Connecting innovative regions to Europe. A comparative case study of the Dutch provinces Noord-Brabant & Limburg and their membership of transnational networks of regions in the field of research and innovation.
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The simultaneous trends of Europeanisation and regionalisation make the connection between policy-making by regional governments and the EU-institutions of growing importance. As setting up ‘individual’ EU public affairs is costly and ineffective, building coalitions via transnational networks of regions in the field of research and innovation seem to be an effective way to enhance a region’s sub-national mobilisation towards the EU. However, regions take different decisions on joining and investing in transnational networks of regions. This research made use of Jeffery’s framework for sub-national mobilisation (2000) and its entrepreneurship factors to systematically compare the ways in which the Dutch provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg invest in transnational networks of regions to influence or benefit from European research and innovation policies. Their entrepreneurial approach to determine joining or investing in effective network maintenance differs. Regions deal with three tensions: (1) keeping focus and being representative; (2) policy advocacy versus matchmaking; and (3) short-term versus long-term returns. The research outcomes form the basis of some suggested policy directions for regional governments and, more general, shed new light on the connection between policy-making by regional governments and the EU-institutions. The research explains how entrepreneurship factors can be used not only to explain effective EU public affairs, but also for effective network maintenance (Provan & Kenis 2008). It suggests using the tensions as a further operationalisation of entrepreneurship factors, respecting their configurational effect. Finally, it suggests extend Hooghe and Marks’s typology of network governance by introducing bottom-up networks of regions as a fourth type of networks of regions (1996).