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Regional Innovation Policies: Any recent changes?

In a recent comparative study of the innovation policies of four regions we have analyzed the extent to which they have changed trajectories. Surprisingly, only one out of the four has changed.

The extent to which regional innovation policies have changed recently is a relevant question to put due to  three important new trends. Firstly, during the past few years scholars have developed sophisticated regional innovation policy rationales pointing at the need for flexibility, adaptive and tailor-made approaches according to the differentiated needs and problems of each regional economy. Secondly, there has been a rapid increase of regional data, much more detailed and encompassing than before, with the subsequent increase of studies about different levels and forms of regional innovation performance. And last, but not least, the economic and financial crisis since 2008 has put severe pressure on jobs and growth in most regions, some of which are still struggling to get to the levels of economic wealth before the crisis.

These three remarkable trends lead us to think that regional innovation policies might have changed trajectories during that period in order to address these important challenges, and based on more accurate rationales and strong data basis.

We have studied four Spanish regions: Catalonia, Basque Country, Andalusia and Galicia.  Since the late 1980s, these four regions have invested and committed considerable efforts on issue of technology and innovation. Moreover, they belong to the same country, Spain, severely hit by the recent financial and economic crisis.

However, a close examination of the institutional frameworks and budgetary priorities of these four regions show that only one of them has signs of change. That one is the Basque Country, an industrialized region which is rather mature technologically.The Basque country’s innovation policy has traditionally had a strong focus on firms and technological development. However, in 2007 the regional government initiated a policy change putting increasing attention to universities and public research organizations (PROs) R&D performance, while keeping its traditional pro-firm and technological development policy.

The other three regions, Catalonia, Andalusia and Galicia have not changed their policies towards more innovation-oriented focus and towards seeking to support firm-level technological development and innovativeness, a long-term deficiency in their regional systems recently aggravated by the severe crisis.

The reasons behind this lack of policy change and responsiveness are still unknown (and beyond the scope of this paper). But they definitively call for a strong plea for regional innovation policy-makers to take advice of a substantive body of studies that show the problems in their regional innovation systems, and to make active use of the elaborated policy rationales available that give clues of how to solve them.

It is about time to get to grips with it.

You can download the paper here:  Borrás, S and Jordana, J (2016): When Regional Innovation Policies Meet Policy Rationales and Evidence

 

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