peripheral localities and innovation policies


Project plan
Project team and contact information

1 Background and problem description

Innovation approaches have become a mainstream in regional development studies. However, these approaches have been applied only to a limited extent in studies of rural regions and small centres in remote areas. In the Nordic countries, a substantial part of industrial and economic activity is located outside the larger towns and far away from major cities and the capital region. Nevertheless, industries in the periphery are left out the debates on innovation – and innovation policy making.

PLIP project is focused on innovation and innovation policies in peripheral localities. It is a follow-up project of the Innovation Systems and the Periphery project. The ISP project identified a number of examples of “good innovation practice” in selected traditional and mature industries in the periphery regions of five Nordic countries. Although many of these innovations were small-scale and incremental in nature, these examples demonstrate that in spite of some apparent disadvantages, associated with peripheral locations, innovation is not just possible, but also important to the development of the Nordic periphery. Good practices and successful policies may - as documented by the ISP project - come in different forms, pending on local, national and sector specific preconditions.

There is a considerable need for analysis and for models in local innovation policy. The PLIP project will respond to the need of local development approaches through an analysis of transferability of good practices, as identified in ISP. The PLIP project builds on the ISP data and findings.

The innovation policy and regional policy systems differ in the Nordic countries. However, peripheral Nordic areas have certain basic similarities. The different cultural, economic and institutional settings in the Nordic countries need to be analyzed in order to enable cross-national and cross-regional learning.

2 The objectives of the PLIP project

The general aim of the project is to contribute the innovativeness of the firms and localities in the peripheral regions in the Nordic countries. A more immediate goal is to support policy makers and local actors in their efforts to learn from experiences and through transferring good practices.

The project addresses following major research needs:

  1. to increase the understanding of differences and similarities between Nordic countries concerning innovation processes and innovation policies in the peripheral regions,
  2. to increase the understanding of interregional learning,
  3. to increase the understanding of good practices in local innovation policies, and
  4. to increase the understanding the relationship between policies, entrepreneurship and localities

The objectives of the project are

  1. to examine the differences and similarities of local and national innovation policies between the Nordic countries from the point of view of peripheral areas,
  2. to study transferability of the good practices in the innovation in peripheral areas to other Nordic localities
  3. to transfer experiences of good practices into new contexts in other Nordic localities and
  4. to test a method of action research in transferring good practices of local innovation policies.

3 The core tasks of the PLIP project

The main focus is in the understanding of good practices and the identification of the specific national and local characteristics of the (innovation policy) process behind them. In order to understand the process three type of analysis is needed:

I Comparative analysis of the Nordic innovation policies from the point of view of small towns and rural areas.

II Analysis of good practices.

III Transferability analysis and transfer of good practices.

I Comparative analysis on peripheral areas in the Nordic innovation policies

In order to examine the transferability of good innovation practices we will analyse the national and local embedding of these cases. This task requires examination of the differences in innovation policies towards peripheral regions. The relevant policy actors may differ in the countries. The innovation policy conditions like production, business and administrative structure do vary. Many policies, like rural policy, regional development policy, and industrial policy aim at contributing to innovation processes and enhance innovation capabilities of firms in peripheral regions.

There are variations in the Nordic countries in the ways the system concerning innovation processes work at the local level. Local conditions, history, knowledge base, horizontal and vertical networking and local assets influence the innovation processes of the firms. In addition, the development policies at local level may also vary between localities. The national aspects of policy system concerning rural/regional policy and innovations appear differently at the local level. The PLIP project emphasises a bottom up perspective – from the point of view of firms in peripheral regions.

The comparative research will answer the question: What are the differences and similarities in the Nordic countries concerning

  • the role of peripheral regions in innovation policy and
  • the innovation aspects of local development policies in peripheral regions?

At national policy level we will examine for example how localities, small towns and rural areas are taken into account in spatial and sector policies? Are there specific systems for that? What are the implicit or explicit definitions of innovation in these policies? What kind of innovation approaches do we have in rural and regional policies from the point of view of peripheral regions? What are the differences and similarities in the Nordic countries concerning the role of peripheral regions in innovation policy?

At the local level we will analyse how different policy strategies are influencing and enabling innovation activities of peripheral firms and entrepreneurs? What is the long term dynamics between public and private actors like in the evolution of successful innovative peripheral networks and localities? To what extent the policy is allocating resources reactively, reflecting the sector or local innovation system of firms or acting as a proactive innovation driver.

The outcome of this part are national reports and a Nordic comparative summary.

II Analysis of good practices

We will focus on transferability of the good practices to peripheral regions in other Nordic countries. To transfer the experiences of a good practice means to dis-embed the practice from the local, regional and institutional context within which it has evolved, and re-embed it into a new context.


   Local and national embedding   New context (re-embedding)   Transferability potential
 Good practices Local  Institutional (policy systems)  Local Institutional  
 Case 1      
 Case 2      


We will ask:

  1. To what extent is the good practice a result of unique historical, local and regional conditions (a local historical development, locally embedded networks, local communities etc)?
  2. To what extent does the good practice result from nationally or regionally unique conditions and policy systems, such as national innovation systems, national policy instruments etc?

The relation between the identified good practices and properties of regions and localities
The relevant properties of localities are for example local entrepreneurship, local culture, local skills relevant to new ways of exploiting local resources, as well as local and regional policy makers. They can be conditioned by local history and nature, and by local knowledge base, which may be social, cultural as well as craft based. In addition, the firm-locality interaction is varying while the innovative firms can be isolated or embedded in a local production system. They can act as driving forces in wider local development processes.

Good practices, relevant national policies, and innovation systems
We will study what kind of national innovation approaches are embedded in local level good practices. Based on these analyses we will find the differences and similarities in the Nordic countries concerning the role of peripheral regions in innovation policy. This analysis is linked to the part I.


III Transferability analysis and transfer of good practices

The transfer of good practices depends both on the transferable elements of the good practices and the characteristics of the new contexts. For example some aspects of the good practices are uniquely dependent upon local or national systems. We are asking, what could be learnt from the good practices in different regional context, given what we know of other regions included in the study? The other focus is in our analysis is, how could the good practice be supported or sustained by national innovation systems and policy instruments in receiving countries?

The outcome of this analysis would be

  1. an assessment of the transferability of good practices
  2. a test of the national and regional policy system of the receiving country in assisting in transferring good practices.

One possible outcome would be the identification of a good practice, which is not transferable, because of weaknesses or limitations of the regional and national innovation system and policy instruments. In this way, analysis of good practice transferability will enable comparative assessments of policy systems. This analysis will be undertaken in a series of national-regional workshops.


4 Research methodology

The PLIP project is a follow up project of the ISP project and it is based on the data and findings of the ISP project. In the project new knowledge will be created with the help of traditional data analysis as well in dialogue with actors of local innovation policy.

  1. Comparative analysis of the Nordic innovation policies will be based on ISP report and data, existing research contributions, documents, as well as possibly supplemented expert interviews.
  2. Analysis of good practices will be based mostly on empirical data and findings of the ISP project, and additional data will be gathered through interviews and from secondary sources. The process, success factor, context etc. of the good practices will be analysed and the different good practices will be compared in order to find the variety of ways to operate in different local innovation milieus. The narrative construction of the good practices will be used as one method. The narratives will be constructed by country teams and reflected by the other researchers in the PLIP team in order to get various perspectives of the good practices.
  3. Transferability analysis will be based on the outcomes from the other phases. The approach is action research oriented with a purpose to make both the local actor and the researchers acquaint to the various good practices and to evaluate their transferability potential. This analysis will be undertaken in a series of national-regional workshops, where national and regional policy makers, politicians, operators of innovation policy instruments, and entrepreneurs are asked to assess the transferability of the good practices from the other countries. The researcher will represent the good practices and participate in the discussion on the potential of transferability of the case. At the workshops the analysis of transferability will be made interactively with the research team of the PLIP and the local and national actors in each case study area. The participants will be asked to asses the transferability of the good practices from other countries. The national-regional workshops will be organized in selected regions, the case study areas of the ISP project, in all of the Nordic countries. These regions are Central Ostrobothnia and Oulu South in Finland, Dalarna in Sweden, Ringköping and Viborg county in Denmark, and Lofoten in Norway.

5 Preliminary work plan


Phase Content/Task Material Who When
1. research workshop
Research process and definitions
Selection of good practices
ISP report
Country teams
Sept 2005
Comparative analysis
on peripheral
areas in Nordic innovation policy
writing report
ISP data,
new interviews
Country teams
Sept 2005
- Jan 2006
Analysis of good practices   ISP data,
other good practices
Country teams
Nordregio commenting
Sept 2005 -
Jan 2006
2. Research workshop Comparative analysis of innovation policies Presentation of the output of previous phases Country teams
National-regional workshops Presentation
of good practices
Good practices analysis Country teams
Local Reference groups
April 2006
3. Research workshop Presentation of preliminary findings Transferability analysis Country teams
Country reports Analysis, evaluation, writing Previous phases Country teams April-
August 2006
Synthesis report Analysis, evaluation, writing Country reports,
previous phases
Project manager,
Country teams and
Sept 2006
Promotion of results Writing press release Final report Country teams Oct-
Nov 2006


6 Organization chart: Division of the duties

Each partner is responsible for

  • analysing the local innovation policy in the country from a comparative aspect,
  • analysing the embeddedness of good practices,
  • participating in the analysis of the differences and similarities between Nordic innovation policies from the local point of view,
  • participating at least in three research workshops and interaction workshops,
  • finishing a country report in a timely manner (i.e. in August 2006), as well as
  • participating in the promotion of the project findings.

Generally, the partners are to work according to the time schedule presented in the work plan.

A country report consist of the national part of the comparative analysis, the analysis of good practices and transferability analysis. The ability of the national and regional policy system in assisting the transferring process will be explored. In addition, the learning from others will be evaluated.

The researchers representing the partners of the project will act as a management team for the project. The day to day administration of the project will, however, be carried out by the project manager. The project manager is responsible for the preparation of the research work shops, the country teams for the national-regional workshops.

The project manager is responsible for the delivery of a final project report. The project manager is responsible for general communication and information sharing among the partners throughout the project’s working period. Finally, the project manager is responsible for distributing funds and for the coordination of financial reporting according to NICe’s guidelines. The project manager is responsible for the delivery of a final project report.

Nordregio is participating the project management team and the research workshops. Nordregio is also commenting the comparative analysis on peripheral areas in Nordic innovation policy, the embeddingness analysis of good practices as well as the synthesis report.

Local reference groups are the participants of the national-regional workshops, which are local interaction forums. We will select 5-10 regional representatives of supporting agents, local and regional administration, interest organisations or/and businesses.

7 Promotion and application of project results

The core of the project is the dissemination of good practices based on the findings of the ISP project in 5 Nordic regions. The dissemination will be made in interactive workshops with PLIP research team and local actors representing the government, public services, business facilitators, other supporting agents, entrepreneurs etc. in the 5 selected case study regions.

The project is informing the main activities and interim findings in the home page.
The project results will be published in English in NICe's publication series. The publication consists of findings of comparative analysis, good practice analysis and transferability analysis, as well as the examination of the learning process in the view points of the peripheral localities. In addition, the method of action research applied in the project will be evaluated in synthesis report.

Each partner is responsible for promoting the findings of the project (of his/her country study as well as of the project as a whole) in his/her home country. This will be made through press releases, which are targeted to the media as well as to government, public services and other supporting agents. The information on the electronic version of the final report will be distributed through e-mail notifications targeted to researchers and to businesses. The participants will inform the findings of the project also in their other activities, for example in papers of international conferences.

The participants will write at least one newspaper article and one article in professional journal on the process.