Support research and development (R&D)
One of the most common innovation instruments used by cross-border areas is collaborative research, among public actors or between public and private actors. Such instruments often target the common areas of scientific and industrial strength within the cross-border area to increase critical mass in the field or capitalise on complementary expertise. While the primary goal of these schemes is to promote cross-border high-quality research, often a secondary but non-negligible outcome is the establishment of wider networks and platforms for scientific research over the long term.
Joint public research programmes are used in many cross-border areas
Table 3.6. Joint public research programmes: Benefits and barriers
Benefits and barriers
Cross-border public research may occur through a combined financing “common pot” or alignment of respective funding sources “virtual common pot” (Table 2.2). The eligible participants may be universities or other research and technology centres. For example, the Swedish and Finnish research and innovation agencies (Vinnova and Tekes respectively) signed a bilateral agreement to promote joint research between the two countries targeting specific disciplines (Box 3.2). The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership is a research funding programme launched in 2006 involving funding agencies from three different jurisdictions: the United States, Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK). All proposals submitted must involve institutions and researchers from all three jurisdictions in prioritised sectors. This initiative, facilitated by InterTradeIreland, is also an interesting example of targeting a cross-border area while at the same time promoting global networks with partners in the United States of research excellence. InterTradeIreland has set up an EU Framework Programme (FP) preparation support that provides for research institutions located throughout the cross-border area advice, information and funds for preparatory steps to join FP programmes. Applications for this funding source require at least three different countries, and applications with Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) participants have a strong success rate. The Irish Marine Institute has launched calls for research proposals on an all-island basis. In the North of Portugal-Galicia (Spain) cross-border area, a network of universities on both sides is supported by a foundation to strengthen academic collaboration and research in priority areas, among other goals (Box 3.3).
Box 3.2. Joint Finnish-Swedish research programme in wood materials science and engineering
The Wood Material Science and Engineering (WMS) Research Programme (2003-07) was a joint Swedish-Finnish programme with the aim to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of European forestry and forest-based industry. The programme is a first attempt to align several national public funding sources from the two countries. In Finland, the projects were funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Academy of Finland and Tekes. In Sweden, the financers were Vinnova and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning. The budget of the WMS Programme was EUR 19.7 million and it involved 317 researchers from 29 research units and more than 70 partner organisations in the 2 countries. The WMS Programme funding was organised as a “virtual common pot” in which one programme virtually combines different existing funding mechanisms. The benefit of this approach is in its flexibility at the programme level, but at the same time, the decisions and management of individual projects remain in the hands of each funding organisation. To a large extent, the WMS projects were curiosity-driven rather than mission-oriented.
The programme was successfully concluded and had valuable impact, particularly with regard to the following aspects:
- • The programme scope definition was systematic and project selection ambitious. The programme managed to advance top-level research in fields that were considered relevant within academia, the five funding organisations and industry. In these areas, scientific output was extensive (articles, degrees), particularly in relation to the rather limited duration and funding volume.
- • There has been a positive contribution in bringing Swedish and Finnish researchers closer together. Several excellent research projects would not have started without the WMS Programme. The transnational research collaboration continues in many projects after the programme, but rather at the individual level than at institutional or research group level. Existing networks have continued and have been strengthened and some new cross-border collaborations have emerged. Researchers and industry value getting to know new partners for potential future collaboration.
- • The competence and readiness of the five research funding agencies to organise transnational research programmes has significantly improved through the joint learning process of the WMS Programme. This has had immediate positive implications.
Sources: Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013), “The case of the Bothnian Arc (Finland-Sweden) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/17, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k3xv0r6v 26b-en; Halme, K., S. Kanninen, K. Viljamaa, E. Arnold, T. Astrom and T. Jansson (2008), “Creating cross-border competence: Impact evaluation of the Wood Material Science and Engineering Research Programme”, Tekes Programme Report, No. 2.
Box 3.3. Centre for Euroregional Studies of Galicia-North of Portugal (CEER)
The Center for Euroregional Studies for Galicia and the North of Portugal (CEER) was established as a Foundation in 2002 by its member universities, the Galicia Autonomous Community (Spain) and the Galicia-North of Portugal Comunidade de TrabalholTraballo. Member universities include the University of Santiago, the University of Coruna, the University of Vigo (in Galicia), and the University of Porto, the University of Minho and the University of Tras-os-Montes Alto Douro (in the North of Portugal). CEER promotes synergies and complementarities across universities and academic disciplines and relations between the universities and regional and local institutions. Its main objectives, according to its foundational mission and the strategic document approved by the executive body presided by the Rector of the University of Minho, include:
- • to promote, motivate and develop inter-university research
- • to promote academic exchange of teachers and students among CEER universities
- • to prepare and co-ordinate a common educational offer
- • to help regional and local institutions through policy-relevant research
- • to organise databases, references and documentation on the Galicia-North of Portugal “Euroregion”
- • to organise seminars, debates, congresses and scientific meetings
- • to organise and co-operate in the production of scientific and informational publications.
Other case study examples of collaboration across universities were funded by EU programmes targeted either at research excellence or cross-border efforts. The universities of the Bothnian Arc collaborate on a cross-border basis in several public funded research programmes. These programmes involve both the leading universities of the area (Lulea University of Technology and Oulu University) and a series of other higher education institutions (HEIs) located outside the two main urban centres. Most projects concern scientific and research co-operation in specific domains (bio-energy, raw material processing, particle analysis on oil, etc.). The Science Offensive programme of the Upper Rhine Trinational Metropolitan Region has received an overwhelming response to its call for proposals among leading cross-border scientific actors, albeit given competition among these actors, collaboration is not always straightforward. Considerable efforts were made to ensure the quality of the selection process (Box 3.4).
Barriers in cross-border public research programmes may arise due to many causes. They include: non-alignment of project calls or programme rules; systems in evaluating the proposals; intellectual property (IP) regulation and rights; technology transfer management; institutional management and the organisation of academic studies. A common position from the funders and agencies on both sides of the border with respect to IP policy and process is an essential prerequisite to increased collaboration through joint research. The Oresund Contracts were part of a joint Danish-Swedish public R&D programme that experienced several obstacles to achieving its desired impact (Box 3.5).
Box 3.4. The Science Offensive of the Upper Rhine Trinational Metropolitan Region
The Science Offensive was launched by the Lander of Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate (both in Germany) as well as the Regional Council of Alsace (France) in the framework of an initiative of the Pillar of Sciences of the Upper Rhine Trinational Metropolitan Region. It provides financial and technical support to outstanding cross-border projects in the Upper Rhine region during the development and implementation of European Territorial Co-operation (Interreg) proposals in the field of research and innovation. The Upper Rhine region’s Science Offensive is a unique joint-programming initiative in Europe.
By bringing together key scientific players on both sides of the Rhine, the Science Offensive not only actively promotes innovation and research but also cross-border technology transfer. This directly contributes to achieving the goals of the European Union and the Upper Rhine region to become a “Region of Excellence”.
The first call for projects in October 2011 attracted considerable interest from the key scientific players in the Upper Rhine region. A total of 36 project proposals were submitted that were presented to a transnational committee of experts. At the end of the selection process, seven projects were admitted for funding through the programme Interreg IV Upper Rhine in the framework of the Science Offensive.
Source: Coordination de la Region Metropolitaine Trinational du Rhin Superieur (2012), “Offensive Sciences”, Kehl, Germany, 5 July, www.rmtmo.eu/fr/science/actualites/news-reader/items/offensive- sciences.html.
Box 3.5. Evaluation of the Oresund Contracts, a joint Swedish-Danish R&D programme
The Oresund Contracts were launched as a joint Danish-Swedish initiative in 2000 for the 2001-04 period, with the aim to support the development of the Oresund Region. It funded six pre-competitive pilot R&D co-operation projects between companies, universities and research institutes from both sides of the cross-border region. It relied on the Danish instrument Centerkontrakt, now called Innovation Consortia, and extended it over the national border. The Danish Centerkontrakt was launched in 1995 to better link the institutes both with user needs and with universities. The administration of the programme was shared between the two national agencies, which were each managing three of the six projects.
The evaluation concluded that initiatives of this kind have a potential to contribute to the joint development of the region, though both programme logic and implementation need to be better adapted to the context. The Oresund Contracts, or at least those which have functioned well, reduced uncertainty and, for some, entry barriers for co-operation. But for a more visible effect, several elements need to be addressed:
• There was a lack of strategic management of the programme. More specifically, a common relevant problem definition, a common vision at the level of operationally responsible agencies, a common programming document and some long-term financial commitment to reach the long-term objectives involved, were all largely missing.
Box 3.5. Evaluation of the Oresund Contracts, a joint Swedish-Danish R&D
- • The absence of a strong research institute sector in Sweden, comparable to the GTS in Denmark, was a barrier to develop the projects which placed the institutes at the core of the intended partnerships.
- • The requirement for balanced geographic composition of the consortia often came at the expense of their quality and the search for real complementarities and synergies. The requirement for a ‘"juste retour” principle on individual projects was difficult to satisfy, since the regions involved were, respectively, a central region in Denmark and a more peripheral region with fewer knowledge institutes in Sweden.
- • The procedures of the Oresund Contracts did not allow significantly new networks to be built. More account should have been taken of the need for a first feasibility (getting-to-know each other) phase for these relatively complex cross-border projects.
- • The partnerships behind the projects worked largely at a personal level rather than through structured agreements between organisations, which raises the question of their sustainability. Extending and widening existing networks seems to be one way of sustaining the effects of the projects.
- • Effects in terms of penetration of the Swedish market by the Danish GTS institutes seem limited, due notably to non-matching specialisations. There is some evidence that institutes from the two sides have begun to operate more closely together but without a financial incentive to continue doing so it is unlikely this will be sustainable.
- • At the time of the evaluation, the exploitation of research results by the partner companies was still inconclusive and dissemination to other companies potentially interested by the technological applications was restricted to conferences, workshops and publications. Attempts to develop supplier groups or involve users did not seem to have borne fruit.
- • This outcome raises the issue of whether the research focus of the programme was optimal with respect to regional needs. A number of stakeholders and participants were of the opinion that the projects were driven more by national participants (e.g. projects clearly pulled together by institutes on both sides), instead of focusing on technologies or sectors which could have a broader impact on the region. The risk is that the effects are limited to a small group of niche technology firms involved in each project. In short, the projects seem too narrow and engage a too small number of people to make a real difference in terms of contributing to the integration of the Oresund regional innovation system.
Following this experiment, national authorities have not yet succeeded in establishing the Oresund Contracts as a part of the regional support portfolio of instruments.
Source: Faugert, S., E. Arnold, A. Reid, A. Erikson, T. Jansson, and R. Zaman (2004), “Evaluation of the Oresund contracts for cross-border R&D cooperation between Denmark and Sweden”, VINNOVA Rapport 12.
Joint research infrastructure or shared access provides economies of scale
Table 3.7. Joint research infrastructure or shared access: Benefits and barriers
Benefits and barriers
For economies of scale, cross-border regions may have an interest in jointly funding and operating research facilities. The construction of high-end research facilities is very expensive and not always affordable by only one regional (and in some cases even national) funding government. This is a classic case whereby indivisibilities justify joint investment. In addition, co-sponsored facilities are accessible to a broader number of actors, so that the investments made by one region can be maximised and risks associated with the construction and the usage of the facility shared among multiple actors. Joint research facilities have the benefit of bringing together researchers and scientists with different experiences and backgrounds from different institutions. In addition, in some cases, skilled personnel from both the public research and the business community meet, thus facilitating the creation of cross-border inter-personal networks for innovation.
The Holst Centre in the TTR-ELAt illustrates a creative financing solution that builds on complementary expertise and know-how from two countries (Box 3.6). Both the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium) have strong research traditions in nanotechnology and advanced materials. In the Netherlands, the High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven provides a fertile location for joint research with firms. IMEC, a research centre in Flanders, has a longstanding relationship with many multinationals and the experience in developing contracts and procedures for promoting such joint research activities with multiple firms that also compete with each other. Given challenges with contract and funding flows, any given project is actually managed by one or the other of the constituent research entities (IMEC in Flanders or TNO in the Netherlands) in a “virtual common pot” funding arrangement. Researchers can commute to the facility for specific projects. Firm partners from around the world send their researchers for short-term stays to the centre, who then can benefit from the innovation ecosystem around the High-Tech Campus as well.
The Oresund cross-border area is mobilised on both sides around the construction of two new large-scale scientific facilities (Box 3.7). The scale of investment for the European Spallation Source (ESS) (a big research facility that will be located in Lund, Sweden), almost EUR 2 billion in construction costs, implies a multi-country financing partnership. Many of those contributions are in kind, in other words countries have pledged a certain contribution but that will be “paid” through a competitive contracting process where entities in the respective countries receive contracts directly from their national governments. Denmark has agreed to finance the centre to manage the data generated by the new facility. There are also efforts to help firms on both sides of the border build capacity to help in the construction of the facility itself as well as its development and maintenance in the decades to come. Outreach efforts by the ESS are helping firms to identify possible applications of research using the facility in a wide range of fields.
Box 3.6. The Holst Centre (Eindhoven): A creative solution for cross-border research centres
A noteworthy initiative in the framework of the TTR-ELAt is the cross-border Holst Centre, which was set up in 2005 by IMEC (Flanders, Belgium) and TNO (the Netherlands) with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the government of Flanders. It is named after Gilles Holst, the first Director of Philips Research.
The Holst Centre is an independent, open innovation R&D centre that develops generic technologies for wireless autonomous sensor technologies and flexible electronics. A key feature of the Holst Centre is its partnership model with industry and academia, based around shared roadmaps and programmes.
This jointly funded “cross-border” institute is situated on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven and has grown to over 180 employees with 28 nationalities, and a commitment from almost 40 industrial partners. To co-ordinate the activities at the Holst Centre, IMEC set up a separate legal entity, the Stichting Imec Nederland (imec-nl). Strong links with parent organisations have been key to the rapid growth of the Holst Centre and still help to successfully attract talent and establish research partnerships. While most of the programmes co-ordinated by the Holst Centre are executed at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, a number of projects rely on close collaboration with IMEC groups in Leuven, India or Chinese Taipei and with TNO groups in various locations in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs supported the Holst Centre during its start-up period from 2005 to 2012. The total amount of public funding required to enable further growth of the Holst Centre in the coming four years was estimated at EUR 72 million. This budget was made available in 2012, combining efforts by several governments and organisations.
Sources: Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013f), “The case of the Top Technology Region/Eindhoven- Leuven-Aachen Triangle (TTR-ELAt) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/22, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/10.1787/5k3xv0lg3hf5-en; TTR-ELAt (2013), “Background report to OECD study: Cross-border regional innovation policies”, March.
Box 3.7. ESS + MAX IV in Lund, Sweden: Maximising economic impact for the Oresund
MAX-lab is a national laboratory operated jointly by the Swedish Research Council and Lund University. The fourth generation of this infrastructure is under construction in Lund. MAX-lab supports distinct research areas: accelerator physics research based on the use of synchrotron radiation and nuclear physics using energetic electrons. Time at the facility will be shared between groups working within these fields. The laboratory is an international forum: nearly half of the scientists working at the laboratory will be from foreign countries. The MAX IV project was agreed in 2009 and the construction started at the site in 2010. Its budget amounts to EUR 330 million, and it will host around 2 000 researchers when in full operation.
The European Spallation Source (ESS) is a Partnership of 17 European countries committed to the goal of collectively building and operating the world’s leading facility for research using neutrons. The ESS will produce neutrons that will be used in parallel experiments to foster major advances from ageing and health, materials technology for sustainable and renewable energy, to experiments in quantum physics, biomaterials and nano-science. The ESS will be located in Lund, the data management facility will be located in the Copenhagen area, and it will be funded and operated by the 17 partner European countries. More than 300 researchers from 11 countries have taken part in the 15-year planning process. The ESS is expected to become operational in 2019. Its construction budget is EUR 1.5 billion and it is designed to host 4 000 researchers.
The two research facilities will provide complementary research opportunities at the intersection of several scientific domains (material science, physics, medicine, chemistry, biology and engineering) having a wide range of applications, thus constituting a unique asset for research and innovation development of the Oresund Region.
Box 3.7. ESS + MAX IV in Lund, Sweden: Maximising economic impact for the Oresund (cont.)
Several projects aim at connecting these facilities to regional development goals:
The 2010-2012 TITA project (carried out by the Swedish side) aimed to enhance the regional impacts of ESS/MAX IV through various activities. They included: relocation support; marketing; meeting point; foresight; ESS and MAX IV as an innovation catalyst for trade and industry; ESS and MAX IV, a growth factor for local and regional businesses; urban planning and transport infrastructure; land availability register; and the pilot study for competence supply needs. It was decided at the end of the project to appoint an Industrial Liaison Officer to support business opportunities with the ESS and MAX IV. A similar project focusing on gains on both sides of the sound is under preparation for the next European Territorial Co-operation (ETC) programming period, and the Danish Vaxtmotor project is aiming at a similar goal.
Vaxtmotor (ESS and MAX IV as growth engines for the Capital Region of Denmark) is a project co-funded by the EU Regional Development Fund and the Capital Region of Denmark. It is designed to help the capital region of Denmark to exploit the growth potential related to the establishment of the ESS and MAX IV in Lund and the XFEL in Hamburg. The project will use the facilities as growth engines to strengthen the research and innovation capacity at universities and companies and to increase the region’s ability to attract international labour and R&D departments. Specifically, the project aims to: 1) establish a joint research and contact data base to facilitate foreign researcher employment in the capital region and highlight the barriers for living in and working on opposite sides of the Oresund; 2) develop information packages about the Capital Region as a research destination for researchers and companies; 3) analyse which physical facilities should be offered to foreign companies that might locate in relation to the ESS and MAX IV; 4) build networks between companies, research institutions and the research facilities; 5) develop teaching packages to high schools and study programmes at universities; and 6) help Danish companies win commercial contracts for the construction and operation of the facilities.
The 2011-13 ETC (Interreg IV) project Cluster for Accelerator Technology (CATE) aims to enhance the benefits of the construction of those infrastructures and facilitate knowledge transfer and spillovers in the region. Its footprint extends to other parts of Sweden, the whole of Denmark and Norway. The project is led by universities and aims to develop the competences in the field of accelerator technology in order to give companies the necessary capacities to win contracts for the construction and maintenance of research facilities that demand advanced accelerator technology equipment. A motivation for the project was to acquire contracts with CERN in the short term, and to the ESS in the future. In this project, Oresund universities invite existing companies in the region to participate in ad hoc seminars or courses and competence development programmes in the field of accelerator technology.
The Oresund Materials Innovation Community (OMIC) is another ETC (Interreg IV) project, aiming at developing the system of innovation in materials science to create the conditions for making the region a world-leading material science centre, based on the exploitation of opportunities offered by the ESS and MAX IV. The project is mainly targeted at academia, with a major focus on education planning. The project includes: community building; regional branding; mapping of competences; the provision of network seminars for the affiliated companies in the science parks; etc.
Science Link aims to foster the use of these new facilities, as well as large research infrastructure in Germany, by industries in the wider Baltic Sea region (and is part-funded by the Baltic Sea programme). The project designs a model to upgrade the participation of industry in scientific infrastructure, which is jointly funded by the participating regions. The model is tested on companies and results in proposals for a financing scheme of the infrastructure.
The Big Science Secretariat in Denmark has been established to support Danish companies and research institutions to reap the benefits of the Danish public contribution to big science infrastructure such as the ESS and MAX IV.
Source: Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013), “The case of Oresund (Denmark-Sweden) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/21, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/10.1787/5k3xv0lk8knn-en.
Private R&D funding can be challenging to finance through cross-border public support
Table 3.8. Cross-border private R&D funding: Benefits and barriers
Benefits and barriers
Collaborative innovation programmes targeting firms are less common than public research programmes, given the hesitancy of public authorities to help firms across the border. These programmes may be generic (not targeting specific disciplines or actors) or thematic (if some sectors are prioritised or they focus on certain categories of firms, for example SMEs). Other funding options include joint platforms among private organisations from respective jurisdictions. InterTradeIreland’s Innova programme supports innovation partnerships between Ireland and Northern Ireland aiming to develop new products, processes or services as well as to build on already existing innovations in the same sector or complementary disciplines. To be eligible, the partnerships must demonstrate commercial potential. In 2013, projects in the following sectors were prioritised: life and health sciences, agri-food, advanced engineering, telecoms, environment and ICT. Within the TTR-ELAt region, the GCS Cross-border Cluster Stimulation project stands out for a number of its distinctive programme features (Box 3.8). This project, along with the Top Technology Cluster project, constitute a strategic approach to supporting firms using a truly cross-border “common pot” funding structure.
Box 3.8. GCS Cross-Border Cluster Stimulation Fund in the TTR-ELAt
The Cross-Border Cluster Stimulation Fund (GCS) is a scheme providing grants for cross-border R&D projects in SMEs in the TTR-ELAt region. It is a joint fund led by the Dutch Province of Limburg (managed by LIOF, the regional development agency) that aims at stimulating cross-border co-operation in the larger Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) area. The GCS provides funds as an extension of another programme for Top Technology Clusters, which operates at an earlier stage of firm collaboration. The GCS funds cross-border SME-based R&D projects with the following parameters: i) two SMEs on two sides of national borders (including SMEs and at least one in the EMR area) must be partners in the project, but large companies and universities may join as well; ii) funding per business case is between EUR 100 000 and EUR 250 000 for up to 18 months. In the first wave (end 2012), eight projects were supported, for a total budget of EUR 5.6 million. A second selection round in mid-2013 resulted in 14 additional R&D projects. In total, the GCS will foster 22 SME-based cross-border innovation projects with a funding amount (directly for the individual co-operation consortia) of EUR 4.7 million.
Box 3.8. GCS Cross-Border Cluster Stimulation Fund in the TTR-ELAt (cont.)
Several characteristics of this programme are noteworthy:
- • This is the first time that the EMR funds firms directly after decades of supporting projects. Applications are ranked using the following categories: technological and scientific strengths (10%); innovation level (20%); potential market success (40%); European co-operation (maximum 15%); and personal contribution funding (maximum 15%).
- • While the European Territorial Co-operation (Interreg) Steering Committee makes the final decision, it is based on the recommendations of external experts (four from each of the four regions) who rank the proposals using the above criteria.
- • The Dutch Ministry of Economy has made an exceptional financial commitment so as to test such a model and show others its success. The total public funding (which is then matched by private funding) is around EUR 5.5 million, of which EUR 2.29 million comes from Interreg, EUR 2 million from the ministry and the rest are contributions ranging from EUR 9 000 to EUR 200 000 by the various sub-regions of the area.
Source: Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013f), “The case of the Top Technology Region/Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (TTR-ELAt) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/22, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/10.1787/5k3xv0lg3hf5-en.