Is networking a substitute or a complement to regional innovation capacity? Evidence from the EU's 5th Framework Programme

Attila Varga, Dimitrios Pontikakis

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


A recent debate in the context of the future evolution of the European Research Area is concerned with the optimal spatial and thematic allocation of resources for research. This stems from a concern that EU research funds are spread too thinly across Europe without achieving the impact that is expected of them. 'Smart specialisation’ or the spatial and thematic concentration of R&D resources on the basis of existing patterns of technological specialisation, is put forward as one possible policy direction. Agglomeration economies have been shown to be important for research: scientists and technologists tend to be more productive when located in proximity to populous communities of knowledge workers and knowledge-intensive business services. Network effects have also been shown to have a positive influence on regional knowledge production processes. A policy of sustaining or even increasing the degree of connectedness in EU research, or 'networked specialisation' is therefore put forward as a possible alternative.The present policy note draws from original empirical work attempting to shed some light on the joint importance of regional innovation capacity (proxied by a novel index of regional agglomeration of knowledge intensive employment) and scientific networking (proxied by an index of interregional collaboration in FP5) on R&D productivity and draw comparisons.We find that regional innovation capacity and scientific networking are neither complements nor substitutes but have different functions according to the type of research involved. Our findings indicate that there are distinct paths to obtaining ‘critical mass’ for scientific and technological research. The regional agglomeration of innovation capacity is important for the productivity of technological research whereas this is not the case for scientific research; likewise, scientific research is more productive in regions that are well connected in interregional knowledge production networks, but the same networking has no discernible effect on technological research.These findings suggest that differentiated responses will be needed, with increased networking for scientific research and a strengthening of regional innovation capacity for technological research. In that respect, the adoption of fine-tuned instruments for industry (IPs, STREPs) and science (NoEs) from FP6 onwards appear to be a step in the right direction. Complementary interventions will be needed to support the innovation capacity of lagging regions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLuxembourg
PublisherOffice for Official Publications of the European Communities
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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