Desktop version

Home arrow Geography arrow Regions and innovation collaborating across borders

The profile and relevance of the Ireland-Northern Ireland cross-border area for innovation

Two concepts for this cross-border area co-exist: the “narrow border” area and the “all-island” area, with the latter being more relevant for innovation. The narrow definition is mainly a peace- and politically-led definition reinforced by international funding. This narrow definition disconnects the less dynamic parts of the island from its most dynamic parts, thus forming a community of peripheral counties that is a less appealing option for exploiting innovation potential. The focus on innovation activities and partnerships implies a broadening of the relevant spatial scale compared to the traditional treatment of local border issues.

The “all-island” area, while more adapted to cross-border efforts for innovation, is not a functional area. Cross-border flows are below their potential at present in terms of trade, commuting, business networks, access to public procurement, sales of design services, students and tourists, collaboration between research, technology and development (RTD) centres and between these centres and industry. Furthermore, engagement of actors with significant distance from the border can be difficult. Despite a strong socio-cultural proximity, the creation of the border and the resulting conflict had severed many cross-border ties that take time to rebuild.

There are significant differences between the two sides of the “all-island” cross-border area (scale, economy and innovation performance). Ireland generally has stronger economic and innovation performance than Northern Ireland (UK), including dynamism, export openness, attraction of foreign direct investment, intensity of R&D, patenting and SME innovation propensity. Their current industrial structures differ markedly. The Irish economy includes several prominent sectors such as: food and beverages; printing, publishing and reproduction of recorded media; chemicals and chemical products; and electrical and optical equipment. The Irish economy is more of a dual economy, as it has a multinational sector that remains generally disconnected from the local SME base. In contrast, the Northern Ireland economy suffered to a greater extent from industrial restructuring and social unrest, and its economy today is relatively more dependent on the public sector. Its current economic development strategy seeks to rebalance the economy for a greater private sector share, focusing on innovation, R&D and creativity as tools to do so. SME internationalisation and progress in R&D investments could result in important sustainable economic growth and job creation on both sides of the border. Local studies show that SMEs with cross-border linkages perform better than those that do not have cross-border linkages. In some cases, those cross-border linkages serve as a stepping stone for access to EU and world markets.

Table 7.3. Innovation overview: Ireland-Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)

Variable

Ireland

(Southern and Eastern region)

Ireland

(Border, Midland and Western)

Northern

Ireland

OECD peer regions average: “Medium-tech manufacturing and service providers”*

Tertiary educational attainment as a share of labour force (2008)

36.4%

29.7%

31.9%

28.1%

R&D personnel (as a % of total employment) (2009)

1.9%

1.4%

1.4%

1.9%

Share of employment in high-tech manufacturing (2008)

42.8%

39.5%

30.9%

39.8%

Share of employment in knowledge-intensive services (2008)

53.9%

48.7%

48.8%

48.9%

Total R&D expenditure as a share of GDP (2009)

1.8%

1.7%

1.6%

1.7%

Business R&D expenditure as a share of GDP (2009)

1.2%

1.1%

1.0%

1.1%

Share of R&D by private sector

70%

66%

63%

65%

PCT patents per million inhabitants (2008-10)

75

81

39

78

Note: Peer regions average: average of the cluster “Medium-tech manufacturing and service providers”. *Averages of only EU regions for R&D expenditure and personnel variables.

Sources: OECD (2013), OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en; Eurostat.

Table 7.4. Snapshot of the functional region for innovation: Ireland-Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)

(Ireland/Northem Ireland in bold)

Characteristic

Specification

Comments

Region settlement patterns

Metropolitan area Network of small and medium-sized cities Sparsely populated with small towns

The island of Ireland is characterised by the presence of two medium-sized metropolitan areas on both sides (Dublin and Belfast) as well as several smaller cities. Much of the area on the island is sparsely populated.

Internal accessibility and flows

Strong

Moderate

Weak

Motorways connect most of the larger cities; however, the size of the island renders internal accessibility challenging in some parts, such as from the southern and western areas with Northern Ireland.

Industrial and

knowledge

specialisations

Similar with complementarities

Same

Different

The two regions have different economic structures. There are, however, several areas of common specialisations, such as agri-food and ICT, among others.

Socio-cultural context

Very similar

Somewhat similar Different

This is a cross-border area with a very similar socio-cultural context. However, some civil unrest related to historical issues has limited other aspects of social proximity and trust.

Innovation system interactions

Pervasive

Hub-to-hub On the border

Some SME business and community development are addressed at the border, largely supported by EU funds, but most innovation potential is between large urban hubs. InterTradelreland activities focus on cross-border interactions across the island.

Level of innovation development across border

Balanced, strong Balanced, weak

Unbalanced

There are several imbalances between the two sides that impact the level of innovation development. Ireland itself is a dual economy. However, looking on an OECD-wide basis, Ireland and Northern Ireland have relatively similar innovation performance as compared to many other OECD regions.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >

Related topics