Significant efforts are being made to improve research and innovation (R&D) capabilities across the European Union in order to increase economic competitiveness. However, based on past experience, promising innovative actors are often concentrated in already more successful geographies. The EU-15 countries outperform the subsequent member states in terms of research and development performance, and the differences in innovation capacity within the member states are also significant. Meanwhile, societal spending on research and development has declined due to the 2008 financial crisis, and the current pandemic is also likely to have a negative impact. Moreover, local economies across Europe show significant differences in their ability to use their current R&D performance to increase the incomes of their people. All of these processes are reflected in the persistent disparities in innovation between EU regions.
This is why prioritizing and integrating knowledge-based cooperation between regions is at the heart of the EU’s strategy to address the innovation gap.
It is no coincidence that €95.5 billion is allocated to the Horizon Europe program in the EU budget period 2021-2027, which aims to increase scientific and technological excellence, strengthen the European Research Area (ERA) and harness it to achieve societal goals and increase economic competitiveness. These collaborations can be expected to increase R&D performance as knowledge production and innovation increasingly depend on the range of knowledge items possessed by different actors. Knowledge is becoming increasingly important in ensuring a permanent competitive advantage and economic development, but its production is increasingly increasing through the cooperation of actors with knowledge in a narrow field.
Because collaboration imposes coordination costs on participants, similarity and geographic proximity facilitate knowledge transfer. Thus knowledge is mostly exchanged in highly concentrated and dense local networks. But on a larger scale, this also means that the resources needed to produce new knowledge are likely to be spread across multiple actors and geographic locations. Thus, although connections between distant places are less frequent than local interactions, cooperation between regions transmits new ideas and knowledge to the local economy, and thus contributes to innovation in the region. The actors involved in such relationships provide greater diversity of knowledge. In addition, collaborative R&D has the potential to bring lagging regions and the broader 13 EU member states closer to the center of European R&D activity, to facilitate knowledge exchange between regions and, ultimately, to contribute to the development of R&D. between regions to reduce differences in capacity.
It is therefore important to identify barriers and opportunities for collaboration in spatial R&D and to better understand these networks. For example, under the European Union FP programme, an earlier version of Horizon Europe, cooperation between member states became closer in 2003-2017, while the 13 EU countries participated in the development of less complex technologies. For scientific publications which are the basic research knowledge base, although somewhat less affected by territorial boundaries, the collaboration is usually between geographically close actors and the more complex scientific knowledge is concentrated in some areas of Northern and Western Europe.
Elite structures can be observed in scientific publishing and patent cooperation, where regions with high quality scientists and financial resources are more likely to cooperate with each other.
Thus, despite slow integration, the Assessment Resource Center has a dense hierarchical core and European R&D remains widely fragmented along the borders of national innovation systems. From Hungary’s point of view, it’s also feminine previous search Participation in collaborative knowledge production is an advantage for CEE countries in terms of the quality of patents generated, but at the same time it reinforces the gap in technological development between regions that can successfully participate in such cooperation and those that cannot.
and KRTK ANET LabIn our research, we were interested in the factors that influence the intensity of inventors’ cooperation in patent creation in European regions (NUTS3, in the case of Hungary, provinces) in the early 2010s, and what characterizes the frequent collaborations that existed before 2010. Precedents. Such collaborations deserve special attention because joint experience gained from previous collaborations can increase collaboration effectiveness, partners’ performance, and help transfer more complex knowledge. At the same time, these collaborations can reduce the quality of innovative results that emerge and promote fragmentation through the formation of closed clusters.
- Based on our results, on the other hand, the role of geographic proximity did not disappear, with closer sites cooperating more intensely.
- On the other hand, the same is true for a similar technology portfolio between regions, where this kind of similarity makes it easier to combine knowledge items, but also carries less radical innovation risks.
- Moreover, cooperation is usually more intense between regions that have extensive links with common tertiary regions.
- Finally, interestingly, only a small part of the creative cooperative relationships between regions are repeated. In their case, the role of geographic proximity is more pronounced, which is further enhanced by technological similarity and cooperating partner area, but only if geographic proximity is also present.
Figure 1 shows on the map the network of cooperation and the structure of the groups and societies in which it can be observed. According to Figure 1, most European countries have an innovation center of excellence in which collaborations operate, and these centers are connected to the innovation systems of other countries. (such as Spain, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Hungary and Romania). There are more than one center in Poland, France and Germany in particular, where local centers also stand out. Most of these patterns are also present in frequent contacts (Fig. 2): one center is in Sweden, Finland or Italy, while two are in France (Paris and Lyon), and many closely related centers are in Germany.
Both networks decompose into well-defined communities in space, some connecting different countries. Thus, for example, the community that includes the Benelux countries, France and Spain (Fig. 3). Communities mostly cover neighboring countries, such as Switzerland, Austria or Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. At the same time, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Croatia are a community in a network with the Scandinavian countries. We see that innovative collaborations form a separate community in Italy. Interestingly, Germany is organized into two larger societies that do not quite follow the division of East and West, with the southern part of the country in particular forming a cooperative society with the eastern part.
This points to the reorganization of innovation cooperation after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Repetitive collaborations do not follow a universal pattern (Fig. 4). In some cases, societies follow borders of countries (such as France and Italy), and groups of countries (such as Belgium and the Netherlands, or Scandinavia). For others, we see spatially close regions that span across countries (eg, the United Kingdom). In Germany, we see spatially concentrated societies with little overlap. In general, interregional cooperation societies break down into smaller groups when we look at the frequent collaborations. This indicates that there is a greater potential for replication of cooperation between geographically closer regions.
These observations show an ambiguous picture of the composition of the ERC in the case of patents. While the patterns of innovative cooperation between regions show continued integration, they still closely follow the boundaries of member states. However, integrating recursive collaborations into a single PDB is proving to be an even bigger challenge. In this regard, it is worth noting that the patent cooperation network linking European regions is particularly dynamic, and many new researches, along with ours, have found that there are very few frequent contacts in the various European knowledge production networks. These findings raise the question as to why efforts to produce more collaborative knowledge in the European spatial structure should not proceed in future collaborations.
The study on which the article is based in English Here Available.
The authors are KRTK ANET Lab researchers. The study was prepared within the framework of the OTKA project entitled “The Impact of Social and Collaborative Networks on Performance” (OTKA K-129207).
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