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Barriers to cross-region research and development collaborations in Europe: evidence from the fifth European Framework Programme


The focus of this paper is on cross-region R&D collaboration funded by the fifth EU Framework Programme (FP5). The objective is to measure distance, institutional, language and technological barrier effects that may hamper collaborative activities between European regions. Particular emphasis is laid on measuring discrepancies between two types of collaborative R&D activities, those generating output in terms of scientific publications and those that do not. The study area is composed of 255 NUTS-2 regions that cover the pre-2007 member states of the European Union (excluding Malta and Cyprus) as well as Norway and Switzerland. We employ a negative binomial spatial interaction model specification to address the research question, along with an eigenvector spatial filtering technique suggested by Fischer and Griffith (2008) to account for the presence of network autocorrelation in the origin–destination cooperation data. The study provides evidence that the role of geographical distance as collaborative deterrent is significantly lower if collaborations generate scientific output. Institutional barriers do not play a significant role for collaborations with scientific output. Language and technological barriers are smaller but the estimates indicate no significant discrepancies between the two types of collaborative R&D activities that are in focus of this study.

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Fig. 1


  1. The thematic priorities in FP5 are the following (with the subprogramme name given in parentheses): quality of life and management of living resources (Quality of life); user-friendly information society (IST); competitive and sustainable growth (GROWTH); energy, environment and sustainable development (EESD); confirming the international role of community research (INCO2); promotion of innovation and encouragement of SME participations (Innovation/SME); and improving the human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base (Improving) (CORDIS 2008). Moreover, it is worth noting that FP5 emphasised the protection of intellectual property rights in order to improve the efficiency of collaboration within the various types of European research projects.

  2. Associated states included the candidates for EU membership in that time period (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuana, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) as well as Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland (see CORDIS 2008).

  3. These studies fail to account for network autocorrelation. Hence, the results are likely to be biased and may lead to unreliable or incorrect conclusions. A notable exception accounting for network autocorrelation in modelling collaboration flows is the study by Scherngell and Lata (2013).

  4. Note that is defined as \(\sum ^{n}_{j=1}Y_{ij}\) and .

  5. Neighbours may be defined using contiguity or measures of spatial proximity such as cardinal distance (for example, in terms of the great circle distance) or ordinal distance (for example, in terms of \(k\)-nearest neighbours). In this application, we use the concept of \(k\)-nearest neighbours with \(k=5\) to define \(W\).

  6. The survey was conducted in 2007 by the Austrian Institute of Technology. Questionnaires were sent out (via e-mail) to participating organisations of 9,107 FP5 projects with 20 or less participating organisations [that is, 59 % of all FP5 projects]. A total of 1686 organisations returned the completed questionnaire, representing a response rate of 18.5 %. The survey covers about 2.6 % of all participating organisations in the fifth Framework Programme and provides information on partner selection, intra-project collaboration and output performance in terms of scientific publications.

  7. NUTS-2 regions, though varying in size, are generally considered to represent an appropriate level of spatial granularity for modelling cross-region collaborations in Europe (see, for example, Scherngell and Barber 2011; Hoekman et al. 2013; Scherngell and Lata 2013).

  8. Note, for example, that for a project with three different participating organisations located in three different regions (say \(i, \, j\) and \(k\)), we count three links from \(i\) to \(j, \, j\) to \(k\) and \(k\) to \(j\).

  9. Language areas are defined by the region’s official language. Note that Belgium has French-speaking and Flemish-speaking regions; Switzerland has German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian- speaking regions.


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Correspondence to Aurélien Fichet de Clairfontaine.



NUTS is an acronym of the French for the “nomenclature of territorial units for statistics”, which is a hierarchical system of regions used by the statistical office of the European Community for the production of regional statistics. At the top of the hierarchy are NUTS-0 regions (countries) below which are NUTS-1 regions and then NUTS-2 regions. This study disaggregates Europe’s territory into 255 NUTS-2 regions located in the EU-25 member states (excluding Cyprus and Malta) as well as Norway and Switzerland. We exclude the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta y Melilla, the Portuguese non-continental territories Açores and Madeira, and the French Departments d’Outre-Mer Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane Française and Réunion. Thus, we include the following NUTS-2 regions.

Austria Burgenland, Kärnten, Niederösterreich, Oberösterreich, Salzburg, Steiermark, Tirol, Vorarlberg, Wien
Belgium Prov. Antwerpen, Prov. Brabant-Wallon, Prov. Hainaut, Prov. Limburg (B), Prov. Liège, Prov. Luxembourg (B), Prov. Namur, Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen, Prov. Vlaams-Brabant, Prov. West-Vlaanderen, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest
Czech Jihovýchod, Jihozápad, Moravskoslezsko, Praha, Severovýchod,
    Republic Severozápad, Stredni Morava, Stredni Cechy
Denmark Danmark
Estonia Eesti
Finland Aland, Etelä-Suomi, Itä-Suomi, Länsi-Suomi, Pohjois-Suomi
France Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comté, Haute-Normandie, Île-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrénées, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Rhône-Alpes
Germany Arnsberg, Berlin, Brandenburg, Braunschweig, Bremen, Chemnitz, Darmstadt, Dessau, Detmold, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Giessen, Halle, Hamburg, Hannover, Karlsruhe, Kassel, Koblenz, Köln, Leipzig, Lüneburg, Magdeburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Mittelfranken, Münster, Niederbayern, Oberbayern, Oberfranken, Oberpfalz, Rheinhessen-Pfalz, Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, Schwaben, Stuttgart, Thüringen, Trier, Tübingen, Unterfranken, Weser-Ems
Greece Anatoliki Makedonia, Thraki, Attiki, Ipeiros, Voreio Aigaio, Dytiki Ellada, Dytiki Makedonia, Thessalia, Ionia Nisia, Kentriki Makedonia, Kriti, Notio Aigaio, Peloponnisos, Sterea Ellada
Hungary Dél-Alföld, Dél-Dunántúl, Észak-Alföld, Észak-Magyarország, Közep-Dunántúl, Közep-Magyarország, Nyugat-Dunántúl
Ireland Border, Midland and Western, Southern and Eastern
Italy Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Umbria, Valle d’Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste, Veneto
Latvia Latvija
Lithuania Lieteva
Luxembourg Luxembourg (Grand-Duché)
Netherlands Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg (NL), Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, Zuid-Holland
Norway Agder og Rogaland, Hedmark og Oppland, Nord-Norge, Oslo og Akershus, Sør-Østlandet, Trøndelag, Vestlandet
Poland Dolnoślaskie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Lubelskie, Lubuskie, Lódzkie, Mazowieckie, Malopolskie, Opolskie, Podkarpackie, Podlaskie, Pomorskie, Ślaskie, Świetokrzyskie, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Wielkopolskie, Zachodniopomorskie
Portugal Alentejo, Algarve, Centro (P), Lisboa, Norte
Slovakia Bratislavsky Kraj, Stredné Slovensko, Východné Slovensko, Západné Slovensko
Slovenia Slovenija
Spain Andalucía, Aragón, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Comunidad Foral de Navarra, Comunidad Valenciana, Comunidad de Madrid, Extremadura, Galicia, Islas Baleares, La Rioja, País Vasco, Principado de Asturias, Región de Murcia
Sweden Mellersta Norrland, Norra Mellansverige, Smaland med Öarna, Stockholm, Sydsverige, Västsverige, Östra Mellansverige, Övre Norrland
Switzerland Espace Mittelland, Nordwestschweiz, Ostschweiz, Région Lemanique,
  Ticino, Zentralschweiz, Zürich
United Kingdom Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire, Cheshire, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, Cumbria, Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire, Devon, Dorset & Somerset, East Anglia, East Riding & North Lincolnshire, East Wales, Eastern Scotland, Essex, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire & North Somerset, Greater Manchester, Hampshire & Isle of Wight, Herefordshire, Worcestershire & Warkwickshire, Highlands and Islands, Inner London, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, North Eastern Scotland, North Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, Outer London, Shropshire & Staffordshire,South Western Scotland, South Yorkshire, Surrey, East & West Sussex, Tees Valley & Durham, West Midlands, West Wales & The Valleys, West Yorkshire

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Fichet de Clairfontaine, A., Fischer, M.M., Lata, R. et al. Barriers to cross-region research and development collaborations in Europe: evidence from the fifth European Framework Programme. Ann Reg Sci 54, 577–590 (2015).

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JEL Classification

  • C31
  • O39
  • R15