the research work under Prelude Challenge grid of regions.

Prelude Logo

PRELUDE was an accompanying measure to the IST programme of the 5th Framework Programme of the European Commission, coordinated by ELANET (through ENAIP Sardegna), in close cooperation with eris@ and 8 digital European regions (Lombardy in Italy; Mid-west in Ireland; Berlin in Germany; Yorkshire and the Humber in UK; PACA in France; Kymenlaakso in Finland; Silesia in Poland; BMI/Vysocina in Czech Republic). Telecities was the part of the Advisory Committee.
It is often very hard to harmonise the cooperation at local and regional & national and international level in Europe with the requirements both of decentralisation and interoperability. Experiences of ELANET (European Local Authorities Network) and eris@, European Information Society Association show, that many countries in Europe are focusing on cooperation and partnerships with business and in supporting SME development in order to promote regional job growth and development. On the other side, trans-national interoperability and the development of pan-European services still are not supported and performed enough.
Now, after the end of the project, we could consider some of the most significant outcomes of this ambitious project. First of all, new 9 European Clusters for Innovation (ECI) were built, creating sustainable networks of co-operation in eGovernment, eBusiness, eLearning & Knowledge Management, and eInclusion. The creation of clusters in Prelude has been a two step approach: in the first term of PRELUDE’S activities the objective was to create the Regional clusters for innovation; in the second term to create the European clusters for innovation through inter-regional cooperation. 20 Regional clusters for innovation were launched in the first term and these have been consolidated into 9 European Clusters created to continue the work during the second term of activities, thanks to inter-regional co-operation and to network initiatives taken by Elanet (CEMR), eris@ and TeleCities.
The Cluster for Innovation was defined for Prelude regions as an organized group of local actors at Regional level, working in the field of the Information Society with a research and innovation plan, based on the ICT use, carried out by one or more public-private partnerships. The key players for cluster building were identified as:

Businesses – development and mastering technology, providing ICT products and services, offering innovation competence.

Government bodies (politicians) and regional Public Administrations – endorsing political and strategic issues for effective deployment and impact.

Research Institutions & organisations, ensuring scientific competence and strong link to the territory.

NGOs – providing advise, users feaback and other professional services.

In the second term of the project these demands were completed with the condition to include European cooperation in order to set European clusters. At the methodological basis for this bottom-up approach, clusters were using 9 thematic digital areas indicated during the proposal preparation.
We could separate five layers in the process of the cluster creation – analysis, strategy, regional clustering, expansion, and self-renewal, which provide a conceptual framework for talking about future cluster scenarios, shortfalls and tools to be used to solve them.
Layer by layer, the decisions should become more specific and involve finer levels of details and analysis. As the chart shows, these five layers can be split down in the middle. On the left, the early phase of each stage is represented and on the right the specific elements comprised in the later phase are indicated. By breaking each layer down into its component elements, it is possible to take a closer look at how all the pieces fit together to create the whole model.

The scope of the cluster is determined by the strategy that incorporates not only what the regional agents want to get out of it but what the user needs are in the territories. When we say “strategy”, we refer both to the vision and the actions to be implemented in the near future and not only in the distant future. Although the strategy should be in place before the clustering begins, it may be modified, or even completely rewritten, as the clustering process progressses.
At the latest stage of this phase the core cluster group is set up and a management master plan may be drafted in order to best define roles and tasks.
At the commencement of the Second Programme of Action in June 2003, each clusters created an Action Plan, which described how they would organize an agenda to discuss the priorities and generate a structured (focused) discussion with relevant researchers and technologists on the kind of RTD work (technology development and service applications) that could be planned on the mid and long term (two to five years).

Prelude approach was based in general on:

  • improvement of regional innovation capacities (new rules, new habits in the innovation process and new identities);
  • wide participation of different types of innovators and organisations (Triple Helix);
  • structured plan that generates interaction and a real commitment from the different actors (cluster leaders);
  • balance between the economical (competitiveness) and social (learning environment).

Five steps of cluster creation process

What European Community could learn from Prelude cluster experiment?

The PRELUDEs clustering process was a tremendous experience of creating competitive, sustainable and cohesive eRegions, which are seeking for new models of regional development, new ideas about partnership, technological innovations (in telecommunications networks, hardware and in software applications), new business models, as well as organisational and cultural changes.
Through the creation of Clusters for innovation, Prelude has enabled the reduction of the actual differences between the European Regions regarding access to knowledge and knowledge sharing. The selected clusters for Innovation provide a practical action and result -orientated example of this activity. PRELUDEs clusters has facilitated the identification of clear strategies for dealing with prioritised policy areas.
In this phase the regional cluster expand, scale up the scope in order to achieve maximum market coverage. This expansion is based on in-depth knowledge of potentials, existing competences and expertise, bottlenecks and weaknesses in the territory. European partnerships may be built on the basis either of territorial needs and deficiencies (complementariness) thus covering the value chain in an integrated way or of the acquisition of a larger “market” for the realisation of trans-European services/applications or research (competitors).
In this crucial phase the instruments set by the European Commission for the implementation of ERA and eEurope 2005 Action Plan, have a crucial role and may be the “glue” that holds together the European partnerships. The calendar of open and future calls was matched with the roadmap of each cluster in any phase they were in at the moment.

It is critical that the nascent clusters engaged with the process of formulation and revision of the policies and workprogrammes aimed at addressing these research directions. This is important both from mainstreaming the results of their work and in providing opportunities for addressing their prioritized actions. Not all clusters have been mature enough to engage in influencing policy, though nearly all have identified areas of funding opportunity to realise their long term objectives.

Some of the current European R&D policy directions addressed by the Prelude Clusters include:

  • Intelligent Management of eGovernment Services.
  • Business-Process Oriented Knowledge Management.
  • Knowledge-oriented cross-border process re-design.
  • Personalized eGov interaction agents for improved access.
  • Integration of intelligent modules in user interfaces,( explanation components, ...).
  • Learning and Knowledge Creation in eGovernment.
  • Adaptive and Proactive eGovernment Systems.

At the heart of the clustering process is a recognition that sharing problems can lead to shared solutions. Cooperation needs to be built on genuine needs and interests of the parties concerned. The mechanism for identifying shared problems or goals is thus the initial driver of the clustering process, but the process of achieving commonality can take many different routes: In Prelude, these routes can be characterised as being from regional initiative to European cluster (e.g., ETTC), sharing problems at European fora leading to a pan-European Solution (e.g EDEn), or an unforeseen topic championed and confirmed as shared problem (e.g., Guarantee). Prelude experiences drive clustering and cross-fertilisation among public and private users, ICT actors and researchers within the digital areas covered by PRELUDE. This objective was pursued in close cooperation with prime movers of research, technology an innovation coming from universities placed in the different territories; research regional agencies and centres of excellence; local and regional admi- nistrations; as well as the business ICT sector (such as hi-tech SMEs, business centres for innovation and technological service providers).
Finally, through observations made at conferences, workshops and informally at steering committee meetings, we could summer up the following Prelude experiences:

  • Building co-operation takes time, it is often hard to justify, the benefits are hard to touch, and ultimately the influence is long term dynamic not short terms outputs.
  • Where Prelude has communicated the potential, regions have quickly gained a real sense of opportunity from collaboration/sharing with an especial demand for learning from others success and failures.
  • The need to assess overall regional demands, capabablities, and drivers is critical (being from the region, doesn’t mean you are the region – even when you are a regional agency!).
  • There is still a high level of local and regional ignorance of the opportunities for colloborarating and sharing effort at the European level is widespread.
  • Sometimes disappointed to see how much of the results of previous research had drizzled into the sand and is hard to access.
  • Regional clustering can act as a driver for integrating previous parallel initiatives.
  • Inter-clustering activity has allowed the breaking down of the barriers of sometimes separate knowledge areas.
  • Organic unplanned growth of systems is natural and unavoidable but the resultant. problems of integration create an additional set of challenges.
  • Regions do not have to be on the outside of the European Research Agenda setting. Regions can influence the process of future research and programmes. physical aspect to the ‘knowledge event’ of the KM cluster. There is already a strong relationship between GAUDI with BASIC (the Benchmarking & Bench-learning Cluster), Three Roses (the cluster for integrated research on adoption of open source software in the filed of e-government), Women in e-Government initiative, GUARANTEE (focusing on e-Communities) and the ETTC (the European Transport Telematics cluster).

eGovernment ECI GAUDI (Innovation on eGovernment)

The GAUDI cluster takes one of it’s starting point the results of the KEELaN project, which is a precursor to BASIC, which will build on experiences in the field of e-government and raise awareness at the country level through the Associations and at European level through the existing networks on the importance of benchmarking and benchlearning for an improved e‑government service delivery.


Interdependancies between some Prelude clusters

The eGovernment cluster (GAUDI) was providing a critical bridge both the G2C aspects suggested by Guarantee, and the G2B aspects of the digital economy being driven by EDEn. The integration of transport (through ETTC) in the eGovernment service provision provides an opportunity to seamlessly integrate improvements in service delivery with ‘day to day living’, while also having the potential to deliver a dynamic and

The cluster's main aim is to foster collaboration between partners in the field of e-government with a view to providing meaningful, efficient public services through RTD and information sharing. Specifically, the cluster focus is on:

  • inter-administrative co-ordination and systems inter-operability
  • GIS and mobile technologies to enable geo-referencing of ubiquitous access;
  • e-Transaction solutions as valid administrative and legal procedures;
  • user-friendly personalised services, multi-channel access, etc. i.e.: using advanced ICT such as voice-enabled front-end public platforms.

Other objectives of the cluster are: to promote the integration of public and private services; to contribute to the building of ERA; (and finally) to take a leading role in e-Government in the European Arena.
The most visible results of the eGovernment cluster cooperation were 2 Pan-European initiatives (Women in eGovernment and G4G), several workshops and conferences. The Czech partner BMI Association ( was working in the Prelude project on behalf of Vysocina Region and was participating in several thematic clusters. Together with ELANET BMI was investigating the Gender aspect in eGovernment and set Women in eDemocracy initiative, which has attracted a range of participants from all over Europe to Women in eGovernemnt workshop in March 2004 in Brussels.
Another significant initiative of the Czech partner was G4G for support of more sofisticated use of Geo-information technologies for eGovernment programmes. This initiative was presented at IST 2004 and is still working as a think-tank.
One of the first fruits of this cluster is the e-government roadmap, which use a lot from the "Introduction to the Roadmap on eGovernment"[1]. This covers critical issues of concern to professionals working in the public administrations of EU member states. The aim is set out the route digital administration should take.
The e-government roadmap includes a summary of the results arising from two events held during the PRELUDE programme and a summary of the opinions expressed by participants at those events:

  • Workshop and Policy Forum on eGovernment organised by Erisa and Localret, Brussels 19th-20th of January 2003. As a resoult of this, a guideline is being produced.
  • Workshop of the eGovernment RCI for drafting the cluster roadmap, Barcelona, 23rd March 2004.

The critical issues have been organised under five main headings: strategy, citizens, services, professionals, and processes. Two “branches” have been chosen for each issue. In total ten ideas produced of general concern and interest.

Mobiciti, GAUDI and BASIC have actively engaged in the formulation of the eGovernment content in the 4th IST call of the 6th FP. This content now has a clear focus on the specific needs and expectations of Governments, Public Administrations (PAs) and citizens for the electronic delivery of services (eServices). These include: inclusive, multi-channel, multi-lingual delivery of trusted and transparent services to all citizens, pan-EU, interoperable, cross-border services for businesses and citizens operating in more than one member state, knowledge-based, personalized and intelligent service provision. It is anticipated that the previous eGovernment Call for Proposals will be extended by introducing additional perspectives and research challenges to be addressed in the IST Workprogramme 2005-2006, such as

  • Government-centric – new business models for Value in eGovernment; developing best practices for Learning and Knowledge Creation in eGovernment; deep Transformation of Government Processes and hence new G2C, G2B and G2C relationships,
  • eGovernment interoperability–independent Framework for Interoperable Cross-border and pan-EU Services; technologies for Reconciliation and Dynamic Resolution of pan-EU eServices, and
  • eService-centric – identifying key factors and developing a Trust culture; ensuring Transparency in eServices; Intelligent Modelling and Management of eGovernment Services to address semantic heterogeneity and change capability; Intelligent, Adaptive and Proactive eGovernment Systems enabled by knowledge of users.

The e-Government roadmap done by GAUDI cluster includes required future research in e-government that can be used by European programmes focusing in e-Governmenet such as the 6th Framework Programme and the eEurope Plan. These issues have been organised under five main headings: strategy, citizens, services, professionals, and processes. For each, two “branches” have been considered most interesting as a “guide” for action in e-government.
Prelude has issued Guide on eGovernment for Regional governments [2], which is widely used not only in partner regionsa, but through eris@ also in a wider number of EU regions.
In order to give a structured evaluation of the cluster approach, Prelude team has worked out Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) Analysis of Clusters.

Strengths: why the Cluster will prosper.

Weaknesses: potential reasons why it may fail.

Opportunities: where can it have impact/success.

Threats: what may prevent it having impact/success.

It was a very practical and useful way of self-assessment of each cluster.

There is a SWOT for eGovernment cluster, how it was done just before the end of the project, when the process of cluster building was still going on.

  • Formal agreement exists among its partners to develop e-government initiatives at European level: Memorandum of Understanding being signed
  • Its partners: Coordinated by three Prelude partners and involving main actors from other regions
  • The e-government area comprises a wide range of issues, and sometimes becomes difficult to focus in a specific project
  • The goals of public administrations, private companies and universities/ research centres many times are completely different. While private focusing on doing money and selling their product, researchers on research, governments’ main objective should be improving the public functions without necessarily investing in research or in new products
  • Different legal and organizational aspects in each European country
  • The ICT offer a wide range of possibilities to improve to provide better services to citizens (enterprises) and also to transform governments themselves
  • The opportunities to convert e-government projects that have been seen to work and proved useful into products, capable of being used by other administrations. Many expressions of interest to enter the cluster from other administrations
  • European Programmes priorities in technological research and innovation vs. regional and local administration priorities in developing the solutions that have been seen to work
  • A lot of partners, which can represent a difficulties in the coordination
  • Some public administrations mistrust partnerships with the private sector

The whole process was aimed at tuning eGovernment into eGovernance. We even perceive the “foresighting” of the third “wave” of innovative eGovernment, in which “externalities” will play a major role : contributing to the achievement of (revised) Lisbon & Gothenburg strategies, by unveiling the innovation power of being the largest single industry in Europe and by catalysing the wider sustainable knowledge-driven economy.

Beyond the digital ecosystems model towards socio-cultural business system dynamics

The business ecosystem concept can be defined as a community of business and related organisms and their environment, interacting as an ecological unit [3]. A key feature of organisations in business ecosystems is the collaboration with competitors, therefore blurring the boundaries between “competitors and allies”. During the project execution the general conceptual framework such as “the digital business ecosystems model” was unable to take into account in its conceptual dimensions all different processes and institutional framework at work, sustaining technological innovation capabilities in regional territories. The necessity to create an alternative model (Societal Learning Model or SLM), taking into account the societal and process dimensions operating in the regional and European clustering SLM emerged.
A step forward in this direction is represented by the concept of business socio-cultural system. In fact, while a business ecosystem focuses on information and coordination, a business socio-cultural system is bound together by knowledge and relationship. The main characteristic of this socio-cultural business system is to create knowledge continuously and convert this knowledge into socio-cultural value. A socio-cultural system comprises organisations and relevant stakeholders (e.g.: investors, associations, standards bodies, labour unions, governmental agencies, etc.) within large societal networks that share common objectives, values and culture.
Although the social-cultural systems react in ways that are difficult to forecast, the dynamics of such systems should be careful examined in view of gaining knowledge and best guiding the evolution process. Social network analysis is a growing area of organisational sociology, and it provides a number of concepts and frameworks for understanding organisations as networks [4].
So, the creation of a quite new Societal Learning model is one of outstanding Prelude results of implementing of Digital Ecosystem model in Prelude regions.

Dissemination and promotion

In total, Prelude has organised a huge awareness wave for promoting of innovation and cooperation models in Europe. Between April 2002 and June 2004 there were organized 133 Workshops/Seminars, 43 Conferences, regular information service at European portal ( The PRELUDE portal is the tool for project management and supportive information channel for European regions. The portal is the Community-oriented site, enabling users to share news, submit comments and discuss articles and ideas. It is Open source-based Web Portal System with modular structure architecture.

Prelude issued 12 bi-monthly newsletters, really widely spread trough ELANET, ERISA and Telecities networks. The practical Guide on EC Opportunities had in total 4 releases during Prelude cooperation and 2 updated under Prelude Challenge [5].

For more practical promotion of Research and Innovation at regional level 5 Thematic Guides to Policy & Practice for Local and Regional Authorities were published in paper and wide spread in Europe (also available to download from the Prelude web portal). Guides on Topics: eGovernment [2], Research and Innovation for Sustainable Regional Development [6], eCommunities/eInclusion [7], eTransport and Urban Mobility [8], Open Source Software [9].

The Prelude Challenge and SIR Commitee

The next outstanding result of the Prelude project was setting of the advisory Commitee for Science, Innovation and Research (SIR Commitee) at the end of the project for future cooperation of Prelude regions. SIR is a multidisciplinary group of 22 high level researchers and experts interested in innovation and research as a tool for regional development, recommended by their regions. The main SIR activities were envisaged :

  • To support the availability and accessibility of scientific results, with a special attention for ICT (forums of scientists, researchers from business, politicians).
  • To support the exchange of experiences and best practices – in a field of Science, Innovation and research- between different groups of civil society. To build working relations with all significant partners of civil society.
  • To create partnerships with similar European organizations (intermediaries), including Science Shops.
  • To provide methodological support for better communication and promotion of science, innovation and research in a civil society with a special attention for the role of ICT (methodic guides could be produced, as continuation of Prelude Guides).

Main conclusions from Prelude experiences

In order to support innovation and better implementation of research results into the practice of European regions it is necessary:

  1. To identify the drivers for innovation (socio- organisational and institutional constituencies) and activate them for cooperation.
  2. To take the best from virtual space knowledge, e.g., Digital Business Ecosystems or Societal Learning model, implying pre-existing network- kking (based on information and coordination) and a long term eco system innovation process.
  3. To respect the regional socio-political and cultural background.
  4. To integrate research community & ICT stakeholders & PA & Users for eParticipation.
  5. To adapt instruments for governance of technological and organisational innovation (best practices for eGovernment).
  6. To have the vision of future development of eGovernment into eGovernance/eDemocracy.



[1] “Introduction to the Roadmap on eGovernment”, booklet of KEeLAN IST project, 2003.

[2] “A Guide to Policy & Practice on eGovernment for Local and Regional Authorities”, Prelude Thematic Guide, Brussels, 2004.

[3] Nachira F., “Toward a network of digital business ecosystems fostering the local development”, discussion paper, Bruxelles, September 2002.

[4] Anderson P., “Seven Levers for Creating the Evolutionary Enterprise”, in Clippinger, J.H., The Biology of Business, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

[5] “EU Opportunities for Regional/Local Governments and Actions”, A Prelude Guide on EC Programmes and Actions, document for downloading at

[6] “A Guide for Regional Policy-Makers: Research and Innovation for Sustainable Development”, Prelude Thematic Guide, Brussels, 2004.

[7] “A Guide to Policy & Practice on eCommunities/eInclusion for Local and Regional Authorities”, Prelude Thematic Guide, Brussels, 2004.

[8] “A Guide to Policy & Practice on eTransport for Local and Regional Authorities”, Prelude Thematic Guide, Brussels, 2004.

[9] “A Guide to Policy & Practice on Open Source Software for Local and Regional Authorities”, Prelude Thematic Guide, Brussels, 2004.

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