Rural innovation was on the agenda at the Policy Learning Platform in Hamburg on 5th of December.

“Politicians are not interested in rural areas”. “They do not expect positive contributions and therefor pay little attention to schemes and proposals to enhance the innovative capacity of rural actors”. These were some of the viewpoints presented in a breakout session during Interreg Europe’s policy learning event. A bit pessimistic maybe, but also a reflection of present rhetoric in public debate created as part of the storytelling of the strong urban clusters.

Interreg Europe’s Policy Learning Platform organised on the 5th of December an event where policies to boost innovation in rural areas were on the agenda. Sogn og Fjordane County Municipality and other representatives from Interreg Europe projects presented their good practices as part of the program. These presentations were about solutions or possible solutions and in this respect far more positive than the viewpoints quoted above. The lead partner of the P-IRIS project (Policies to improve rural areas' innovation systems by professionalising networking activities and use of innovation tools) focused this time on the question “how might rural innovation networks cooperate with urban clusters?” This will be our theme for the next study visit to Lombardy, but the regional stakeholder group (RSG) of Sogn og Fjordane has already started to look into the issue. Sogn og Fjordane RSG has particularly focused on possible node-hub cluster cooperation and noticed that policies to enhance rural innovation networks in such ways are missing. The prestigious Norwegian Cluster Programme has been difficult to access (with a few exceptions). We are in a dialogue with the Norwegian Cluster programme to make it more relevant for our situation. 

The questions we asked the participants of the PLP in Hamburg were:

  •    How might a rural innovation network be attractive for an urban advanced cluster?
  •    How might a node-hub cluster policy help rural innovation networks to become more complete?  

Possible and not a complete list of answers to the two questions: 

  •     The rural innovation networks might add tacit knowledge and practical industrial know-how
  •    Training to secure the capacity to act efficient and competent by having networking skills
  •     The advantage of transparent societies; in rural areas people know each other and actors across     sectors might more easily identify “crossovers”

Cooperation between hub and node based on equal terms is a prerequisite. Hustveit noted feedback from some of the participants that cooperation between two different rural and uncomplete networks might be more on equal terms compared to hub-node cooperation and thus more suitable for innovative processes. The beauty of events like this is to have such feedback. The point made is absolutely something to bear in mind.

As part of the Hamburg event participants were advised on how to make good action plans for the second phase of our projects. Signals Hustveit will forward to the P-IRIS partnership:

  •    Actions in accordance with the application
  • Explain the link to project activities 
  • Anchor the action plan with the managing authorities, but be aware of the fact that lead partner or the Interreg secretariat might disapprove actions if they are unclearly explained or not linked to the project’s phase 1
  • Be concrete. You are supposed to produce an action plan – not a strategic plan 

Interreg Europe is about policy instruments; especially about quality in the implementation of policies and to influence the policy implementation. P-IRIS might also learn from the RUMORE project on rural-urban cooperation. P-IRIS partner Danijel Bertovic, Local Development Agency PINS, mentioned that the RATIO project was especially interesting for him. The Ludgate hub interested him as a possible model for his region. Lars Hustveit’s recommendation is to look into the good practises described in the program’s web site and identify good practises outside our own project.

Lars Hustveit  during the presentation - Sogn og Fjordane County Municipality (SFCM) - Lead Partner