Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Mobilizing Enterprises for Regional Innovation Policies. How to Assure an Active Involvement of Located Enterprises in Regional Development

Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Mobilizing Enterprises for Regional Innovation Policies. How to Assure an Active Involvement of Located Enterprises in Regional Development

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. During the last decades a paradigmatic change in regional policies has occurred: Cohesion oriented policies gave place to policies focusing on economic growth by innovation. In consequence also the consignees of regional policies changed: in the past public institutions responsible for infrastructural measures received most of regional funding; now mainly enterprises are addressed. Though, located enterprises do not automatically get involved with regions' development processes. How can they be mobilized for these issues? Primarily on the base of the Swiss experiences with its innovation oriented New Regional Policy (NRP) the article first illustrates the status quo, which role enterprises currently play in regional innovation policies. Secondly, the crucial factors are discussed which determine the interplay of entrepreneurial and public rationalities in the context of regional innovation policies. And third the article derives suggestions from these assessments for the design of regional innovation policies and corresponding regional governance structures.

Keywords: regional policy, regional innovation policy, regional governance, Switzerland

JEL Classification : R12, O32

Introduction

Over the last decades regional policy has enhanced its innovation focus. After long years of cohesion orientation almost all European countries as well as the European Union currently emphasize the importance of innovation in regional policies (Koschatzky et al., 2010). Innovation has been identified as major driver in new models of growth and competitiveness. And regions with their specific capacities and activities in research, technology and innovation are seen as key actors for enhancing innovation (e.g. Capello et al., 2009; Hassink et al., 2009). The importance of the regional level is also due to the vital role of localized innovation factors for innovation like SME, local qualification needs, regional collaborations as well as local innovation centers (Gössling, 2007, Koschatzky, 2003).

In consequence there are not only regional differences with regard to the amount or share of innovation activity, but also in the way in which regional innovation systems function. Taking these differences into consideration regional accentuations in corresponding policies are indispensable to generate competitive advantages. These factors underline a broad demand for innovation strategies on a local and regional level and explain the growing innovation focus of regional policies since the 1990ies (e.g. Asheim et al., 2011, Fritsch/Stephan, 2005, p. 1123).

This development can be well illustrated on the European level by the regional policy of the European Union itself (Bachtler, 2007). In the legislative proposals for the EU cohesion policy 2014-2020, adopted by the European Commission in 2011, regional innovation strategies are even seen as ex ante conditionality for future structural funding in the field of R&D (European Commission, 2011). But also on the level of the EU member states numerous examples of regional policies strongly focused on innovation and economic growth instead of cohesion objectives are meanwhile to be found. Innovation is currently ranking on the top of regional policy agendas (Tödtling /Trippl, 2005).

Also Switzerland has revised its regional policy approach in the last decade. Its former policies aimed to reduce regional disparities between agglomeration areas and mountainous regions mainly by financing of infrastructural measures (Bieger et al., 2004). In 2008 previous regional development programs were replaced by the so called New Regional Policy (NRP) of Switzerland, which is in the main focus of this article. The NRP has manifested a complete change in the Swiss paradigm of regional policy: in order to improve regional economic performance, it reflects a clear shiftfrom infrastructural and financial assistance towards economic support for the creation of value added to the regional economy. …

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