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Learning regions in Europe: theory, policy and practice through the RIS experience

Landabaso, Mikel and Oughton, Christine and Morgan, Kevin (2001): Learning regions in Europe: theory, policy and practice through the RIS experience. Published in: Systems and Policies for the Globalized Learning Economy (2001): pp. 79-110.

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The theoretical concept of the 'learning region' is something of a buzzword amongst academics and policy makers alike. Yet the concept is under -theorised and has proven difficult to translate into a concrete policy approach. RIS - Regional Innovation Strategies have, however, enhanced our theoretical understanding and provided policy makers and other actors in the regional economy with a practical tool for tackling some of the underlying problems faced by regions suffering from economic decline, stagnation or under -development in the field of innovation. The objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review of one of the principle policy tools used by the European Commission to promote the development of an innovative capacity in the less favoured regions (LFRs), namely RIS - regional innovation strategy. RIS is a pilot action financed under the innovative actions of the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, which is currently being developed in 32 regions in Europe. The paper describes and examines the RIS objectives, methodology and impact within a wider theoretical context, looking in particular at the relevance of networking and collaboration among different regional innovation-related stakeholders and institutions for the development of an efficient regional innovation system and regional 'learning capacities'. A case study on the West Midlands region is provided which further explores the RIS philosophy and methodology in a given region. The principal aim of the paper, however, is to focus upon the practical implications of RIS and how well this particular policy approach has met the specific needs of the LFRs. Indications of the early results of this European pilot action are provided.

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