Innovation networks are central to the innovation process as they facilitate mutual learning and knowledge transfer among members. They accelerate this process by promoting interactions, the acquisition, diffusion, and exploitation of knowledge, learning processes, the reconfiguration of relationships, and collaboration on a diverse range of issues including training, technological development, product design, marketing, exporting, and distribution (OECD). Therefore, innovation networks are not only tools for knowledge transfer, but they also have an important social function which is to build up common social capital and trust between and among network partners.
Regional policymakers are designing and implementing innovation networks not only to promote learning and knowledge exchanges but also to reduce fragmentation in their innovation ecosystems. Due to different needs for regional interactions, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ innovation network policy intervention. The regional innovation policies that promote innovation networks aim to foster and strengthen interactions among innovation actors. The underlying premise of innovation systems is that interactions among many different actors that cooperate and learn from each other are central to the process of innovation (Lundvall, 1992). Thus, the regional approach to finding effective policy solutions for strengthening innovation networks makes Interreg Europe projects the ideal space for policy learning.
This policy brief explores the role of innovation networks within regional innovation ecosystems. It also features five policy recommendations using the experience of Interreg Europe projects dealing with innovation networks to offer regions a path towards better regional innovation policymaking.