Cross-border regional innovation system integration

This research project analysed the determinants and mechanisms of cross border innovation systems in Europe. 

Start date


End date



This project set out to provide insightful knowledge on cross-border regional cooperation in terms of how different types of proximity and levels of integration of cross-border regional innovation systems impact on knowledge transfer mechanisms and levels of innovativeness. More specifically, the study addressed the following objectives:

  1. It compared the effects of different types of proximity on knowledge transfer and innovativeness in cross-border regions
  2. It developed a methodology for measuring the levels of integration of cross-border regional innovation systems and
  3. It evaluated the success of ENPI cross-border cooperation projects in facilitating cross-border knowledge flows and innovation in the field of tourism.

The study utilised both quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as both comparative EU-level data and in depth case study materials (statistical, survey and interview data). Firstly, the project conducted three literature reviews/desk studies that concentrated on:

  1. Border region studies as a subfield of regional studies
  2. The cross-border regional innovation systems literature, its conceptual backgrounds and earlier empirical evidence
  3. Policy suggestions resulting from this research.

These studies underline the importance of border regions as a distinct and significant field of regional studies and the importance of border region studies for the sustainable socio-economic development of border regions. Additionally, the research pinpointed the most severe contemporary research gaps in the empirical applications of cross-border regional innovation systems, guiding the work on the subsequent research objectives and providing further insights into (innovation) policy developments in border regions.

Secondly, the project suggested a framework for empirically validating the concept of cross-border regional innovation systems and measuring their integration processes. This framework was further tested and developed in two separate case studies and in a wider comparative study. These studies demonstrate and highlight the feasibility of the empirical framework.

Thirdly, the project extended the notions of cross-border cooperation into two empirical studies with secondary data sources focusing on:

  1. The impact of the enlargement of the European Union on scientific cross-border collaboration and the success of the European Research Area in achieving the goal of a common internal market for research within the European Union
  2. The selection of cross-border innovation cooperation partners.

The results show that joining the European Union has had a significant positive impact on the volume of cross-border co-publishing between the established (EU-15) and new European Union member states. The same applies to the cross-border publication intensity between the new member states. This is arguably due to the improved financial resources that accompanies membership. This signals at least a partial success of the European Research Area in promoting a common internal market in research within the European Union. Of course, when it comes to firm-to-firm partnerships, several factors (such as geographical distance to the border) still influence the likelihood of participating in cross-border innovation collaboration.

Fourthly, the project suggested:

  1. Survey metrics for collecting and analysing primary firm-level data with the aim of producing relevant measures for disentangling the impact of the various dimensions of proximity (geographical, institutional, social, cognitive etc.) on regional cross-border innovation cooperation
  2. Methods for illustrating cross-border cooperation networks with tools developed within social network analyses. Pilot study material was collected from firms and organisations situated in three different cross-border regions to demonstrate the feasibility of the metrics and tools.

Finally, the project concluded with a qualitative study on the success factors of ENPI funded cross-border collaboration projects (in the field of tourism) in the context of joint innovation and knowledge transfer. The results pinpoint several pivotal suggestions (lessons learned) for practitioners and policy-makers to take into account when planning and executing cross-border projects.

As a result, the project made an original theoretical and empirical contribution, through being the first substantial empirical study of the theoretical underpinnings of cross-border regional innovation systems, their levels of integration and knowledge transfer and of joint innovation in cross-border cooperation projects. These original contributions are highly policy relevant as the long term success of cross-border regions depends on collective efforts to further integrate on a trans-regional level in order to develop common innovation systems. With the proposed empirical framework, it is now possible for policy-makers in cross-border regions to monitor their integration processes, which would help the regions to better understand their trajectories in the context of developing common cross-border regional innovation systems.

Additionally, the project collected a list of policy recommendations for facilitating the integration of cross-border regional innovation systems. The study also provided an analysis of `best practices´ in the context of tourism related cross-border cooperation projects. The lessons learned from these studies are relevant not only for the case study regions but also for other European cross-border regions and practitioners engaged in cross-border cooperation projects. The results also underline the positive impacts of the European Union/European Research Area on cross-border scientific cooperation.

Funding amount





Makkonen, Teemu,Weidenfeld, Adi; Knowledge-based urban development of cross-border twin cities, Inderscience Publishing 2040-4468 2016DOI:10.1504/IJKBD.2016.080881.

Makkonen, T,Mitze, T, Scientific collaboration between ‘old’ and ‘new’ member states: Did joining the European Union make a difference? Springer Verlag Scientometrics 2015.

Research groups and centres

We have a world-class reputation for our research in hospitality, tourism, transport and events.

SCHOOL OF HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM MANAGEMENT Centre for Competitiveness of the Visitor Economy