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Multi-level Governance for Innovation

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Regional innovation governance relates to all the processes of interactions among various actors that together determine the priorities, strategies, activities and outcomes in research and innovation at the regional level (read our policy brief on Regional Innovation Governance).

Regional innovation governance implies the adoption of institutional arrangements to favour systemic interactions among different innovation actors within the region with for instance the triple-helix model of innovation or between policy hierarchies with improving policy coordination through multi-level governance.

Multi-level innovation governance can be defined as a complex process of collaboration across different government levels (supranational, national, regional, local) and/or innovation promotion agents for territorial development strategies. Its aim of is opening up regional innovation strategies—such as the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3)—to other actors (in the production and knowledge systems) simultaneously at various scales (Larrea et al.).

It is thus important to introduce practices that foster collaboration and alignment between governance levels and territorial actors in the definition and development of S3 and other regional strategies to promote more effective multi-level governance.

The Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI) put an emphasis on developing more effective multi-level governance and fostering synergies between policies and between different funding instruments—such as the Cohesion Policy and Horizon Europe—while broadening stakeholder engagement and participatory governance. An interesting example comes from Belgium: in SMARTPILOTS, the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP) in Ghent, offers an example of how regions can find synergies between Cohesion Policy and Horizon Europe by making a research and innovation infrastructure attractive to SMEs and research actors alike. 

There are four main pillars when developing multi-level governance:

  • Complexity (dealing with conflicts) 
  • Emergence (learning through the process)
  • Context specificity (different regional experiences)
  • Reciprocity (recognising each other level of governance).

The Orkestra Basque Institute of Competitiveness shared six insights on multi-level governance:

  • The urgency of developing multi-level governance,
  • Its systemic nature (responding to complexity),
  • The need for a new role for citizens in multi-level governance,
  • The apparent dilemma between efficiency and democratisation,
  • The importance of complementarities and collaboration in multi-level-governance,
  • The hybrid nature of multi-level governance (responding to its emergent nature).

Multi-level innovation governance is an important topic for many Interreg Europe projects, among which: ECORIS3, aiming to foster policies and measures to support local and regional innovation ecosystems; RELOS3 which promotes the deployment of S3 at the local level; S34GROWTH that aims to enhance interregional collaboration through new industrial value chains; COHES3ION integrating a regional and sub-regional element into S3 and looking into how regions can develop their multi-level governance.

COHES3ION offers five policy recommendations to develop multi-level innovation governance, they are:

  • To clarify, negotiate and agree the roles of participants in action plans,
  • To create spaces for dialogue between regional and sub-regional policy agents,
  • To create spaces for dialogue between regional and national policies,
  • To empower policy agents to involve relevant S3 actors in their respective levels,
  • To develop shared monitoring and evaluation tools.

Other Interreg Europe projects have also shared good practices to facilitate the development of multi-level innovation governance.  


Brest metropolitan strategy

There must be spaces for dialogue between regional and sub-regional policy agents to align subnational priorities and actions with regional economic strategies.

In ECORIS3, the initiative Brest metropolitan strategy is a strategy to promote local economic development in Brest, France. The strategy engages a broad range of quadruple helix stakeholders to identify major challenges and objectives to address place-based societal challenges and to strengthen the regional innovation ecosystem, namely regarding higher education and research, SMEs competitiveness, and clusters in the maritime sector.

The good practice illustrates how metropolitan areas and sub-regional governance levels can design and implement a local economic strategy with novel governance arrangements that consist of a strategic governance involving 20 organisations and an annual economic forum involving more than 800 persons in 2019 allowing for interactions among different local stakeholders.

RIS3 Basque Country

The empowerment of sub-regional policy agents to engage in the regional S3 can develop multi-level governance.

In RELOS3, the good practice Multi-level governance in RIS3 Basque Country shows the importance to facilitate the construction of multi-level governance to define the role for public organisations and procedures for collaboration in order to limit institutional complexity.

In COHES3ION, Lea Artibai, a county in Bizkaia, Basque Country, illustrates how sub-regional governance can foster the S3 implementation based on a collaborative and multi-level governance model. The sub-regional S3 considers 4 key areas for the deployment of S3, namely, quadruple helix participation, clear governance model, aligned to the regional S3, and building working groups to define specific projects. The good practice points out the importance to empower local economic development agents in the deployment of RIS3.

Watch the final event of COHES3ION on multi-level governance. 

RIS3T in Galicia, Northern Portugal

Cross-border and cross-regional policy experimentations can trigger the development of multi-level governance.

In S34GROWTH, the good practice Cross-Border Smart Specialisation Strategy of Galicia – Northern Portugal (RIS3T) is the first cross-border S3 in the European Union (EU). The cross-border S3 is coordinated by the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN) and the Regional Coordination and Development Commission in Northern Portugal (CCDRN).

The good practice points out the importance to identify common goals and synergies in both regions. The cross-border S3 aimed to build on opportunities and synergies by providing a common policy framework to respond to common challenges under a related institutional context and institutional proximity between the two regions.