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Conclusions and recommendations

The success of making the cross-border instruments work is likely to be greater when they contribute to some form of a broader strategy or action plan. It helps if this strategy is supported by data, mapping exercises of relevant actors and other forms of policy intelligence. Sometimes cross-border policy instruments are experimental but can serve as test cases for mainstreaming, whereby cross-border actors can participate in traditional innovation programmes. Instruments that seek to force actors to collaborate when they have disincentives to do so will not be sustainable and therefore raise the question of whether they should be financed in the first place.

Policy instruments have shown different degrees of success in the case study areas. Instruments that tended to work include those supporting linkages between firms and knowledge institutions across the border, cluster-related efforts to support competencies in common areas and shared access to certain science facilities. Innovation vouchers and joint research were also used. Innovation projects in highly regulated sectors (including related to health systems or energy provision), as well as common branding efforts which raise political sensibilities, were generally more difficult to implement. Mixed results were observed for broad university collaborations; however, arrangements that focus on specific areas of complementary expertise were easier to implement. Other cross-border instruments are being explored, such as with respect to financing and public procurement.

Recommendations to make cross-border instruments work include:

  • • Devote more efforts to strategy development and policy intelligence. Case studies reveal that greater attention is needed to identify opportunities where collaboration would create a true and significant value added, as well as opportunities for complementarities across different fields of expertise. The incentive structures for different actors to collaborate should also be taken into account. Developing a common understanding of why certain previous crossborder initiatives did not succeed can serve to avoid repeating similar mistakes. Benchmarking with other cross-border areas may help define more efficient crossborder initiatives or instruments.
  • • Mainstream the cross-border element in innovation instruments, align programme rules or allow for greater programme flexibility. Allowing crossborder actors to participate in programmes in the neighbouring country, subject to the demonstration of co-operation benefits, is a powerful means to stimulate and support cross-border collaboration. An alternative is to align programmes on the various sides of the border, so that actors can benefit from simultaneous and coordinated support from their respective jurisdictions. Such alignment can achieve impact without an increase of budgets dedicated towards cross-border activities. It allows the creation of “virtual common pots” for joint efforts whereby funds may still stop at the border, but meet funds on the other side.
  • • Make greater use of opportunities created by the border. While in many areas the border is a burden, there are cases where it can be an opportunity. Working across the border may allow firms to then gain easier access to another national market, including the public sector of a neighbouring country. The neighbouring country can serve as a test bed for products before wider international marketing. There are several examples of problems that are created by the border that can be the source of inspiration for a solution marketable elsewhere.

• Publicise success stories of cross-border instruments. Given the challenge of trying to convince politicians and cross-border residents that such efforts are worthwhile, some concrete and successful projects can inspire. The examples can serve to engender greater willingness on behalf of constituent jurisdictions to support cross-border collaboration. Such success stories should focus on the unique contribution of the cross-border dimension.

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