Bilateral Innovation Partnerships as a policy tool to foster innovation on a public and private level - A case study of the Swedish-German Innovation Partnership
Abstract: In recent years, the topics of societal challenges and innovation have become increasingly present, often in connection with digitalisation and ongoing globalisation. Sustainable solutions are needed – and governments as shapers of innovation systems must take up their responsibility. As geographical boundaries increasingly blur, also resulting from digitalisation and globalisation, new collaborative efforts are needed between countries to shape together a desirable socio-technological future. Bilateral Innovation Partnerships (BIPs) might fill in a gap here. While two countries discuss their individual approaches towards a common goal, accompanied by ‘hands-on’ projects, a cross-border environment of learning and knowledge generation is created, that can serve as a reference point, from which other countries, e.g. on EU level, can be onboarded. The Research Objective was twofold: conceptualising BIPs and examining its features such as perceived benefits and challenges by stakeholders. An inductive research strategy has been used to examine Bilateral Innovation Partnerships in an exploratory way, thereby generating theory as a result. A case-study design helped in studying the research phenomenon in a lively, dynamic manner – with the goal to draw generalisations from the specific case of the Swedish-German Innovation partnership. Grounded theory as a methodology helped in structuring and narrowing down the research iteratively, where data collection and data analysis worked in a synchronized way. The analysis of contextual, case-relevant data paved the way for a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were conducted with a variety of stakeholders from different organisational entities that had strong linkages to the partnership. As a result of the research, BIPs could be framed with theory around Schumpeterian view, Open Innovation, Ecosystems, National Innovation System and Innovation Policy. A conceptual model was drawn that let the functionality, and the different activities and linkages of actors in such a partnership appear clearer. The analysis also revealed that different criteria should be fulfilled before countries agree to a partnership (such as an existing strong relation, accompanied by trust as it can catalyse the further process). There were also Success factors of a BIP identified which can be differentiated between ‘Shaper/Policy-maker view’ and ‘Ecosystem/Multi-actor view’. While the government as a shaper needs to provide the architecture/infrastructure from a macroeconomic or innovation system point of view, the latter are contributing to a rather political agreement from a microeconomic or ecosystem point of view with industry, government and academia as actors. Operational activities that are characteristic within a BIP can be joint iterations on a policy-maker level or Open Innovation activities, delegation visits and roundtables on the Ecosystem level. In the future, it will be interesting to see whether BIPs can help in solving the current challenges on a global scale. In practice, for the case-specific partnership, integrating the voice of society stronger, especially when it comes to discussing a desirable socio-technological future, is a recommendation that was given by the author, which comes in line with theory that underlines this aspect as important for future-oriented innovation policy. Concerning future research, it would be interesting to apply quantitative research such as testing or verifying different success factors within BIPs, but also measuring potential contribution of BIPs as a policy tool to foster innovation.
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