The incremental number of strategies that are including this dimension are contributing to the emergence of multi-level governance within the Basque RIS3.
The Science, Technology, Innovation Plan 2020 that was published at the end of 2014 set out the RIS3 of the Basque Country. Considering the institutional complexity of the region and the proactivity of subregional governments to align with the regional strategy, one of the challenges that emerged from the beginning referred to the role that the subregional level would play in the smart specialization strategy. The changes introduced in the governance structure of the different RIS3 strategies in the Basque Country and fostered by different government levels follow two main paths when contributing to construct a multi-level governance. On the one hand, there is the centrifugal strategy followed by the Basque Government and its ‘umbrella’ RIS3. An example could be the one when, the Basque Goverments, tried to develop an experimental initiative together with the Provincial Council of Bizkaia to foster non-technological innovation within SMEs in Bizkaia. On the other hand, within the name of ‘centripetal strategies’ we have these RIS3 strategies lead by subregional goverments that approached the umbrella strategy in order to connect and align with it. This is the case of Etorkizuna Eraikiz: after developed a multi-level governance mode between the Provincial Council and the county development agencies, the Basque Government was invited to join. Or this is also the case of Bilbao and the invitation received by the Basque Govern to facilitate urban specializations.
The resources used in each ‘centripetal strategy’ depends on the case , while the learning space facilitated by researchers in Orkestra is funded with resources from each of the S3 projects where the institute is involved.
Evidence of success
The shared perspective on what multi-level governance should be is constructed in the dialogue among government representatives and partly facilitated by researchers. Through the learning and negotiation implicit in the construction of the shared discourse, the framework of multi-level governance included contextual conditions specific to the Basque Country. Not only the visible ones but also those that are defined as “soft” and that are related to the specificities of power and capacities.
Recognize that the construction of multi-level governance has to be facilitated, the researchers must be recognized and visible. To admit that this process was not part of the ‘formal’ governance structure of RIS3, so that its role and advances are not directly considered on the evolution of the RIS
Potential for learning or transfer
Four recommendations on how to approach the process of collaboration with other government levels can be extracted from this case. a)Face complexity in an explicit way. Remember that different governments have different interests in S3. But that does not mean anything is failing, it simply means that these differences must not be ignored but rather incorporated into the strategy. b) Do not attempt to know what the result of the process will be before you start the process. Make sure you agree on the role of every government and on the procedures for collaboration in S3.c)Learn from other experiences, but do not try to replicate them. Pay special attention to the specific collective capabilities built in the relationship with other governments which have an impact on your place and contribute to S3. d)Make sure that the other governments you interact with recognize a place for your government and your role in S3 strategies. But do not forget to empathize.