Territorial Impact of EU Research & Development Policy

ESPON Project 2.1.2

Thematic scope and context

The project analyses the distribution of the two principal instruments of EU R&D policy: the Structural Funds and the RTD Framework Programmes.

The emerging picture of the EU's R&D geography is more complex than a simple core-periphery analysis would suggest. The spatial patterns of EU R&D policy expenditures are not evenly distributed. EU R&D policies are demonstrably impacting on the spatial geography of R&D across the EU in a number of ways. Chief amongst these are the effects of making connections between firms and research bodies across the EU and the strengthening of the capacity of individual regions to participate in research and innovation activities.

The effects of EU R&D policies are most strongly visible at the micro-scale. Within individual regions the Structural Funds are having important effects on supporting the development of research and innovation capacity.

On first sight the distribution of projects funded by the Framework Programmes appears to counteract territorial cohesion objectives, as economically stronger regions tend to have a larger number of firms and research organisations engaged in Framework Programme activities. However, closer analysis demonstrates that when economic strength is controlled for, and more particularly levels of R&D expenditure, many less favoured regions benefit disproportionately from the Framework Programmes.

The project shows that at the EU level the Framework Programmes are having a significant influence on stimulating the development of a European Innovation System through promoting linkages between researchers and companies located across the Union. These networks are actively stimulating knowledge exchange and innovation within their membership, with positive effects reported in home regions. EU R&D policy is making a strong contribution to building both individual skills and experience and to 'raising the game' of individual companies and organisations. The potential that these transnational networks offer in terms of wider spillover effects within home regions is substantial. However, current evidence suggests that the effects of this are in practice more limited.

Lead Partner

ECOTEC Research and Consulting Ltd., Brussels (Belgium).
Detailed information on the contracted project team under Transnational Project Groups.


2.1.2 - Final Report

  • Acrobat Document | 17.33MB

2.1.2 - 3rd Interim Report

  • Acrobat Document | 3.68MB

2.1.2 - 2nd Interim Report

  • Acrobat Document | 1.76MB

2.1.2 - 1st Interim Report

  • Acrobat Document | 7.11MB


  • Acrobat Document | 161KB

Terms of Reference

  • Acrobat Document | 50KB