How to ensure sustainability in a regional or local growth system built on innovation

Regional and local growth would substantially benefit from early adaptation of a true outside-in strategy – meaning, early engagement of trade and industry and other commercial actors present in the local society.

Why is it so hard when establishing a regional or local growth project to start the journey by engagement of the commercial sector? Unfortunately, too many cases tend to look inside-out and start to assess the resources from a public funding perspective only. No doubt, public funding will always be necessary as lubricant to the system – but it should never become the only, or even the primary, source of funding. Any successful regional or local growth initiative must always be solidly anchored in market demand driven strategies.

The single most important driving forces to achieve sustainable growth in a region or a local community are always to find “just around the corner”. One must ensure engagement and support from the local business sector. Later to be expanded to the wider national and international arenas.

For some to me unclear reasons the first answer to the question: “how will we be able to fund this project”, most often comes out in terms of different types of public funding. But sadly to say, this is not the right answer. On the contrary, all experiences shows that publicly over funded initiatives in too many cases fail to survive more than five years. Or at best, they have within this time frame flattened out their growth curve and face a huge risk of entering upon the path of becoming a “living dead”.

The reason for this is obvious. The driving forces of growth in the society are to find in satisfying the market needs and to create the innovative support systems necessary to unleash the full market potential. To achieve this commercial markets are willing to contribute both with expertise, personal involvement and financial engagement. A necessary complement to this will always be public funding which must be added in order to lubricate the system. But it should never be the other way around.

The most important gains to be achieved by an early mobilization of the market forces in development of any regional or local growth project are though not the pure financial ones. Even more important is that you embed a natural and sustainable driving force that becomes a self generating eco-system. Everyone talk so warm about SME’s being the cradle for society growth. But very few succeed in creating the necessary integrated meeting places and supporting platforms that really makes this happen. The regional and local innovation systems! – And remember, in order to establish these types of initiatives and activities the commercial markets are willing to contribute! But they need a clear vision, some tangible and realistic targets and a committed and aligned public strategy to “jump on board”.

My point is therefore; always start a society growth journey by creating the necessary platform to attract the trade, industry and wider commercial sector and mobilize them to contribute from day one! A serious and committed engagement of the sustainable driveline of growth that enterprise and private sector represents is imperative to create an enduring and viable regional or local growth path.


  1. Many thanks.
    The importance of securing the Business drivers and Governance of the innovation systems already at the planning stage of a cluster initiative, or in any local and regional development, can never be enough emphasised.

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