Boosting innovation should be central to regional development policy, OECD says


04/05/2011 -  Regions are the economic engines of the world economy and are increasingly playing a driving role in the push for innovation and economic competitiveness, but disparities between rich and poor areas are growing and will require renewed government policy attention, according to a new OECD report presented today in Brussels.


OECD’s new Regions and Innovation Policy shows that the richest 4% of regions accounted for one-third of all OECD growth over the 1995-2005 period. The report highlights a similar Innovation Divide, with half of all R&D investment and patenting in the OECD area centered in just the top 13-20% of its regions.


“Sustainable growth at the regional level is now, more than ever, predicated on the capacity to innovate,” said Rolf Alter, director of the OECD’s Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate. ”Boosting innovation capacity in the regions that are not at the top is now vital.”


Countries are using a wide variety of regional development models for boosting innovation, with a general trend toward greater coordination of public funds at the regional level. In Belgium, Germany and China, regions are now responsible for at least 50% of public R&D-related spending, and the share has been growing over the last five years in most other countries.



The OECD says governments should:

  • Make innovation central to regional development policies (such as Switzerland’s New Regional Policy or the US Federal Government’s inter-agency emphasis on regional innovation clusters).
  • Spend efficiently and reduce the potential for wasteful redundancies by co-ordinating innovation policies  and instruments across all levels of government.
  •  Devise regional innovation strategies that: define, monitor and evaluate success; address economic areas (like the trans-border Öresund region between Denmark and Sweden), and not just administrative regions; recognise regional roles in the complex global networks that support innovation; and better leverage private sector expertise and funds.

Regions and Innovation Policy provides a roadmap for governments seeking to strengthen the innovation capacity of regions. The first part of the report examines strategies, policies and governance, explaining why regions matter, what makes smart policy mixes, and multilevel governance.  The report then  looks at agencies, instruments and country information, showing how agencies can maximise their impact and what policy instruments work. The final chapter provides country-by-country summaries of regional policy initiatives.


To receive a copy of the report journalists are invited to e-mail:


The Executive Summary (English and French versions) and short notes on regional innovation policies for 21 selected countries are available at:


Further information about Regions and Innovation Policy, and the OECD Innovation Strategy more generally, is available at: and


For more information about Regions and Innovation Policy, please contact Karen Maguire in the OECD’s Public Governance and Territorial Development directorate ( or phone + 33 1 45 24 87 56).



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