Promoting Regional Innovation Systems in a Global Context
Ever since the innovation systems (IS) concept was coined in the late 1980s, it has been accepted as a mechanism of economic and technological development in policy circles. This recognition follows a change in our understanding of the characteristics of the innovation process as a non-linear process and having a systemic character. This changed understanding is also reflected in the movement in policy focus from science and technology (S&T) policy towards innovation policy. In recent years, the IS approach has been downscaled from the national level (NIS) to the regional level (RIS), a system's level that has gained the interest of policy makers. There are many rationales for this regionalization of innovation policy. However, as this paper points out, there are several challenges to implement an IS policy on the regional level. Based on a case study of a Swedish regional policy programme, this paper highlights (some of) the challenges related to defining the regional system's domain, implementing functional regions and securing sufficient regional knowledge infrastructure. This paper argues that when the IS approach is put into policy practice and downscaled to the regional level, it stands the risk of losing its strength as a tool for coping with the structural problems connected to innovation and globalization. Based on the identified challenges, the paper is concluded with a number of more general policy implications for IS-based policies with regional intentions.
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