Governance of the TTR-ELAt
The TTR-ELAt’s cross-border governance is complicated by the number of sub-regions and imbalances in both policy competences and political commitment. The governance of the TTR-ELAt is by nature complex with regard to its composition: three countries, four S&T policy regimes and six active partner regions with different sets of competences in innovation policy. The Dutch side of the TTR-ELAt appears to be the leader of the cross-border region from a public governance perspective. The Dutch national government is a supporter of the concept and contributes to cross-border efforts in terms of leadership and public funding. The government of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) has recognised the value of cross-border co-operation in innovation. Within North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen region participates in the TTR-ELAt. The Flemish provinces are active followers in the TTR-ELAt. The political commitment of the Province of Liege (Wallonia) to the cross-border efforts requires some clarification. A seventh region in Germany has not yet chosen to participate. More active engagement of the regional authorities is needed in Belgium (Wallonia and Flanders), as well as a re-engagement of North Rhine-Westphalia, given their extensive responsibilities for innovation policy that the participant TTR-ELAt areas from their regions do not have.
The absence of a permanent co-ordinating body with dedicated resources hinders the strategic development of the TTR-ELAt. Partner regions have all developed an innovation strategy, or at least regional development policies incorporating the innovation dimension. Common sectors and horizontal actions for cross-border work have been identified, but this is not part of a cross-border strategy. Current co-ordination efforts rely on the good will of a few public sector employees who can dedicate only a small and decreasing share of their time to promote this cross-border collaboration. There are many bilateral projects along different axes within the cross-border area based on identified opportunities. A recent co-operation agreement between two regional development agencies is an example of a pilot that could be tested in other parts of the cross-border area. However, some of the broader common good functions associated with cross-border governance require greater common efforts. European Territorial Co-operation (Interreg) projects are the main funding sources for multilateral cross-border policy instruments and play a key role in catalysing the cross-border efforts. However, their fragmented, project-driven approach is not complemented by a strategy to ensure alignment with other regional/national/EU policies in the regions. The European Territorial Co-operation cross-border intervention area was designed with the goal of solving localised border issues, and in the case of the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, the geographic coverage is less adapted to innovation promotion than the TTR-ELAt.