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Governance of the Ireland-Northern Ireland cross-border area

InterTradeIreland plays the key role in implementing cross-border innovation efforts, with strong political backing. Cross-border economic co-operation has acquired a high level of legitimacy. The concept of “mutual benefit” is at the core of the high-level political commitment for economic relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The establishment of InterTradeIreland ensures structural funding and continuity for the promotion of cross-border economic and (increasingly) innovation activities. But there seem to be relatively few strategic linkages between the scattered projects of local authorities in the narrow border area focused on addressing “peripherality” and community-based development (funded by EU Peace and European Territorial Co-operation funds), versus the programmes of InterTradeIreland (funded jointly by respective governments). There are opportunities to use a larger share of European Territorial Co-operation funds and other EU regional funds for promoting cross-border innovation. An active strategy to jointly pursue EU Framework Programme funds with entities on both sides of the border already exists, yet another financing vehicle for building stronger cross-border ties.

One opportunity to strengthen the governance of cross-border co-operation in innovation is greater alignment of policies on both sides. In general, authorities in Ireland have taken a somewhat more open approach to allowing public funding from one jurisdiction to actors from the other, relative to the approach of Northern Ireland. The development of two “smart specialisation” strategies in the context of EU requirements, one for Ireland and one for Northern Ireland, with little connection between the two exercises, limits cross-border co-operation potential. Incorporating the cross-border dimension in the relevant regulatory impact assessment exercises is another tool to align policies so as to facilitate cross-border innovation ties.

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