The Science Offensive is a financial and technical support instrument for cross-border lighthouse projects in the trinational metropolitan region Upper Rhine
The trinational metropolitan region Upper Rhine (TMO) is characterized by a high R&D potential and innovative players from economy and science. In order to strengthen the competitiveness of the region, TMO has adopted a structure of 4 pillars, including the science pillar. This pillar assembles Higher Education Institutions and R&D Institutions and aims at further developing the TMO as an “innovation and knowledge region”. To that aim, the governments of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and the Alsace Region created the Science Offensive (WO) to support cross-border cooperation in R&I. Under the WO, support was provided in the form of technical and financial assistance in developing and implementing INTERREG proposals. Through a joint effort of regional partners and the INTERREG IV Upper Rhine program, a common work program for the WO with funding topics, eligibility criteria and a selection process was developed. Out of 36 submitted project applications, 7 projects, among others in medicine, were selected for funding by INTERREG IV. Apart from the 3 regional governments and the INTERREG IV Upper Rhine program, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ) was tasked with accompanying measures, including assistance in writing proposals, project implementation, as well as in the exploitation and dissemination of results. The main beneficiaries of the WO were the participating HEIs and RDIs from TMO but also the TMO itself as the projects contributed to the region’s competitiveness.
Overall financial resources of the Science Offensive were 290,000 €, funding for BW accounted for 155,000 €.
Evidence of success
The WO was the first European initiative of its kind and gained reputation both within the TMO and beyond. It was presented at several events, e.g. an international innovation workshop of the OECD and at the European Week of Regions and Cities. In order to evaluate the WO, a survey was conducted among TMO stakeholders. Stakeholders gave a positive feedback regarding information on the WO, consulting services provided by SEZ and the topics and framework conditions of the project call.
WO stakeholders pointed out several obstacles, e.g. short submission deadlines. Another limiting aspect mentioned was that Swiss project partners were not eligible for funding and TMO-external organizations could not take over project sponsorship.
Potential for learning or transfer
The Science Offensive is an excellent example of how regional governments can act together across borders in order to provide more and thematically focused funding for stakeholders, trigger interregional cooperation and align their regional objectives in order to strive for interregional excellence and competitiveness. This Good Practice is an especially useful example for border regions which want to intensify or initiate their strategic cooperation and create a higher amount of funding in dedicated research and innovation areas.
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