Contrasting regional innovation and devolution schemes across Europe

Ureta Vaquero, Ivan and Calzada, Igor (2018) Contrasting regional innovation and devolution schemes across Europe. UNSPECIFIED. In: RSA Annual Conference Lugano 2018 A World of Flows: Labour Mobility, Capital and Knowledge in an Age of Global Reversal and Regional Revival, 03.06.2018-06.03.2018, Lugano, Switzerland. (In Press)

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Abstract

Regional innovation and development can be pursued and boosted by designing and implementing a number of strategies, policies and mechanisms. In the early 2000s, national programmes aiming at promoting innovation and growth were unevenly distributed across Europe. Geographically speaking, they were mostly concentrated and developed in Northern European countries such as Germany, Denmark or Finland. Whereas the vast majority of European countries joined this trend mostly from mid-2000s onward. Some of these national strategies have been also focusing on developing policies geared to impulse regional specialization and clusters. This local and regional approach is justified by the fact of optimizing existing resources, infrastructures, knowledge existing in specific industrial districts or regions. In this sense, the very concept of National Innovation System (NIS) has partially transformed and downscaled, due to the special interest of the policy makers, into Regional Innovation Systems (RIS). While the efficiency of this policy shift may have generated positive outcomes and some good practices, within the medium and long term these strategies may have also contributed to generate centripetal forces revealed through devolution claims that generate political struggles between more advanced and innovative city-regions and their respective central governments. More competitive and innovative city-regions may request more competences and strengthen devolution schemes specially in times of economic downturn. The objective of this paper is twofold and addresses the following research questions: Do higher levels of devolution contribute to boost innovation and competitiveness at regional level? And, do higher performances in innovation and competitiveness accentuate the tensions between regions and central governments in times of economic downturn by claiming deeper devolution schemes? To assess these two questions the paper focuses on comparing the following city-regions: Basque Country, Catalonia, Rogaland, Bolzano, Lombardy, Bayern and Zurich.

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