The TTR-ELAt cross-border innovation policy mix

The TTR-ELAt is quite advanced in developing a mix of policies to take advantage of the innovation assets throughout the cross-border area using “variable geometry” cross-border partnerships. The area hosts a number of good practice examples of successful instruments covering many aspects of a cross-border innovation policy mix. Variable geometry is a pragmatic approach to pursue the objectives of the TTR-ELAt, as seeking agreement across all constituent regions to implement multilaterally a fully joint policy mix co-funded by all would be too cumbersome.

(TTR-ELAt in bold)

Table 9.6. Snapshot of governance characteristics: The TTR-ELAt




National political capitals

Yes, each side Yes, at least one None

The region is multipolar and includes secondary cities in their national/regional context.

Longevity of public co-operation

>20 years

10-20 years <10 years

The Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) was founded in the 1970s. The TTR-ELAt builds on this long history of cross-border co-operation in the area, with the TTR and the ELAt each beginning in 2004 and joining forces in 2009.

Innovation policy competencies

Balanced, strong Balanced, weak Unbalanced

Dutch provinces have few legal competences but are very active in innovation policy; Belgian regions have full competence in this matter (but not the Belgian provinces) and the same holds for German Lander.

Political commitment

Balanced, strong Balanced, weak


Commitment towards this cross-border innovation co-operation is the strongest at Dutch national and provincial level. Other regions remain engaged but to a lesser extent, although North Rhine-Westphalia could be re-engaged in the collaboration. The political commitment of the Province of Liege to the TTR-ELAt needs to be clarified, as well as that of the 7th region (Dusseldorf area) that is not yet active.

Institutionalisation and legitimacy

Present, strong Present, weak Not present

There is no institutionalisation of the TTR-ELAt, and the partial but not total mapping with the EMR represents a missed opportunity to reinforce cross-border area growth.

Actors in governance

Public sector

University/research actors Firms

Mix of actors (triple helix)

The formal governance structures are entirely public sector driven. However, increasingly collaboration in policy making and projects takes on a more triple helix form, including multinationals and other firms, research centres and universities, and intermediaries.

Funding sources

Mainly public

Mixed public/private Mainly private

Many projects in the area are bilateral between two countries. Multilateral TTR-ELAt projects are funded mainly by the European Territorial Co-operation (Interreg) programme with co-funding from other regional and sub-regional authorities.

The most interesting initiatives are bottom-up programmes combining funding sources on the various sides of the border; however, regional and national programmes limit cross-border participation. The Holst Centre, a joint research infrastructure co-funded by the Dutch and Flemish authorities, is one flagship initiative among a subset of cross-border regions. The TTR-ELAt has developed a strategy of supporting business development through the Top Technology Clusters (TTC) and the Cross-border Cluster Stimulation (GCS) projects, involving joint funding from all constituent regions and making strategic use of European Territorial Co-operation funding through the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. A large set of experiments through joint R&D projects of a temporary nature, mostly with European Territorial Co-operation funding, serve to reinforce these cross-border linkages for innovation. In addition, other co-operation takes place without public intervention. Missing in the policy mix are efforts to open existing regional and national programmes to partners from part or the whole TTR-ELAt area (mainstreaming the cross-border element). Mutual exchanges on policies occur on an ad hoc project basis, but not yet in a systematic way at strategic policy-making level.

Table 9.7. Cross-border policy instruments: The TTR-ELAt


Presence in the TTR ELAt

Strategy and policy development

Benchmarking and policy learning

Analytical exercise (like mapping of clusters or value chains, technology foresight exercises)

- BAK Basel Economics reports (on innovation performance and areas of technological expertise in international comparison)

Joint branding of the cross-border area

- ELAt Investment Forums

R&D support

Joint public research programmes

Joint research infrastructure, shared access to research facilities

  • - Holst Centre, joint initiative from the IMEC in Flanders and the TNO in the Netherlands
  • - Forthcoming Biomaterials Research Centre, a joint Dutch-German initiative (AMCBM)

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

- GCS (Cross-border Cluster Stimulation) project: grants for cross-border R&D projects involving SMEs

Technology transfer and innovation support

Cross-border innovation advisory services (vouchers, intermediaries)

  • - TeTTRA: promotion of academia-SMEs linkages and of SMEs recruiting in non-urban areas of the TTR-ELAt
  • - BiELAt Foundation (networking events to support firm matchmaking)

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

- AC2 start-up competition, EUBAN

Other technology transfer centres and extension programmes

- Leuven-Inc

S&T parks and innovation networks

Cross-border science, technology parks and incubators

  • - Avantis and EURODE (Netherlands-Germany)
  • - AMIBM on Chemelot Chemical Campus (Maastricht University and Rheinisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule - RWTH - Aachen)

Cluster or network initiatives

  • - Top Technology Clusters (awareness raising, soft business support, innovation vouchers)
  • - Cross-border automotive cluster ACEMR
  • - Energy Hills (Aachen-Dutch Limburg)
  • - DSP Valley (smart systems and embedded technology solutions)

Human capital investment

Scholarships/student exchanges

Joint university or other higher education programmes

  • - T ransnational Limburg University (joint Flanders and Netherlands)
  • - Executive Master in medical imagery Julich-Maastricht
  • - ELAt Master classes in entrepreneurship

Talent attraction, retention or mobility schemes and support initiatives (like cross-border placement or information for cross-border commuters)

- Info points for border commuters


Financing (venture capital funds or angel networks)

- Euregional business Angels Network

Joint public procurement

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