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Governance of the Bothnian Arc cross-border area

The governance of the Bothnian Arc area rests on the shoulders of the small Bothnian Arc Association which plays a limited co-ordination and facilitator role. The association’s main public stakeholders are municipalities. National and regional authorities, holding decision-making power and budgets in innovation matters, are not involved in the governance of the cross-border area. National and regional policy documents include generic interest in the cross-border dimension, but this interest is not translated into joint or aligned policy instruments. Knowledge institutions and firms are only involved in the Bothnian Arc initiative through concrete projects, but do not explicitly contribute to the vision or to the strategic plans for the cross-border area. This is especially problematic for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which can be considered as the main engines for the industrial renewal towards new and marketable activities responding to societal challenges.

Some amount of public funding is necessary to pursue the area’s strategic goals and develop the cross-border region institutionally, but there is also a lack of private funding. Structural funding for the association is supported in part by the Nordic Council of Ministers. However, the foreseen decline of this source in the near future calls for alternative structural funding sources to complement the limited allocations from municipalities. The major source of public money for cross-border projects is EU Territorial Co-operation funding (Interreg A), which has proven instrumental for raising the awareness of the potential for cross-border co-operation, mostly for universities and large firms. This source is, however, fraught with a number of weaknesses, notably that it tends to fund a collection of projects without much strategic capitalisation linked to regional development goals. Attracting more private funding into cross-border innovation projects is needed, in view of the fact that most of the initiatives implemented under the Bothnian Arc seem to be unsustainable beyond the period of public funding. Availability of private funds is the best way to ensure a good match with market needs for innovation projects.

Table 4.6. Snapshot of governance characteristics: Bothnian Arc

(Bothnian Arc in bold)

Characteristic

Specification

Comments

National political capitals

Yes, each side Yes, at least one None

The two main cities on both sides, Lulea (SWE) and Oulu (FIN), are distant from their respective capitals, Stockholm and Helsinki.

Longevity of public co-operation

>20 years 10-20 years

<10 years

The Bothnian Arc Association was established in 2002. A 1996 strategy laid some of the foundations for this more recent initiative.

Innovation policy competencies

Balanced, strong Balanced, weak

Unbalanced

On both the Swedish and Finnish sides of the border, innovation policies are somewhat centralised; however, sub-national entities (regions in Sweden, municipalities in Finland) have some innovation and business development mandates.

Political commitment

Balanced, strong

Balanced, weak

Unbalanced

Commitment for cross-border innovation co-operation in the Bothnian Arc is relatively strong at the municipal level (notably Oulu and Lulea) but weak at regional and national level.

Institutionalisation and legitimacy

Present, strong Present, weak Not present

The Bothnian Arc Association is a small entity (two staff) and has limited visibility beyond the mainly municipal public board members.

Actors in governance

Public sector

University/research actors Firms

Mix of actors (triple helix)

Universities, intermediaries and firms are not active partners in efforts to support a vision, strategy or implementation, albeit universities appear more active than firms.

Funding sources

Mainly public Mixed public/private Mainly private

The Bothnian Arc Association is funded by member public authorities and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Projects are funded mainly by the EU Territorial Co-operation programme (Interreg A) with some minor private co-financing.

 
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