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The Contribution of Cohesion Policy to Digitalisation: an Adequate Approach?



Academics and policy-makers see digital technologies as a significant driver of growth and innovation, capable of triggering radical transformations in both businesses’ operations and citizens’ life and welfare. Their potential is therefore deemed considerable, yet challenging to assess with certainty. The EU has been a pioneer institution in promoting the digitalisation of its economy. Its main ambition is to harness the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for growth and well-being. Its long-lasting support has been delivered through different types of interventions, including regulation and funding. It is critical as the successful development of ICT requires a mixture of top-down (e.g., regulatory framework, broadband networks…) and bottom-up (e.g., demand for digital services by citizens…) initiatives. Despite these efforts, the EU economy is generally considered as remaining below its digitalisation potential. Additionally, large disparities in digitalisation performance are observed both within and between the Member States. This situation prevents the EU from reaping the full benefits linked to ICT. In that context, the regional level is fundamental to address the challenges arising from digitalisation. Indeed, it can help to articulate both bottom-up and top-down initiatives in a way that is consistent with the specific strengths and issues of territories, i.e., in a place-based manner. In particular, EU Cohesion Policy has supported digitalisation for several programming periods, combining a prominent funding mechanism with a relevant territorial approach. Based on a series of case studies and a review of secondary sources, this paper aims at assessing how the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy framework contributes to the adequate formulation and delivery of regional digital strategies. The analysis suggests that the Cohesion Policy’s ability to steer the development of regional digital strategies is done through specific incentives (e.g., funding concentration, holistic approach). Its contribution also stems from its attention to the development of partnerships and stakeholders’ involvement around specific territorial issues both during the formulation of regional digital strategies and during their delivery on the ground. However, there are some limits to its contribution, e.g. regarding the synergies between EU funding instruments for digital interventions. Further research is needed to ensure the generalisation of findings and estimate the causal role of Cohesion Policy’s framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Julie Pellegrin & Louis Colnot, 2020. "The Contribution of Cohesion Policy to Digitalisation: an Adequate Approach?," Working Papers 201901, CSIL Centre for Industrial Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:mst:wpaper:201901

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Katerina CIAMPI STANCOVA & Jens SORVIK, 2016. "Assessment of strategies for ICT investments using European Structural and Investment Funds: reflections from experts and practical examples," JRC Working Papers JRC99720, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    2. Nicola Matteucci, 2015. "The Evaluation of «Regional Digital Agendas». A Model for Public Investments in Broadband," L'industria, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 4, pages 553-584.
    3. Reggi, Luigi & Scicchitano, Sergio, 2014. "Are EU regional digital strategies evidence-based? An analysis of the allocation of 2007–13 Structural Funds," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 530-538.
    4. Vicente, María Rosalía & López, Ana Jesús, 2011. "Assessing the regional digital divide across the European Union-27," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 220-237, April.
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    More about this item


    Cohesion Policy; ICT; digitalisation; regional digital strategies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • R58 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Regional Development Planning and Policy
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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