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Governing cross-border collaboration

Finding the right governance arrangements for collaboration is perhaps the most complex task for cross-border innovation policy. An overarching vision for collaboration is a useful place to start. The local and regional levels on each side of the border can identify the costs, benefits and opportunities before pointing out to national or other levels of government how they are helping or hindering cross-border efforts. While the innovation policy field offers a strong potential to create value, the high degree of uncertainty also renders the assessment of costs and benefits, as well as the urgency for action, more difficult. Innovation-driven economic development is a field where jurisdictions are also competing, but the real competition is not with the neighbour, it is on a global scale, implying potential for “co-optition” (co-operation for competition). Cross-border areas need to rely on both formal or informal governance arrangements, or both, but in all cases trust is essential and takes time. And since governance goes beyond government, wider stakeholder involvement beyond the public sector is necessary for sustainability.

It appears the most difficult part of supporting a cross-border area for innovation purposes concerns who should be involved in the governance and what form that governance takes. The types of public authorities involved will depend on the level of devolution of powers to the regions, particularly with respect to innovation policy. Regions with greater powers are better able to engage across the border, whereas other regions will need to seek the support of their national governments for action. The interest in developing cross-border collaboration depends on the possible benefits and costs as seen by the different parties. In the field of innovation policy, there is greater scope to create economic and social value of mutual benefit, and not simply engage in a zero-sum game of competition. That is because the benefits for such collaboration depend on the actions taken to maximise them. The capacity of public authorities to engage in this complex policy field (innovation) and the set of relations (cross-border) is a further consideration. The case studies, and beyond, include a range of examples with respect to different governance issues, both in terms of frameworks and institutionalisation of that collaboration (Table 2.1). This chapter considers:

  • • what levels of government should be involved, and how, in supporting regional cross-border collaboration efforts for innovation
  • • the incentives for collaboration and the associated benefits and costs
  • • the forms of governance arrangements to manage such collaborations.

Table 2.1. Governance characteristics in case study areas



Case study examples

National political capitals

Yes, each side Yes, at least one None


Oresund, Ireland-Northern Ireland TTR-ELAt, Hedmark-Dalarna, Bothnian Arc

Longevity of public co-operation

>20 years 10-20 years <10 years

Oresund, TTR-ELAt (including in other forms) Ireland-Northern Ireland, Bothnian Arc, Helsinki-Tallinn Hedmark-Dalarna

Innovation policy competencies

Balanced, strong Balanced, weak Unbalanced

Bothnian Arc, Helsinki-Tallinn, Hedmark-Dalarna Ireland-Northern Ireland, TTR-ELAt, Oresund

Political commitment

Balanced, strong Balanced, weak Unbalanced

Ireland-Northern Ireland, Oresund (sub-national level) Bothnian Arc, Hedmark-Dalarna, Helsinki-Tallinn TTR-ELAt

Institutionalisation of funding sources

Present, strong Present, weak Not present

Ireland-Northern Ireland, Oresund

Bothnian Arc, Helsinki-Tallinn, Hedmark-Dalarna


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