Regional Innovation Systems in Centralised States: Challenges, Chances, and Crossovers

Regional Innovation Systems in Centralised States: Challenges, Chances, and Crossovers

Philip Cooke (Cardiff University, UK & Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8348-8.ch006
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The chapter explores the processes by which regional administrations displaying various statutory capabilities and weaknesses have demonstrated accomplishment, creativity, and innovativeness in the face of having to operate in centralised, relatively un-devolved, and non-federal national states. The focus is on a few exemplars of creative regional policy activity from contrasting regional settings in Sweden and Portugal in pursuit of improved innovation accomplishment drawn entirely from the apparently ever-centralising EU. A key reason for this is that in the EU all regions receiving regional assistance from Brussels were required in 2013 to draw up Regional Innovation Strategies if they were to qualify for regional resource transfers from Brussels. So these and other regions are behaving, in innovation terms, according to a logic of uniform rules from both Brussels and their own centralised states. They are thus doubly constrained in their quest for regional innovation policy assistance but their responses display enormous variety and creativity. The chapter proceeds by, first, outlining the rules of the RIS3 then, second, theorising ongoing processes. In the third and fourth sections, there is concentration on regional innovation policy formation in Sweden and Portugal, with preliminary drawing of contrasts and comparisons. Then, in the final section, a brief discussion and conclusions profile can be found.
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2. The Regional Dimension: “Heroic Expectations In Hard Times”

As stated, this chapter is focussed on regional aspects of innovation, namely the opportunities and challenges of the EU’s RIS3 as seen by the actors in the field. One of the key and powerful policy discourses or “rules of the game” emanating from Brussels was an industrial economics notion called “smart specialisation”. This was apparently informed by neither regional science nor innovation appreciation (Foray, David & Hall, 2009). Every region now to qualify for regional financial aid had to use this discourse and adhere to its, as we shall see, ambiguities. The notion was controversial in many policy makers’ eyes, though sometimes, notably in Portugal, the central state quite liked it as it justified making cuts in government allocations during a period of severe global financial crisis, which hit Portugal especially hard. Accordingly, as regions were developing their innovation policies under the hegemony of smart specialisation, they constituted both a “living laboratory” and “real-world experiment” important to develop regional innovation policy theory from the observation of regional innovation governance practice during a unique episode of “heroic expectations in hard times”.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Regional Innovation System: An arrangement which connects the regional economy and its external links that have systemic connections for business or other innovation with a second sub-system of local and global linkages which support innovation, such as research, risk capital and copyright or patent lawyers.

Transversality: The policy process that enhances knowledge transfer where (in economic situations) market failure prevents related others (e.g. firms or other economic organizations) realising the potential of neighbouring or more distant relatedness.

Relatedness: The quality of existence in relationships with others whereby knowledge spillovers easily transfer from one entity (e.g. an industry) to another thus stimulating innovation by recombination.

Innovation: The commercialisation of recombinant knowledge.

Qualitative Research: Empirical research which tests hypotheses by designing research instruments to elicit data required for hypothesis testing. To be contrasted with quantitative research that utilises often inappropriate “big data” to test comparable hypotheses.

Resilience: The quality of being able to absorb systemic “shocks” without being destroyed even if recovery produces an altered state to that of the status quo ante.

Regional Innovation Strategy: The prospective policy evolution of a RIS (regional innovation system) as practised in the EU 2013 onwards as regional aid policy (RIS3) and previously as accompanying (experimental) measures (RIS1 & RIS2).

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