This award recognises the coordination and consistency of Basque institutions and organisations when meeting people’s needs and improving their quality of life.

The European Commission has given the Basque Country the highest possible rating, four stars, and the “Seal of Excellence” as a Reference Site for their outstanding work fostering regional innovation and active and healthy ageing, enhancing the quality of life or ageing population, improving the provision of healthcare and social care services, and fostering economic growth and a competitiveness increase in the region. They received the rating after the European Commission’s third call for Reference Sites was issued to renew certificates through the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA).

EIP on AHA is a pilot initiative aimed at increasing the average healthy lifespan by two years by 2020, as well as enhancing European competitiveness. The partnership considers active and healthy ageing to be a process that optimises opportunities offered by health. In this sense, innovation of healthcare services and products becomes a challenge and requires the development and generation of knowledge and efficient, cost-effective, evidence-based solutions, and the enhancement of supply and demand integration. The Basque Government Health Department, through Kronikgune, Osakidetza and other organisations and institutions, has been part of the EIP on AHA since 2012.

The European Commission believes that Reference Sites like the Basque Country show that there are integrated strategies to move forward in innovation, based on a “quadruple helix” model. This model includes agents from industry, civil society, academia and government authorities on a regional and local level. The Commission also pointed out that the Basque Country has shown excellence in the development, adoption and scaling-up of innovative practices, which are in line with the strategic objectives of the EIP on AHA, and can serve as an example to other European regions. As the Basque Country holds the Reference Site status, the region must create an environment for learning and knowledge transfer, and promote the deployment and replicability of their innovative solutions in other European regions that may be interested.

A total of 77 European regional and local organisations have shown their strategy and plans to foster innovation and face their ageing population in this third call. For the first time, 6 four-star regions have been awarded a “special recognition for excellence”, namely the Basque Country, the Scottish Government, the region of Hann (Netherlands), Southern Denmark, Catalonia and Andalusia.

The Basque Government Health Department is leading the Basque Reference Site. The Site is made up of a coalition of partners that include the Basque Health Department and the Department for Employment and Social Policy (representing the Basque Government); Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba Provincial Councils; Osakidetza; the Basque Foundation for Health Innovation and Research – BIOEF; Healthcare Research Institutes Biodonostia, Biocruces Bizkaia and Bioaraba; the Kronikgune Institute for Health Service Research; the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), the University of Deusto; Euskampus; Matía Foundation; TECNALIA; IK4; Mondragón Corporation; SSI Group; the Basque Health Cluster and Adinberri. Kronikgune is the coordinator of the Basque proposal.