Two intense days at Circuit Spa-Francorchamps: EPSI and TWIST Conference, attended by more than 100 people coming from all around Europe, give us a clear message: there is the need to #InnovateSport. And our members can show Europe how to do it.

Enhancing more modern and democratic sporting activities. This was the mission at the heart of the annual conference of the European Platform for Innovation in Sport (EPSI), organised in collaboration with Twist Cluster, in the impressive location of the Spa-Francorchamps motor racing circuit, situated in the Walloon region of Belgium.

After the online edition in 2020, finally a live event, attended by more than 100 people over two intense days. Lectures, debates, interactive panels, match-making sessions followed one another to discuss perspectives in the world of sport, in connection with health, tourism, culture, sustainability and business creation. “These are the events that European sport needs and that we have been missing for the last year and a half,” said James Hough of FIA – Fédération International de l’Automobile, guest of honour at the meeting. The head of FIA’s Corporate, Events and Partnerships section opened the conference by illustrating the innovation tools used by the Federation to help public and private institutions improve the safety of citizens’ mobility. 

The focus of several sessions was first and foremost on spaces, both private ones, managed by clubs, associations and federations, and public ones, in the hands of municipalities, regions and municipalities. These two dimensions require more resources, to strengthen comfort, security and digital connectivity for practitioners and spectators, as well as closer synergies between public institutions and start-ups specialising in data management. The common goal is a more participatory and democratic sport, offering an inclusive dimension at both professional and amateur level.   

Digital sports, including exergaming and esports, took centre stage during several panels. Their use for educational purposes has not yet been fully exploited and the participants reasoned together on the channels to follow for a more research-centred dissemination of these new tools. Also in the digital field, Marteen Gijssel from the start-up Kinetic Analysis illustrated the advantages of data monitoring in sport, both to improve the performance of professional athletes and to improve the health of citizens by cities and regions.

The match-making sessions, supported by the Enterprise of Europe Network (EEN), were well attended, where representatives of clubs, companies, research institutes and associations were able to create or strengthen alliances and conclude business agreements. “After the pandemic, which has changed the rules of the game, we are called upon to relaunch the practice of sport, which is at the heart first and foremost of the quality of life and our health,” stressed Bruno Molea, who participated as President of AICS and the CSIT-World Sport Games and single Championship.

Ample space was dedicated to conferences linked to various projects, including Big4Sports, related to public governance of sport, and WISE, focused on improving gender equality in physical activities. “EPSI is involved in more than 20 projects and we are confident of participating in many more in the near future, thanks to the skills we have acquired in European project planning and lobbying, which we share with our members,” emphasised the new EPSI project manager Chloé Barat. A large participation was registered at the final conference of the SCORES project, which aims to connect sports’ people and companies in order to build a career using the skills acquired through sport. 

“We are enthusiastic about this meeting, which finally saw members and stakeholders meet again in person to forge new alliances”, commented co-executive director Alberto Bichi, adding “We also want to improve communication and show the public, institutions and companies who our members and partners are and what they do. This is why we have launched the new Sport Innovators series”. The series will be online in the coming weeks on the social networks of the Platform.

René Wijlens, the other co-executive director of EPSI, concluded by greeting the participants: “We are going in the right direction but we still have many aspects to work on. Sustainability will be at the heart of our future actions, as outlined in our Agenda, developed by Mike Coyne, which will guide our work until 2027″.