Conclusions and recommendations
Political commitment on all sides and at all levels is an important factor for kick-starting or securing long-term support for cross-border efforts. Generally, the local level has the strongest interest in collaboration because it feels the costs and benefits most directly, as evidenced by the engagement of many mayors in the case study examples. However, for innovation policy, a region is generally the more appropriate scale to include the range of firms, universities, workers and other innovation actors. Since much of the innovation spending is not with regions, many issues that help or hinder cross-border policy collaboration remain in the hands of national governments. One of the main challenges for joint efforts is that national money tends to stop at the border. Therefore national regulations and policies in a wide range of domains affecting the cross-border area, as well as very specific issues concerning innovation policy instruments, need to be brought to national attention.
Collaboration, if deemed relevant, depends on a clear understanding of the possible costs and benefits as well as the alignment, or not, of the incentives for both sides of the border. Favourable conditions within the region for innovation generally are likely to increase the benefits and reduce the costs of collaboration in innovation policy. However, it is a policy field that does not allow for an easy calculation of inputs and outputs given the high degree of uncertainty associated with many innovation investments. Public administrations may not collaborate even if the net cost of not collaborating is higher.
Collaborations that focus on creating economic and social value better enable each side to find mutual benefit. It is a long-term commitment, implemented in day-to-day work, year after year. The arguments about juste retour, or getting back what one puts in, are often focused on the individual “deal”, not the relationship. Innovation policy has uncertain returns, but it also allows for creating greater benefits through greater knowledge of those cross-border opportunities. Science, technology and innovation policy is also a field where complementary action can be taken upfront and over time to increase returns.
Cross-border areas can combine formal and informal governance arrangements. Most cross-regional partnerships are governed by associations and committees established under voluntary agreements, with formal institutions being the exception. Some form of secretariat is necessary to create the public goods for cross-border area governance to work. Despite the need to garner greater national policy support, national policy makers are rarely invited to participate in formal governance arrangements. Wider stakeholder involvement is necessary for sustainability. Often private entities are the first to see the potential for cross-border collaborations, driven by market opportunities that do not stop at administrative boundaries. In all of the case studies, except in Ireland-Northern Ireland (UK), the governance arrangements included only public authorities. If not through formal boards, the involvement of the private sector, higher education institutions and in some cases citizens may take place outside through other consultation or working groups. Special capacities of public authorities are needed for cross-border regional innovation efforts.
Recommendations concerning the governance of cross-border collaboration include:
- • Give politicians a reason to care about the issue, understanding that their time horizon and motivations are generally short-term. Sometimes they need a flagship project (tunnel/bridge/science infrastructure, etc.) to motivate that support, but there is a risk that this one project leads to disappointment. The pressing realities of the cross-border area may be enough to raise awareness. Large firms and other actors often seek cross-border opportunities, helping to show why it is relevant. The more citizens identify with the area, the easier it is for politicians to make such commitments. Nevertheless, the degree of political turnover in a cross-border area with multiple jurisdictions, as well as the shortterm time horizon, means that there will also be a need to show how the crossborder actions fit with their agendas on an on-going basis.
- • Identify for national (supra-national) governments where they can help cross-border efforts. While the local, sub-regional or regional level may be able to develop the strategy and the lines for collaboration, removing some of the particularly binding constraints may lie in the hands of national policy makers. Those constraints can be in the innovation policy field specifically, but may also involve regulations in other fields such as taxation or labour policy.
- • Understand the different costs and benefits, and the alignment of those across the border, for cultivating a long-term collaboration that builds trust.
While some initial experiments may be needed to test possibilities for collaboration, ultimately a focus on each project detracts from relationship building with a focus on increasing economic and social benefits. These opportunities may change over time and require supplementary action to get the most impact. Given the competition among jurisdictions within the cross-border area, a first step is to focus on location-specific attractiveness where all jurisdictions see the direct benefit.
• Engage non-public actors in governance, with some form of secretariat to underpin the work of the official, even if informal, governance body. All the
relevant stakeholders from the public, private, academic/research and civil society spheres are generally not on governance bodies. However, they may be mobilised in consultation bodies or working groups to define the vision and strategy, including through their participation in stakeholder networks (such as a cross-border association of universities or firms). These stakeholders may also support cross-border efforts because they see how the programmes do serve their needs, or they have participated in research that helps define the programmes in the first place. A co-funded secretariat may be centralised in one organisation or virtual through in-kind contributions of participating jurisdictions, but somebody needs to make cross-border efforts a priority.