Project Ideas

VB Project Idea Smart specialisation strategies – unlocking the urban-rural potential for regional innovation via transnational cluster cooperation


The still increasing globalization compels cities and regions to join forces transnationally in order to achieve international critical mass and ensure their
competitiveness, their innovation capacity and their global visibility. This
approach contributes to the cohesion of urban and rural areas. The project
understands itself to be in line with the ESPON ET2050 document of June 30,
2014 and intends to contribute to the new Urban Agenda of the European Union.

The project aims at installing a long term transnational cooperation strategy.

In past andpresent, across four EU member states the region from southern Norway to western Sweden and southbound via urban and rural areas in Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein has been closely linked to Hamburg Metropolitan Region and areas in northern Netherlands. Business relations with Hamburg play a major role. In terms of structure there are many similarities, e.g. in logistic
(port) relations, maritime industries, wind and offshore industry and renewable
energy production. Cultural relations as well as intraregional tourism are
strong. The current cooperation over the borders has a strong focus on INTERREG A e.g. the partnership between Schleswig-Holstein, Region South Denmark and Region Sjaelland who allied in the new funding period to one big 5A-area.

Nevertheless, there is no common political approach to this “macro region”. However, evidence from a cooperation agreement between Hamburg and Groningen having linked both cities for the past six years and initiated a fruitful exchange despite the considerable distance, shows that long term cooperation can produce tangible results and contribute to the innovation capacity building of both partners. Furthermore, the STRING cooperation on the Femern Belt axis from Hamburg via Schleswig-Holstein, Sealand and Copenhagen to Skane proves that a long distance approach works, if it has a long term perspective (min. 10 years). Some aspects of STRING will therefore serve as inspiration for the project.

The new aspect of this project concerns the long distance and transnational urban-rural approach aiming at simultaneously improving international competitiveness as well as cohesion and trying to install a new geography beyond the INTERREG A zones.

To achieve a balanced development of the NSR, innovation and attraction of investments and highly skilled workers need to be possible in all areas of the NSR. If NSR clusters are to develop into genuine transnational positions of strength, the regional innovation strategies and smart specialisation strategies need to be developed to address these spatial challenges.

To obtain a sustainable and spatially balanced approach to growth and regional development urban-rural relations need to be integrated in the regional innovation (smart specialization) strategies. Furthermore, these strategies need an international outlook and perspective to put focus on the global competitiveness of the region, of the clusters and businesses in the region.

The traditional approach to cooperation (or rather competition) between regions and across borders needs to be challenged. In order for clusters to sustain and
develop, the geographical scope of clusters ought to be expanded; they need to
see themselves in the global market and enhance their global competitiveness to
ensure growth and employment in their own region. Transnational relations and
cooperation among clusters is a step on the way. It can help the clusters and
their companies to obtain critical mass for competing on the global market;
hence strengthening the innovation capacity of the regions and their companies in the long run.

Aalborg Municipality
Boulevarden 13


Christina Folmand Knudsen

Tel: 40621585

Central Aim

The overall aim of the project is to contribute to unlocking the urban-rural potential for regional innovation via transnational cluster cooperation and thus contributing to the competitiveness and territorial cohesion of the North Sea Region.

The project aims at developing political ownership for improved transnational relations in this larger growth axis leading to a synergetic use of potentials and at contributing to a long term strategy for innovation and cluster cooperation.

Within such a political framework existing cluster initiatives will
be asked to look into possibilities for cooperation. Moreover, universities,
cultural institutions, some of which already cooperate, and the creative sector
will be invited to support the initiative.

Envisaged Output

The project will analyze and deliver economic, political recommendations on how to successfully improve the international competitiveness of city regions and
clusters through transnational cooperation. These recommendations are expected
to have a general relevance in other similar growth-axis areas in Europe.

- Policy framework for long-term cooperation on innovation and clusters

- Smart networks between existing or emerging regional cluster initiatives with the purpose of enhancing the innovation capacity and enhancing the ability to use transnational cooperation to obtain critical mass to e.g. attract highly
skilled employees, attract investment. There will be three pillars

  • transnational innovation management
  • experienced clusters (clean tech, ICT - expanding the teacup,
    access to innovation partners transnationally)
  • pioneering clusters (creative industries)

- Analyses (e.g. Innovation gap outside traditional hot-spots incl. urban-rural dimension, potentials for transnational policy linkages between regional smart specialization strategies/innovation strategies, potentials for existing and
emerging clusters in transnational cooperation and innovation)

Partners Found Already

Partners Sought

(the Netherlands) since they have experience in urban-rural and city to city

(Sweden) because of their approach to and longterm experience with business
region and clusters


A university

Estimated Budget
2,5-3 mio Euro

Thematic Keywords
Innovation capacity building, clusters, smart specialization, stimulating innovation, growth and jobs, urban-rural relations

Lead Beneficiary

15 March 2015

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09 July 2015
06 July 2015
30 June 2015
18 May 2015
21 April 2015