The list of speakers will be updated gradually

Marian Piecha was born in 1982 in Třinec. He graduated in Civil Engineering at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Brno University of Technology. He graduated from doctoral studies at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Czech Technical University and was awarded a Masters of Law at the University of New York in Prague. From 2005 to 2006 he was an official at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, where he was involved in programme funding. He has worked at the Ministry of Industry and Trade since 2006. In 2008, he was appointed Director of the Department of Business and Investment at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. From 2013 to 2014, he was CEO of the business and investment support agency CzechInvest. In 2014, he became Director of the MIT’s SME Support Department, and was appointed Deputy Minister of the EU Funds and Digital Economy Section in 2018. In addition, he lectures at the University of Economics in Prague and is a member of two college councils.

As Deputy Director-General of GROW, Maive Rute focuses on the green transition of industries, resilience of supply chains, promotion of investments, standardisation and IP rights. In June 2022, the European Commission nominated her the first ever Chief Standardisation Officer. Between 2005 and 2019, she worked as Director for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and as Director and DDG in the research and innovation field of the European Commission. She has also served as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Estonia and CEO of KredEx, the Estonian business and export financing body.

Jozef Síkela was appointed by the President of the Republic as Minister of Industry and Trade on 17 December 2021. Previously, he held various positions in the field of credit risk management and corporate banking, first at the Bank Austria Creditanstalt, later in the management of Česká spořitelna. He then became the First Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Deputy CEO, later the Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of the Erste Bank in Ukraine.

Thanks to the successful consolidation of Erste Ukraina, he was appointed the Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of the Slovenská spořitelna. As a head of this bank, he achieved historical record results, the bank repeatedly won the title Bank of the Year, and Jozef Síkela won the Banker of the Year award and was nominated as Manager of the Year. Under his leadership, the bank also became the Most Valuable Brand in Slovakia.

Later, Jozef Síkela was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of Erste Group Bank AG, the parent company of the Erste Group. In this position, he was responsible for corporate and investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, real estate financing including communal housing, trade financing, financial markets and macroeconomic analysis. He covered these activities of the Erste Group in all of Este’s home markets in the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, as well as in the extended markets in Germany, Poland and Switzerland. Erste Group branches in London, New York and Hong Kong were also under his direct responsibility.

Jakub Boratyński deals with Single Market policies related to services, the recognition of professional qualifications, skills and market surveillance. DG GROW is also responsible for supporting industrial networks and alliances including the Industrial Forum, the European Enterprise Network and cluster organisations as well as the coordination of communication and outreach activities and relations with the European Parliament and Council.

Between 2014 and 2021, Jakub worked in the European Commission’s Directorate-General Communication Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT) with a primary focus on cybersecurity. He was involved in legislative negotiations (NIS1 and NIS2 Directives, Cybersecurity Act), the preparation of the Commission’s Recommendation for a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks, the EU cybersecurity strategy’s actions on resilience and cooperation with the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA).

Previously (2009-2013), Jakub was the Head of Unit for Organised Crime and Relations with EMCDDA at the European Commission’s Directorate-General Home Affairs. Previously, he worked on EU relations with Russia (Directorate-General External Relations). Before joining the European Commission, he was a Director at the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw and before that, a Policy Officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics and the University of Warsaw (international relations, law).

Tor-Arne Bellika is the leading Nordic expert in cluster and innovation ecosystem transformation and capacity building. With more than 10 years of experience as a cluster manager in the IT and construction industries, he is an expert in certified cluster organisation benchmarking (by EUCLES, EUropean Cluster Excellence Labelling Structure). His specialities are:

  • regional S3 development and implementation through regional cluster portfolio;
  • cluster organisation business models and cluster member services development mentoring;
  • digital transformation mentoring – industry transformation potential of local Digital Twins and xR;
  • digital innovation hub quality and capacity building;
  • business and service development.

Irene Burroni is the manager of dID – Technological Cluster for Interiors and Design. She graduated in Far Eastern languages at Cà Foscari University in Venice (Italy), and has been dID cluster manager since 2011. She has acquired extensive competencies in designing and implementing projects concerning intervention in foreign markets as support to the internationalisation, innovation and technological transfer processes for regional and national businesses in the living environment sectors (interiors, furniture, wood, RV, construction). In this role she has been coordinating S3 scenario definitions as well as deriving R&D projects and international partnerships under the LIFE, Interreg Med, Erasmus+, Tempus and H2020 programmes.

dID includes 400 companies, 20 research organisations and related infrastructures for which intermediation leads to the development of R&D and technological transfer activities. Irene also represents dID in two National Technological Clusters: MinIT/Made in Italy and SMILE – Smart Living Technologies. She leads a European Digital Innovation Hub on ambient assisted living, and is part of the EFIC Cluster of Clusters. She is also the coordinator of a just-launched Eurocluster – RE-CENTRE – and represents dID as a partner in the AEC-eurocluster on construction.

Mateja Dermastia is an expert in value chain transparency, innovation policies and cluster development with 28 years of experience. As the CEO of Anteja, a sustainability consultancy with offices in Ljubljana, Stuttgart and Nairobi, her work focuses on transforming selected industries into innovation-oriented sustainable growth models based on circular value chains. With a focus on transparency and traceability, she has pioneered novel applications of artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies in selected sectors of economic importance to the developing world.

Mateja has worked for international financial institutions, multilateral donors, national and regional government entities, and private-sector companies. She developed policies and strategies for national and regional clusters in Africa and Asia and has played an important role in several EU Interreg programmes, such as Ardia-Net, AlplinkBioEco, DanuBioValNet and GoDanubio. She worked as the State Undersecretary at the Slovenian government and at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.

Bianca Dragomir is an award-winning cluster expert and public speaker on the power of innovation ecosystems in the green transition.

She was the first woman to be named "European Cluster Manager of the Year "by the European Commission, for he work as CEO of the Valencian Cleantech Cluster AVAESEN in Spain.

An advisor to the European Commission's High-Level Industrial Roundtable 'Industry 2020' and a member of the Expert Group on Industrial Clusters, she pioneered the launch of the first cleantech start-up accelerator in Spain and expanded it to 12 European countries. Through her work, she has accelerated more than 400 European climate-related start-ups.

Bianca is leader of the Spanish CliamateLaunchpad and The Global Green Business Idea Competition, and founder of the first European cluster accelerator, TheCAP. She also created the clustersofchange.eu initiative to inspire and support a new generation of conscious and impact-driven cluster leaders across Europe and beyond.

Her work has been featured in prominent international media (The Independent, Euronews, Politico, La Vanguardia, El País) and she has spoken at key international events in more than 40 countries.

Bianca has two master’s degrees: International Business and European Integration (Universidad de Valencia, Spain) and Business Communication (SNSPA, Romania); she completed studies in Exponential Thinking & Foresight at Singularity University and she frequently collaborates with MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence as well as with the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN).

Ulla Engelmann is the Head of Unit for Industrial Forum, Alliances and Clusters within DG GROW, the Directorate-General responsible for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs at the European Commission. Her portfolio covers the work of the industrial forum, governance of industrial alliances, the organisation of the EU Industry Days, the management and coordination of networks such as Enterprise Europe Network, clusters and Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. In previous functions, she was responsible for social economy, Pact for Skills, women’s entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education. She worked at the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the in-house science service of the European Commission. She started at the JRC in Ispra, Italy, in 1993 as a post-doc in fusion research, and moved on to manage various units – communication, international relations and others. Dr Engelmann holds a PhD in analytical and radiochemistry completed at the National Research Centre in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Dr Virginie Fermaud is the coordinator of the EU-Japan Regional & Cluster Cooperation Helpdesk (EJR2C) initiated by the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation. This helpdesk, dedicated to the promotion of EU-Japan cooperation at the local level of industrial clusters, regions and prefectures, is managed by the European Center for Japanese Studies in Alsace (CEEJA) - Cluster JapanTech Grand Est in Europe and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) in Japan. The EJR2C helpdesk organises a series of best practice webinars as well as an annual conference and matchmaking event. In 2022, the helpdesk is managing a new short-term mobility programme in Japan for EU industry cluster managers. Dr Virginie Fermaud has a PhD in Japanese studies from Strasbourg University and she is the general manager of the CEEJA, based in the Grand Est region in France. The European office of the EJR2C helpdesk is in Strasbourg.

Christopher Frieling is Director for Advocacy and Public Policy at the SEMI Europe Brussels Office and Co-Chair of the Executive Board of the Pact for Skills for Microelectronics. Christopher has a background in EU affairs, innovation and tech policy. Prior to SEMI he worked at the Brussels office of Fraunhofer in several roles including most recently as Senior Advisor. Christopher holds an MSc in Economics of Science and Innovation and a Bachelor of Business Administration.

Barbara has more than 25 years of experience in the Canadian federal public service, with a career that spans policy, communications and corporate roles at the Office of the Secretary to the Governor-General, Transport Canada, Finance Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development. She is currently Director-General for Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters programme, a key pillar of the Canadian government’s approach to business innovation. The programme, with more than $1.8 million of federal funding, supports five not-for-profit clusters, which are charged with building ecosystems of competitive advantage for Canada.

From 2017 to 2019, Barbara served as Director, Innovation at Rideau Hall Foundation, an independent charity founded by the Right Honourable David Johnston during his mandate as Governor-General. In this role, she led a suite of activities to support a culture of innovation in Canada, with programmes to connect, cultivate and celebrate Canadian innovators.

Simone Hagenauer holds a master’s degree in law from Karl-Franzens University Graz in Austria and specialises in European common law and environmental law. Since 2003 she has been project manager at ecoplus, the Lower Austrian business agency, where she is responsible for cross-border business cooperation projects as well as cluster development projects for the Lower Austrian clusters, currently in the field of green building, food, plastics and mechatronics. Key areas: inter-regional cooperation to improve cluster policies, international cluster co-operation and cluster manager skills. As European Cluster Excellence Assessor since 2012, she has interviewed and assessed cluster organisations in Hungary, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Austria. Simone is a member of the global cluster network TCI, the Steering Committee of the Austrian Cluster Platform and the German “go cluster” Advisory Board.

Jose I Hormaeche has been General Manager of the Basque Energy Cluster (Asociación Cluster de Energía, ACE) since March 2013. ACE is a non-profit private organisation set up in 1996, with the mission of improving the competitiveness of the Basque industrial fabric in the energy sector through collaboration in various fields: technology, international promotion, talent and innovation. ACE includes more than 180 member companies in the energy supply chain: energy operators, component and equipment manufacturers, service companies, research entities and public administration.

From 2006 to 2013, he was Managing Director of the Basque Energy Agency (EVE), a public entity belonging and reporting to the Department of Industry and Innovation of the Basque Government, whose mission is to define the energy strategies and develop programmes and actions to achieve its objectives. From 1998 to 2006, he worked for GAMESA Group, undertaking various responsibilities such as Chief Operating Officer of Gamesa Eólica, one of the leading companies in wind turbine design and manufacturing, which is now part of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.

He previously worked at ROBOTIKER, a technology centre in the Basque Country, where he held various positions, first in the CAD/CAM/CAE department, later as Marketing Director and the last four years as Deputy Director. He has a degree in Civil Engineering (1986) from the Civil Engineering School of the Polytechnical University of Madrid (specialisation in hydraulics and energy) and a Master in Business Administration (1991) from INSIDE, University of Deusto in Bilbao (specialisation in Marketingmarketing).

Department of Information Engineering, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy

Prof Donato Iacobucci is a full professor of Applied Economics at the Department of Information Engineering, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy. He is the Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Rector’s delegate for entrepreneurship and responsible for entrepreneurship education programmes. He is a member of the European University Association expert group on innovation ecosystems and Scientific Coordinator of the Fondazione Aristide Merloni, a foundation whose main aim is to promote and support entrepreneurial culture. He is also a member of the board of SIEPI, the Italian Association of Industrial Economists.

His main research interests are:

  • innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • technology transfer: university-industry relations; academic spin-offs;
  • business groups: rationale, organization and governance;
  • small and medium-sized firms: clustering, financing and growth.

A Franco-Romanian entrepreneur based in Lithuania, Dimitri Ionescu graduated from the École des ingénieurs de la Ville de Paris school of the engineers of Paris in urbanism and civil engineering. In 2019 he began to work on LightMirror, an architectural start-up which that brings sunlight to healthcare buildings and reduces their energy needs.

He is leading leads a consortium of Ukrainian businesses with the goal of prototyping synergies between alternative renovations technics technologies and accelerating the renovation of healthcare infrastructure renovation.

Dimitri won the EU Industry Days competition and got the European Commission Jury and audience in February 2022. His company is recognised as one of the Top 50 climate tech solutions in Central and Eastern Europe by PwC’sone of the CEE Net Zero Future50 key innovations report.

Mervi Karikorpi is the Head of EU Innovation and Industrial Policies at Technology Industries of Finland. Having worked in several leadership, advisory and research positions in consulting engineering companies, research institutes and public sector organisations in the EU, Asia and the US, Mervi has extensive international experience in the areas of the digital and green transformation, innovation capabilities and management, and innovation and industrial policy analysis. She is a member of the EU Industrial Forum Task Force on Investment, a Vice-Chair of DigitalEurope WG on R&I and a board member of the Finnish Centre of AI.

Anaïs Le Corvec is a specialist in international research management, and currently works as the network manager of the Council of European Bioregions. She has co-created a social innovation company, Cliclab, whose core mission is social impact and transformative processes for companies, teams and people. In both, her role is to support growth and connections between actors, regardless of their sectors.

She also works as a consultant on research assessment and project implementation. She has worked in many research fields such as health, information and communication technologies, international cooperation and innovation. She holds a Business Administration degree from the University of Montreal Business School HEC, with a specialisation in marketing and international management. Based in Barcelona since 2001, she has worked as an international research advisor for several entities. She also works as an expert reviewer for the European Commission on research management-related topics.

Ségolène has worked for Cosmetic Valley for 15 years. Before focusing on the international partnerships of Cosmetic Valley France, she was R&D Project Manager and then Network Manager for the cluster. She coordinates the Global Cosmetics Cluster launched in 2016 and the Global Cosmetics Cluster – Europe ESCP 4i project, co-funded by the EU’s COSME programme. In addition, she is in charge of the Maison Internationale de la Cosmétique, a project that aims to promote the excellence of the cosmetic industry, its know-how and values, while supporting skills development, innovation, business and the internationalisation of companies.

Ségolène graduated from ESCD 3A in Lyon, France, in Commerce and International Development.

Mattia Marino has been Project Officer at Eurochambres in Brussels for the Latin America IP SME Helpdesk and the India IP SME Helpdesk since March 2022. He has five years of professional experience, of which three years have been spent on the management and implementation of EU-funded projects. He is experienced in providing support to EU SMEs active in international markets, and in maintaining effective relationships with international and local partners and stakeholders.

Since joining the Latin America IP SME Helpdesk, Mattia has provided support to more than 150 EU SMEs and business support organisations at 22 matchmaking events and trade fairs in Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy, in addition to virtual and hybrid events in Paraguay, Brazil and India. He has previously been a speaker at webinars and events aimed at raisinge awareness among European SMEs and BSOs.

He graduated in International Relations at the University of Perugia, Italy, with a specialisation in international protection of human rights and international cooperation. He is an active member of the Erasmus+ Generation; he has joined the programme four times during his educational and professional career. He speaks Italian, Spanish and English.

Solène Meissonnier has been a Project Director for European Policies at France’s Directorate-General for Enterprise (Ministry for the Economy, Finance and Digital and Industrial Sovereignty) since July 2022. She started her career in 2010 as a policy adviser for a Member of the European Parliament, covering internal market and consumer protection, then transport, industry and investment. In 2016, she joined the Directorate-Generate for Mobility at the European Commission as a Policy Officer in charge of implementing the Connecting Europe Facility. Shortly after, she was appointed European Affairs Manager at Alstom, a position she held for two years before moving to Singapore. She was first recruited by the Ministry in 2020, as a Project Manager for Rail and Maritime Industries. Solène Meissonnier holds a bachelor degree in Political Science and a Master’s in European Affairs from the Bordeaux Institute of Political Sciences.

Merete D Nielsen is the founder and director of Cluster Excellence Denmark, where she designed the Danish cluster support programme while advising the government on cluster policy for more than 10 years. Since 2018 she has held the presidency of the TCI Network, the global network for cluster practitioners covering 110 countries and 15,000 people. Since 2019, Merete has ben part of the EU's Cluster Expert Group, advising the European Commission on clusters, internationalisation, digitalisation and green transition. She is a frequent keynote speaker at global events, where she spreads the word on clusters and the power of collaboration.

Antonio Novo combines his training in technology and psychology to develop his professional life around collaborative innovation through clusters.

Antonio is Managing Director of the Cluster IDiA, which brings together 81 companies and institutions in Aragón that work together on the development of ICT projects. He holds the presidency of the European Cluster Alliance and Clusters.es, the Spanish Federation of Clusters. He is also a member of the EU Industrial Forum, and the expert groups on Interregional Innovation Investments and Clusters at the European Commission.

Anders Olsson has more than 25 years of experience in the area of regional sustainable development. He has worked with learning processes and policymaking for regional development internationally, in Sweden and in the region of Värmland with the triple helix actors. Some of his specialities are planning and development processes in systemic perspectives. He has been in charge of elaborating the regional development programme, forming a regional cluster strategy and two generations of smart specialisation strategies. Most recently, he participated in an OECD delegation to evaluate the regional innovation system in Newfoundland.

Marc Pattinson holds a master’s degree in Economics, Planning and Public Administration from the London School of Economics. He is currently Director of the Innovation and Territories team at the French company GAC Group and has more than 30 years of professional experience in the domains of policy analysis, innovation, regional development, clusters and interregional cooperation. He is a senior innovation and research expert for Interreg Europe as part of the Policy Learning Team. He has written a number of policy briefs including on Clusters and Smart Specialisation and has published in total over 10 similar documents on themes relevant to regional innovation ecosystems and interregional cooperation and competitiveness.

He has been closely involved with EU and national cluster policy for the past 10 years. He was part of the team that animated the European Cluster Collaboration Platform between 2016 and 2020 on behalf of DG GROW/EASME and was previously involved with the European Cluster Observatory. He also supports various clusters and national cluster associations across Europe in developing their European projects and their sector and internationalisation strategies. He is an auditor of the European cluster excellence labelling system supported by EUCLES. He regularly organises and moderates workshops, cluster training events and EU-level conferences.

Bram Pauwels joined EBN as its Manager of Strategic Partnerships and contributes to the external positioning of the organisation and facilitation of engagement among the key public and private stakeholders in the European and global innovation ecosystem. With more than 13 years of international experience in strategic communication, marketing and stakeholder relations in the private and public sectors, he has applied his skills predominantly in start-ups, innovation ecosystem building, social innovation and impact entrepreneurship arenas. As CMO for a leading international network, he co-created the first policy programme to support impact entrepreneurship in the Metropole Region Amsterdam. As a Fellow at a transdisciplinary European think tank, Bram deals with questions related to social and political innovation through his research on the relationships between public policy and empowerment values. He holds a BA in Political Communication and an MA in Political Science (Tel Aviv University) and is enrolled in an Executive Master in European Studies at Gothenburg University.

Tero Piispanen is an expert in internationalisation and finding collaboration partners and funding for life science companies. He has long experience in regional, national and international cooperation and coordination, and he is treasurer of the Council of European Bioregions board and vice-president of the ScanBalt Bioregion network. During his career in the medtech industry, Tero was responsible for OEM (original equipment manufacturing), quality assurance and component supply chain from the Far East to Europe. Tero also has experience in corporate finance (risk funding of SMEs). His qualifications include an MSc(Eng) and an MBA.

Marek Przeor has been a team leader responsible for cluster policy in the Directorate for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) since May 2020. He was previously a team leader for Smart Growth (2013-20) and a programme manager for national and regional operational programmes (2009-13) in the Directorate for Regional Policy. He joined the European Commission in 2004 as a policy officer in DG ENTR. Since 1996 he has worked in the banking sector and top-management consulting services. He graduated from the Warsaw School of Economics in 1997 in finance and banking and international economic and political relations. He has a Master of Business Administration by Warsaw University and the Free University of Brussels and has completed a PhD study programme in the Faculty of Management at Warsaw University.

She has spent the last 20 years of her professional life working for the European Commission. Her main field of expertise are EU education policies and programmes. Since 2021, she has been Deputy Head of Unit for Innovation and the EIT at the Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture.

Thomas Röhr is Secretary General of the European Automotive Cluster Network (EACN), the leading network of clusters from the automotive-mobility-transport ecosystem on the European continent. It started as an initiative of the ESCP-S3 project EACN for Joint Industrial Modernisation Investments, conducted by six EACN members between 2018 and 2020. Today, 24 clusters from 12 countries join forces to boost competitiveness of their members and the automotive industry as a whole and to excel in cluster management through cluster exchanges, joint actions and services, and close collaboration and mutual support in EU co-funded projects. Thomas was a member of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform Sounding Board, participates in the Automotive Skills Alliance, and contributes to the development of European co-funded innovation at the French automotive cluster Pôle Véhicule du Futur.

Lucia Seel has more than 17 years of experience in international innovation and cluster policies and cluster development and management. She has played an active role in several flagship European projects such as the European Cluster Excellence Initiative and the European Cluster Observatory. In 2011, Lucia started her own consultancy, focusing on the development and/or management of European projects, international cooperation in the field of innovation and clustering related to gender equality and the cultural and creative industries, capacity building and international networking. Since 2019 she has been a member of the European Cluster Expert Group of the European Commission (DG GROW).

From 2015 to 2020, she was the Community and Content Manager of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, an initiative of DG GROW, and until 2021 she was the Validation Manager of the cluster actor profiles. In 2016 and 2017 she was Community Manager of the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platforms (Research & Innovation and SME competitiveness).

Lucia is a frequent and well-known speaker and moderator at international conferences and workshops. In April 2012 she set up the Cluster Women European Network (ClusterWene), an entrepreneurial initiative to strengthen women’s position in the cluster community. Lucia is an evaluator of the EC in the COSME programme and certified ESCA Cluster Benchmarking Expert and Gold Label Assessor.

Lucia is Austrian, but was born in Romania and speaks six languages. As an active international person, she was the founder and first president of AIESEC in Romania and is now a member of several large networks like TCI – The Competitiveness Institute Global Network and EWMD – European Women Management Development Network for which she has been the National Representative for Austria in the International Board since 2019.

Lucia graduated magna cum laude from the Academy of Economic Sciences in Bucharest, Romania. She worked for multinational companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi Centrade in Bucharest and Silhouette International in Linz, Austria (as area manager for South-East Asia and South Europe handling a sales budget of more than EUR 30 million), as well as for small companies in Austria and public administration bodies in Austria and Romania.

Lars Visbech Sørensen is the CEO of the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark. The cluster was established in 2021 as one of the 13 national clusters receiving funding from the Innovation Power cluster programme. It recently obtained GOLD for Cluster Management Excellence, having become a Supercluster.

Throughout his career, Mr Visbech Sorensen has worked in the food and bio resource industry and is a very experienced cluster manager. From 2001 to 2020, he was a cluster manager of Agro Business Park, where he was responsible for innovation, incubation and investments in the bio-based economy and agri-food sector. He was further responsible for business development and strategy, and provision of entrepreneurship advisory services at national level. He has been involved in more than 100 start-up companies and approximately 200 innovation projects in the bio-based economy and agri-food sector. Further, he was the Managing Director of Agro Business Innovation, a pre-seed investment company for innovative knowledge-based companies in the bio-based and agri-food sectors. In addition, he has been on the board of directors for 14 companies and the chairman for the steering committee for Future Food Innovation, and the vice-chairman for INBIOM (Innovation Network for Bioresources) where 750 members represented the industry.

Mr Visbech Sorensen also has vast business experience, having been a marketing manager and area export manager. He holds an MSc International Business Economy and is a frequent speaker at international events.

Kristina Šermukšnytė-Alešiūnienė is the AgriFood Lithuania Cluster Manager. The organisation was established as a cluster in 2011, and the digital innovation hub (DIH) was later built on its foundation. In 2020, the European Commission highlighted the AgriFood Lithuania DIH as one of two good practice examples of European sectorial DIHs in the JRC science policy report. In March 2021, AgriFood Lithuania achieved the status of EIT FOOD Hub in Lithuania.

Kristina is the Lithuania Cluster Network Managing Director. 57 Lithuanian clusters are members of the association. Uniting 777 business enterprises, Lithuanian Clusters Network is the largest organisation of its kind in Lithuania. Kristina is an experienced cluster manager. She has vast experience in product development and innovation managing, working with research and development and implementation, information technologies and services, and ICT products on a cross-sectoral basis. She is studying for a PhD in Economics at the Institute of Economics and Rural Development of the Lithuanian Center for Social Sciences. Her scientific area of interest evaluates the effectiveness of the industries' twin transition – digitalisation and the Green Deal – in the EU Member States.

She has more than 12 years of experience as an international digitalisation expert in national and international working groups. Since 2021 she has been Chair of the Agri-Food and Bioeconomy Committee and of the Labour, Social Policy and Human Resources Committee at the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, the biggest association of business in Lithuania. In July 2022 she was appointed as Vice-Chair of the Food and Agriculture Committee at Business at OECD (BIAC). She is a speaker at many national and international events on the twin transition in the EU. She is an active promoter of the clusters and DIH's close collaboration in the creation of the ecosystems which transform sectors.

Sandra Sundbäck has been CEO of the business cluster Paper Province since August 2020.

With a background in communication and sustainability in various industries, she sees collaboration as the main success factor in the transition to a sustainable future.

She studied Media and Communication Science at Karlstad University and Örebro University. Between 2008 and 2014, she was communications manager at the Sports Confederation of Värmland. From 2014 to 2018, she worked as Team Leader and Project Manager at the communications agency Advant. In 2018, she founded the Women in Karlstad (Wink) network, which today brings together 700 women in Värmland. From 2018 to 2020, she was part of the leadership group for Volvo Construction Equipment in Arvika as Communication & Sustainability Manager before she became CEO of Paper Province in 2020. She has several assignments on her CV, mainly within the sports movement, and is a board member of Karlstad Innovation Park.

Olga Trofymova has been a team leader, coordinator, expert and trainer on 15 international projects, has supported companies in internationalisation, and has been an international lead auditor for quality management systems. For the past 20 years she has provided services for 200 organisations in 11 countries. Her main topics and core competences are quality management and certification, process management, risk management and lean management.

From 2007, she was a partner and trainer of WIFI (Austria). She designed, organised and taught training programmes on lean management and lean production for SMEs in Austria, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Croatia. From 2012, she was a Certified Management Consultant (ICMCI) and accredited assessor for international management consultants. She has been President of CMC-Ukraine since 2020.

She studied engineering and management at the National Aerospace University, Ukraine; she also has a PhD in Industrial Economics from National Polytechnic University, Ukraine. Her further education is in organisational behaviour, cross-cultural management and statistic PLS modelling at Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. She is a certified participant of Management Training Program in Spain (TACIS); Dynamic Business Management Program in Netherlands (VNO) and Nordpraktik in Sweden (SIDA). She has also won two Ernst Mach science-research grants in Austria.

Vendula Doubravská has been a manager in the Zlín Creative Cluster for a little over a year. She initially studied art, specifically photography, before the desire for a more technical education led her to astrophysics. She remains interested in art and culture. She spent years working on event production, marketing and PR, and as a manager in the Zlín Creative Cluster, she connects her technological and creative knowledge in the field of networking between technological and creative fields. Businesses and individuals from the technology field often overlook the need for a creative component in both development and final design. Conversely, those in creative industries often do not understand the needs or even the languages of the technological industries.

To help meet these needs, the creative coworking centre HUB 123 opened last year. Apart from networking, Vendula’s main task was the launch and prototyping of this project. Coworking centres are known as large business projects in big cities, but they set themselves the goal of creating a suitable environment for business even in a small town, where it is all the more necessary to connect creativity and technical fields.

Mantas Vilys is an expert in public innovation support, innovation ecosystem transformation and capacity building. He has 17 years’ experience in the development and implementation of innovation support services to entrepreneurs and research laboratories, such as transnational technology transfer, innovation advisory services, innovation capacity building, and innovation policy development at regional, national and supra-regional level. He is an advisor to SMEs on innovation and internationalisation projects oriented towards technology partnership building, business and design innovation, environmental protection, EU research, and eco-innovation. Since 2006 he has been a lecturer at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, he holds a PhD in Management, and he has experience in SME capacity building through training and advice. He is a member of various European Commission expert groups on Science with and for Society and Innovation in SMEs, and the coordinator of Enterprise Europe Network and European Digital Innovation Hub in Lithuania.

Since May 2022, Birgit Weidel has headed the department responsible for the implementation of parts of the Single Market Programme, Horizon Europe and ERDF in the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA). Her department deals with supporting the creation of an enabling environment in which innovation can flourish across Europe; supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs; standardisation and consumer protection and product safety. Previously, she headed the unit responsible for promoting the competitiveness of SMEs and designing SME support policies in the European Commission Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW). She has extensive experience in the internal market for goods and in industrial policy. Before joining the SME Unit, she served as Deputy Head of Unit in the advanced engineering industries, dealing with standardisation, digitalisation and trade negotiations. Previously, she worked as assistant professor at the Vienna University of Economics, where she conducted research on the external economic relations of the EU. Birgit holds a law degree from the University of Vienna as well as a master degree in European Community law from the College of Europe in Bruges.