Northern Connections

Transferring knowledge through Northern Connections

08 May 2019 - Published by Anne Katrine Arentsen

Northern Connection is promoting international collaboration through concrete activities – But how can partners learn from this cooperative process? And how can this newly gained knowledge be use in the future?
Northern Connections brings cities and regions together with businesses and research institutions to develop ideas and answers to renewable energy, clean technology and circularity problems. International cooperation is promoted in three types of action: a) increase cooperation capacities of cluster and companies, b) political and strategic support of internationalization and c) living labs to develop solutions for cities and regions.

WP3 Knowledge was responsible to create a knowledge base that was used to support these three actions in the first half of the project. Now it is up to WP3 to evaluate the learning processes in Northern Connections and the make them usable within and beyond the project partnership. The following paragraphs will explain how WP3 was connected to the different actions in Northern Connections and what is planned for the future.

Increase the innovative capacity of clusters and companies through international cooperation:
A first survey among the cluster organisations, helped to identify the areas in which companies are active, how clusters have so far supported SMEs and on which topics cross-border cooperation should be established in future. The results showed that if the companies in all clusters are added up, all important areas of production and storage of renewable energies as well as the various stages of the value chain (from research and development, design, plant construction, sales, operation to financing) are covered. However, in order to better position the North Sea Region in global competition, a stronger international cooperation was considered to be necessary. Especially in the areas of intelligent power grids and sector coupling (energy, industry, and transport) a need for cooperation was pointed out. To promote SMEs, the clusters already offer a wide range of different services. Nevertheless, there is a need for greater support for the internationalisation of SMEs. Following on from the survey results, the clusters are jointly developing and testing tools to improve the internationalisation and innovative capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises (see WP4). For many partners this was the first cooperation in the North Sea region and could be the start for a network of cluster organisations.

Supporting the internationalisation of companies politically and strategically:
Regions, cities and clusters are working together on how strategies for intelligent specialisation (e.g. RIS3) can be optimised in order to support innovation by SMEs across borders. The aim is to promote the international competitiveness of the North Sea region and to expand innovation cooperation between clusters, regions and cities. An analysis of the strategies and a subsequent survey by WP3 revealed that RIS3 so far contains little concrete information on internationalisation. The currently pending realignment of the regional innovation strategies will be used by the participating cities and regions as an opportunity to make them more internationally oriented in the future. For example, funding could be used more specifically for internationalisation (see WP5).

Use living laboratories to develop solutions for cities and regions:
As described before on the Northern Connection website, Northern Connections runs living labs where cities and regions are formulating energy policy challenges. How, for example, can the use of new technologies support the sustainable energy design of existing or newly planned residential and commercial areas? SMEs from the entire North Sea region are then invited to work on solutions within the framework of Living Labs in the participating cities and regions. This cross-sectoral and transregional cooperation creates learning effects for public partners, clusters and companies. WP3 will explore the learning process by conducting interviews with the project partners. Beyond the duration of Northern Connections, new projects and future Living Labs could be initiated, transregional SME partnerships promoted and international value chains strengthened.

Consistency of results and knowledge transfer
The results from the above described three fields of action are to be consolidated in order to make them usable for future cross-border cooperation. Therefore WP3 will conduct accompanying surveys and workshops with the project partners: what have the clusters learned in particular, which approaches have proved their worth, how can the cooperation that has been started be expanded and maintained? Together with the cities and regions, it will be worked out whether and how the tried and tested approaches for sustainable economic development can also be used in other branches and sectors. The overall aim is to preserve the outcomes of the learning process and to make it usable beyond the lifetime of Northern Connections.