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The subsidiarity principle: Turning challenge-oriented innovation policy on its head


  • Iris Wanzenböck
  • Koen Frenken


While innovation policy started as national policy, we witness a proliferation both at the sub-national and the supra-national level. This begs the question about subsidiarity: what policies should be organized at sub-national, national and supra-national levels? We argue that innovation policies aimed to solve societal challenges such as climate change or ageing - currently central in EU policies - are better organized at sub-national levels given the contested nature of problem identification and the contextual nature of problem-solving. Regional innovation policy, then, should formulate concrete societal goals relevant to the local community and tailored to the local context.

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  • Iris Wanzenböck & Koen Frenken, 2018. "The subsidiarity principle: Turning challenge-oriented innovation policy on its head," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1806, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jan 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:egu:wpaper:1806

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Uyarra, Elvira & Zabala-Iturriagagoitia, Jon Mikel & Flanagan, Kieron & Magro, Edurne, 2020. "Public procurement, innovation and industrial policy: Rationales, roles, capabilities and implementation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1).
    2. Grashof, Nils, 2021. "Putting the watering can away –Towards a targeted (problem-oriented) cluster policy framework," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(9).

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    More about this item


    innovation policy; societal challenges; subsidiarity; regional policy; multi-level governance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • R5 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis

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