Facilitate strategy and policy development

Several support instruments are useful for strategy and policy development. Mappings of clusters, areas of technical expertise or institutions, as well as common foresight exercises are all valuable. Benchmarking and policy learning can provide both useful knowledge for the strategy development as well as information on the specific policies on each side of the border. Joint branding of the area, when accompanied by relevant data and identification of assets for global marketing, is yet another instrument that many regions seek to use in their cross-border activities.

Table 3.2. Overview of cross-border innovation policy instruments


Strategy and policy development

Analytical exercises and mappings (mapping of clusters or value chains, technology foresight exercises)

Benchmarking and policy learning

Joint branding of the cross-border area

R&D support

Joint public research programmes

Joint research infrastructure, shared access to research facilities

Cross-border private R&D funding programmes (generic and thematic)

Technology transfer and innovation support

Cross-border innovation advisory services (vouchers, intermediaries)

Advisory services to spin-off and knowledge-intensive start-ups

Other technology transfer centres and extension programmes

Science and technology parks and innovation networks

Cross-border science and technology parks

Cluster or network initiatives

Educated and skilled workers

Scholarships/student exchanges

Joint university or other higher education programmes

Talent attraction and retention or mobility schemes

Cross-border labour market measures

Other instruments

Financing (venture capital funds or business angel networks)

Public procurement/border as a source of innovation/innovation awards

Analytical exercises and mappings help define the area and targets for action

Table 3.3. Analytical exercises and mappings: Benefits and barriers

Benefits and barriers



  • - provides common evidence for discussion, policy decisions and evaluation
  • - facilitates knowledge sharing among authorities in different jurisdictions
  • - helps define geometry of the (potentially) functional cross-border area
  • - reveals socio-economic patterns in the cross-border areas (critical mass, density of activities, presence or absence of clusters, etc.)
  • - identifies innovation actors that could be relevant for cross-border partners Barriers:
  • - lack of indicators measuring cross-border flows in general
  • - difficulty in collecting indicators on innovation dynamics in the cross-border area
  • - lack of harmonised data and statistics on the different sides of the border
  • - Oresund Integration Index, Orestat database, Oresund Institute studies
  • - Ireland-Northern Ireland ARIO database
  • - BAK Basel studies for the TTR-ELAt mapping technology competencies
  • - InterTradeIreland programme evaluations and business surveys to cross-border actors
  • - Helsinki-Tallinn: On the Move study

Analytical exercises help to define the cross-border area and its functionality, including with respect to cross-border flows. A prerequisite for such studies is the collection of relevant cross-border indicators, which are notoriously difficult to produce (Chapter 1). The Helsinki-Tallinn area collected an extensive amount of data on commuting, transport and economic linkages to produce the publication Helsinki-Tallinn: On the Move. This publication also contains a foresight analysis on the common development of Helsinki and Tallinn as twin cities, albeit not with respect to innovation flows and potential explicitly. A statistical portal for the Oresund area, Orestat,1 contains a database with statistics on the cross-border area (notably commuting patterns and population-related variables). The website contains analytical reports and publications on the cross-border area. An index of integration on several parameters is also produced for the Oresund Region (Chapter 1, Figure 1.5). In Ireland and Northern Ireland (United Kingdom), the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO)2 collects data, produces analyses and provides evidence on an all-island scale. AIRO regularly conducts mapping exercises, develops data analyses and visualisation tools, and publishes research reports on cross-border flows.

Other forms of studies serve to identify areas of sectoral and technological expertise as a basis for joint action. Based on studies by BAK-Basel Economics, the TTR-ELAt mapped out its strengths in specific technological domains among the constituent provinces (Chapter 1, Figure 1.6). InterTradeIreland conducts business surveys and regularly produces analyses on the cross-border economy, containing relevant indicators on cross-border business activity such as trade statistics and innovation practices. Sectors with potential for collaboration in research are evidenced by actual collaboration through joint participation in the EU Framework Programme, information that is regularly updated and available on the agency’s website. InterTradeIreland studies have shown the research centres with a strong potential for collaboration are in the fields of agri-food, ICT, bio-medical and environment sectors. A study mapping the potential for crossborder collaboration involving research and technology centres yielded valuable information for policy efforts about the sectors and other areas of potential collaboration, as well as the barriers preventing that collaboration (Box 3.1).

Box 3.1. Cross-border relationships with research and technology centres: Ireland-Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)

A study conducted in 2008 by InterTradeIreland mapped the extent of cross-border relationships among research and technological development centres on the island of Ireland. A total of 96 centres responded to the study, 41 from Northern Ireland and 55 from Ireland. Only a share of those centres is engaged in commercial activity: two-thirds report engagement with the private sector, half of them are holding patents and one quarter have created spin-out companies from their work. Centres collaborate mainly with local companies (43%), and cross-border collaborations represent only 6.5% of all collaborations with industries. Collaborations with public bodies (mostly academia) have a cross-border nature in only 8% of the cases.

The study examined potential for cross-border collaboration with centres by looking at staff and budget levels, track records for collaboration and research activity outputs, and found that 36 centres have the highest potential for cross-border collaboration and 23 others have some potential to be exploited. These centres were equally distributed between the North and the South of the island. The areas where synergies were reported more likely to occur are: agri-food, ICT, bio-medicine and environment technologies.

The main factors explaining the low levels of cross-border co-operation relate to a lack of knowledge on opportunities and potential on the other side of the border and a lack of incentives available to support cross-border relationships. An interesting result is that, when incentives have been used, the relationships tended to stop after the project funding period.

Source: InterTradeIreland (2008), Mapping Study of Research & Technological Development Centres on the Island of Ireland, InterTradeIreland.

Other mapping exercises or databases serve to identify possible partners in the cross-border innovation system. ADIRA (the economic development agency of the Upper Rhine area in France) developed a detailed mapping exercise of the innovation actors located in the cross-border area. The mapping effort not only resulted in a list of relevant science, research and innovation actors (universities, research centres, firms, etc.) but also in classes of comparable innovation institutions across the three countries, notably in the public research domain. The “centrope_tt” initiative has developed a database including more than 2 500 R&D providers to make the area’s research capacity more transparent and to help firms and other actors find adequate partners for collaboration. In addition, information about funding systems for R&D co-operation has been provided.3 The TTR-ELAt is in the first steps of drafting what they call an “encyclopaedia” of relevant actors to have a database of potential innovation partners throughout the cross-border area.

Benchmarking and policy learning are goals and by-products of cross-border work

Table 3.4. Benchmarking and policy learning: Benefits and barriers

Benefits and barriers



  • - reveals the positioning of a cross-border area compared to other regions
  • - provides a more global outlook to cross-border efforts
  • - supports policy decision and selection of priority areas Barriers:
  • - difficult to have benchmarking information for a suitable peer group
  • - costly to design a rigorous evaluation (qualitative or quantitative)
  • - BAK Basel studies for the TTR-ELAt benchmarking performance with other regions; TTR-ELAt working group exchanges
  • - Regular meetings between Alsace (France) and Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany) on smart specialisation issues

Benchmarking and policy learning activities are inherent to the process of cross-border collaboration. The aforementioned BAK Basel Economics reports (in 2008 and again in 2012) also benchmarked the TTR-ELAt’s performance against other S&T-intensive European regions in the same technology fields. InterTradeIreland works closely with the agencies in each jurisdiction responsible for the delivery of enterprise and innovation services. Such regular contact allows for opportunities to share policy experiences while discussing the proposed programme portfolio for the cross-border efforts. The TTR-ELAt has a working group of practitioners that meets regularly regarding their different policy programmes. In the Oresund, the Capital Region (Denmark) and Skane (Sweden) are discussing the designation of observers in the working groups in charge of respective regional development strategies. This would facilitate information sharing and mutual learning in the two regional administrations. Regional representatives of Alsace (France) and Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany) regularly hold meetings to be informed on the latest developments of respective regional development and “smart specialisation” strategies in order to design or implement integrated actions if relevant. They also share information on innovative practices on the other side of the border to facilitate knowledge sharing and policy learning, especially on topics such as green innovation and standards.

Joint branding of the cross-border area benefits all stakeholders

Table 3.5. Joint branding: Benefits and barriers

Benefits and barriers



  • - increasing national and international visibility for the cross-border area
  • - increasing awareness of cross-border initiatives among local innovation actors
  • - attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), skilled workers, innovation actors
  • - reinforcing a cross-border identity for residents Barriers:
  • - competition among jurisdictions within the cross-border area
  • - political challenges in accepting certain brands (particularly when it involves designating the name of a lead city)
  • - language differences
  • - lack of interest from private sector and/or the civil society
  • - Medicon Valley and its joint ambassadors from the Oresund
  • - Common tourism label for - Hedmark-Dalarna and Ireland-Northern Ireland
  • - Oresund Magazine; JOB0MAGT
  • - Talsinki website

Supporting a sense of common identity for the cross-border area provides a more fertile ground for matchmaking efforts among firms and other innovation system actors. Such common branding helps to raise awareness of ongoing activity and potential for collaboration among innovation actors and institutions. It can also be helpful to communicate “good stories” of cross-border integration to civil society, so as to engage citizens in cross-border initiatives and business opportunities. Some cross-border areas make regular use of articles in newspapers, which the Bothnian Arc pursues when possible, albeit coverage of innovation-related issues on the other side of the border tends to be underdeveloped.4 The Oresund Institute, a non-profit Danish-Swedish association founded with the purpose of encouraging integration within the Oresund Region, produces two magazines. The Oresund Magazine in English contains information on general socio-economic trends, articles on cross-border infrastructure connections, cross-border businesses, and media and cultural events related to the cross-border life (TV series, concerts, exhibitions and so on). A second regular publication, JOB0MAGT, provides data and articles on social, political and economic affairs, alternating between Danish and Swedish language depending on the article.5 Oresund House in Copenhagen serves as a host to several Oresund-related initiatives. Estonia House in Finland is one of a network of houses to support the Estonian Diaspora and culture. Talsinki is the website created by the two cities of Helsinki and Tallinn. Arte (the Association relative a la television europeenne) is an example of a cross-border TV network, jointly headquartered in Germany (Baden-Baden, Baden-Wurttemberg) and France (Strasbourg, Alsace). The network focuses on cultural and art programmes for a German- and French-speaking audience on subjects from both sides of the border. The language of programming alternates between the two languages.

External branding efforts are one of the core rationales for cross-border collaboration. Tourism is one of the sectors where this common label is promoted, such as in Ireland- Northern Ireland and Hedmark-Dalarna. Medicon Valley has been one of the most successful cross-border branding efforts for the Oresund and its life science cluster. The cluster initiative also promotes a joint ambassadors programme for cross-border representation abroad.

However, joint branding issues can be held up by political considerations. For example, the Oresund is an identity within the region, but some suggest that the branding build on the name of the main city, Copenhagen, for external audiences. Branding names raised have included “Copenhagen-Malmo”, the “Copenhagen greater region”, the “Scandinavian Bay area” or the “Copenhagen Circle City”. The branding for the TTR-ELAt has been particularly challenging because it combines successively developed cross-border identities (beyond the Euregio Meuse-Rhine that has a somewhat different geographic scope). There is internal debate regarding the current name that has three cities (Eindhoven, Leuven and Aachen), but not that of Liege, which would make the ELAt triangle more of a square.

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