On December 10 – 12, 2019, representatives of the University of Latvia, Centre of European and Transition Studies (LU CETS) participated in the first DigiBEST project study visit in Peñafiel (Portugal). Aim of the study visit is to demonstrate practical activities (examples) and provide to the opportunity for participants to share experiences and learn from best practices on digital transformation in the northern Portugal.

The first study visit of the DigiBEST project (Digital Business EcoSystem Transformation) of the INTERREG EUROPE programme was attended by 20 experts from five European countries, including Latvia, which was represented by the LU CETS, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia (VARAM) as well as Zemgale Region Human Resource and Competences Development Centre (ZRKAC),  Department of supporting entrepreneurship.

Tamega e Sousa is the territorial entity in northern Portugal formed by 11 municipalities and will be the region to evaluate the implementation of information technologies in the optimization of productive and organizational management processes of SMEs.

The study visit was opened by the President of the Intermunicipal Council of Tâmega and Sousa Mr. Armando Moorish and the first secretary Mr. Telmo Pinto. They introduced with the region, its strategy in SMEs digitalization and potential within the framework of DigiBEST project. The visit continued at the municipality Pacos de Ferreira – Public Services Espaco Empresa/ Business Space LAPMEI that introduced with their public services contact-point that provides services both for enterprises and population.

Activities continued with two companies visit to learn in practice about good practices in digital transformation: the first company was Atlanta, a company of the development of production of soles for footwear industry that is committed to digital transformation in the production process thus saving on human resources. The issue that the management yet has to resolve: how to retain employees so that they do not have to be made redundant after digitalization. The second was Artnovion, a company that offers acoustic solutions to both, individuals and professionals and has developed an effective management system of orders in real time. On the contrary of practical examples of digitalization in production, the visit to the Escola Suprior de Technologia e Gestao provided with the insight of academic institution that develops innovative digital projects by combining technology studies with business management. This visit also demonstrated a good cooperation between researchers, Technical schools and start-ups.

The afternoon of the 2nd day was dedicated to the meeting and debate with participants of the entire DigiBEST project partnership: the VARAM, the University of Latvia, the Trøndelag County Council (Norway), Sviluppo Basilicata (Italy), the Provincial Council of Granada, Wirtschaftsservice Gesellschaft (Austria) and the Intermunicipal Community of Tâmega and Sousa (Portugal). The Discussions were opened by the First Secretary of the Intermunicipal Council of Tâmega and Sousa and managed by the representatives of the Good Practices presented during study visits. In the Discussion Forum also participated the representatives of Portugal Partner Stakeholders - IAPMEI — Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation, AEP - Portugese Business Associaciation and others.

The meeting provided the opportunity for LU CETS, DigiBEST project partners and stakeholders to discuss and clarify different aspects of these projects in the light of regional policy instruments, as well as focussing on benefits of digital transformation of SMEs. Main statements included learning that Portugal investing a lot in the digitalization of SMEs, there are a lot of public services developed for SMEs and there is the request from companies to develop support instruments as there is a demand by companies themselves to discover new initiatives and ways of digital transformation.

The experience exchange ended with a DigiBEST project partners work meeting, where LU CETS led discussions about good practices and discussed further project tasks with partners.

The next study will take place in Granada during March 9 to 13, 2020 when the delegations of the project partners will learn about examples of good practices in digital transformation that are being carried out in the Granada province.