At the end of the s profitability problems in the Belgian coal mining industries gave rise to an enormous blow for the raw materials based economy of Wallonia. The closing down of various mines resulted in massive job losses. The Treaty of Rome strengthened European integration and created a new market, which in turn attracted multinational companies mainly to Flanders. The port areas in Flanders saw a large inflow of foreign direct investment in e. Furthermore, the expansion of industries like metal processing and the production of consumer goods compensated for the decline of traditionally strong sectors e.
As a result, the economic structure of Flanders modernized and export performance strengthened. Due to the large weight of these traditional sectors in the economic structure and rigidities in the regional labour markets, Wallonia went through a process of painful adjustment from the s on. This budget had to compensate for the location disadvantages of the underperforming regions. De Brabander et al. This process resulted in the creation of Regions and Communities in Belgium. A second state reform in transferred certain competencies in industrial and economic policy to the Regions.
Further, this institutional reform transferred competences regarding public works, export promotion and employment policy to the Regions. Regional industrial, economic and innovation policy started shifting subsequently towards endogenous concepts and emphasized a technologically oriented view of innovation. At the end of the s the strong growth performance of the Flemish Region, fuelled by a new wave of FDI in the chemical and automotive industry, undermined interest in regional economic policy.
Different levels of government introduced science parks, innovation support agencies, technological aid schemes and technology transfer agencies to stimulate cooperation between universities and industry to the regional landscape Wolfe, The government designated six clusters to encourage the formation of trans-sectoral platforms, but there was little interest for the specific kind of policy intervention from the relevant economic actors.
From , a bottom-up mechanism identified twelve platform projects in more mature industries, ranging from textile machinery and steel plate utilization, to more high-tech platforms, like digital signal processing, speech and language technology and product development techniques Goorden, This cluster policy was according to Hertog et al. From the ten valley initiatives in preparation, only two materialized within the framework of the European structural funds. Also Flanders took a step towards an innovation policy based on a systems approach Larosse, The policy provided for a number of instruments that could be used to encourage innovation along the whole innovation life cycle and at the network level.
The Poles are demand-driven cluster networks geared towards specific industrial or service sectors like automotive Flanders Drive , food industry Flanders Food and design Flanders in Shape. Main concepts in this new policy are the transformation of value chains, lead-companies and open innovation. Tubex et al. The need for an extension of special attention for particular Flemish regions came out of the ascertainment that some socio-economic lagging regions ineffectively engaged in structural funding.
Even though the governance aspect of the program was embryonic, it triggered bottom-up initiatives and mediated between the regions and the Flemish government Cabus, A turning point came in when the Flemish government approved three decrees that aligned the coherence in subregional socio-economic policy. A second decree established the Provincial Development Agencies POMs , the former GOMs, and a third decree coordinated the task setting and policy implementation arrangements of the various actors.
Furthermore, under impulse of the ERDF, the governance changed towards a more bottom-up and multi-level approach of drafting and implementing policies.
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Some authors argue that the goal to come to a more integrated subregional economic development failed, among other reasons due to the relative powerlessness of the platforms Cabus, Furthermore regional aid declined in significance in Flanders. Various designated areas for regional support have over time been cut back, due to the lowering of ERDF-funds and the continued focus on competitiveness and growth of the Flemish government.
In line with the Europe Strategy, various strategic initiatives to guide socio-economic development are undertaken by regional governments around Europe e.
Moreover, some regions already developed a smart specialisation strategy, for example Navarra Spain , Emilia Romagna Italy , West Midlands UK and Skane Sweden , although the territorial strategies were not named like that Ortega-Argiles, Flanders continued to focus on competitiveness. Science, technology and innovation policy is perceived as playing a vital role across various themes and policy sectors. The current ViA-strategy is the outcome of a process of ongoing policy development.
Various major plans were introduced from on. Namely the Vilvoorde Pact , Innovation Pact and the Flemish Innovation Policy Plan , each of which addresses specific aspects of factors influencing innovation Ortega-Argiles, The Flemish Reform Program shows the integration of Europe goals within the Flemish policy framework. The document illustrates the presence of multi-level dynamics between the European Union and the Flemish regional level.
In a follow-up study these clusters were further elaborated on to form 10 breakthrough initiatives that strategically guide Flemish policy development e. New Industrial Policy. The changing role of the region in economic development gave rise to significant changes in various sectoral policies targeting these regions e. Therefore we described in general terms the case of the northern Belgian region of Flanders.
In Flanders, this new paradigm is already strongly developed when looking towards a broadly defined regional policy concept. Regional governments throughout Europe were influenced by academic literature on clusters, innovative milieux and networks and the economic performance of regions like Silicon Valley and the Third Italy.
This led to the decline of more traditional policy instruments and put an instrumental focus on technology and innovation. The role of science, technology and innovation is perceived as vital in this strategic framework. Although having limited competences and resources, also the subregional and local level plays a substantial role in regional development policies in Flanders. Albrechts L. Audretsch D.
Bachtler J. Barca F. Boschma R. Brenner N.
International Urban Cooperation | Regional Cooperation
Buyst E. Cabus P. Capello R. Capron H. Regional governments from Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico, are invited to take part in the European Union's IUC region-to-region exchange programme, which will enable them to cooperate with counterparts in the EU in order to promote innovation, competitiveness and new opportunities for their citizens.
Innovation is a key factor in creating competitive economies in the era of globalisation.
Experience from the EU shows that working in close partnership, regional level authorities, the private sector and the research community can play a lead role in the process of innovation, and in reducing dependence on declining sectors. The globalised economy and the increasing role of global innovation networks call for innovation policies that go beyond regional and national borders. The programme is intended to help the key actors to generate global partnerships for business and knowledge development and to position their region in global value chains.
Under the programme, participating regions will be encouraged, and supported, to analyse their competitive strengths and weaknesses, allowing for the identification of new opportunities in emerging or traditional sectors.
Knowledge Flows, Technological Change and Regional Growth in the European Union
The programme will seek to stimulate action in the different dimensions of the innovation process:. The present paper discusses the intensified emphasis of the European policy approach towards innovation and its adequacy to the need of regions with unfavourable geographical features. This thorough discussion aims to shed some light on the issue of whether the EU's twin goals for , to achieve global competitiveness and cohesion, are suitable for areas with geographical limitations. Social Media Mentions:.