Assessing the Performance of the Regional Innovation Systems in the CBD (Copenhagen, Brussels, and Dublin)

During the past few decades, the regional innovation system (RIS) has provided a major framework for analysing regions’ roles in economic development. There has also been more literature exploring the performance of the RIS over time.

It is essential to note that the performance of the RIS is not the performance of ‘innovation’, but the performance of ‘system’.

A key approach to analyse the performance is based on a logic model, covering the essential characters of the process leading from policy to societal impacts. In particular, it conceptualises and creates logical relationships between “the context where the action is taking place, the action itself, the immediate outputs of the activity and wider long-term societal impacts”.

There are critics to this approach, arguing that it simplifies the relationships between inputs, outputs and impacts, especially by “assuming linear causal relationships” between them. Nevertheless, many have suggested that it still provides a useful framework to describe and analyse the performance of a RIS.

There are in general the following 4 dimensions considered in the model: (1) Inputs; (2) Processes and activities; (3) Outcomes; and (4) Impacts.

In this blog, I use this framework to assess the performance of innovation systems in 3 urban areas namely the CBD (Copenhagen in Denmark, Brussels in Belgium, and Dublin in Ireland). The main idea is to compare the innovation performance of Dublin urban region with its two international counterparts.

Table 1: Inputs

Share of R&D total expenditure (in % of GDP)
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Brussels 1.37 1.52 1.54 1.39 1.36
Copenhagen 5.11 5.07 5.03 4.90 4.91
Dublin 1.25 1.43 1.64 1.62 1.55
R&D total personnel rate (in % of total employment)
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Brussels 3.95 3.89 3.91 3.62 3.70
Copenhagen 4.94 5.10 5.26 5.63 5.56
Dublin 1.50 1.58 1.78 1.84 2.16
Share of labour force with tertiary education (in % of labour force)
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Brussels 45.4 44.8 46.5 46.2 47.5
Copenhagen 38.3 38.1 38.2 39.7 42.5
Dublin 36.5 37.6 39.8 41.4 42.5

Table 1 above describes the change of three input factors in the innovation system of the CBD between 2007 and 2011. For all the three factors, Dublin fell behind Brussels and Copenhagen in 2007 and has been catching up since.

In terms of share of R&D total expenditure in % of GDP, Dublin overtook Brussels in 2011, while both regions fell far behind Copenhagen. The share of labour force with tertiary education in Dublin increased to level up that in Copenhagen by the end of the period, with Brussels leading the performance by 5 percentage points. In 2011, the R&D total personnel rate was still far behind its two counterparts.

Overall, Dublin was not greatly equipped with input factors, in comparison to Brussels and Copenhagen, the two regions with more advanced economies, but its input conditions have been improving consistently over the period.

Table 2: Processes and activities

Share of employment in high-technology manufacturing (in % of total employment)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Brussels 1.3 0.8 1.3 1.0 1.1
Copenhagen 2.6 3.0 2.9 2.9 3.1
Dublin 3.2 3.4 3.4 3.2 3.3
Share of employment in knowledge-intensive services (in % of total employment)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Brussels 48.8 48.2 48.4 47.5 48.0
Copenhagen 55.2 56.6 58.8 59.1 58.0
Dublin 40.8 44.5 45.9 46.6 47.1

Table 2 includes two indicators measuring the processes and activities of businesses in the three regions between 2008 and 2012. The share of employment in high-technology manufacturing in % of total employment in all the regions was low, as high-technology manufacturing was a niche industry sector. In comparison, the share of employment in knowledge-intensive services in % of total employment is a better indicator to map the overall picture of business sectors. Again, Dublin started at a lower level in 2008 than the other two regions, but the gap was closing up over the years.

Table 3: Outcome

PCT patent applications per million inhabitants
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Brussels 101.5 105.6 126.5 103 103.4
Copenhagen 416.7 385.2 320 331.4 353.1
Dublin 82.4 81.2 74.9 57.7 80

Table 3 above shows the number of PCT patent applications per million inhabitants in the three regions between 2007 and 2011. As one of the key indicators of outcomes, patent application implies the extent to which the inputs are transferred to tangible outputs. As Dublin falls behind Brussels and Copenhagen in both inputs and processes, it might not be surprising to find that its level of patent application was below the other two regions. Nevertheless, the gap in the outcome seemed to be larger than that in the inputs or processes.

Table 4: Impacts

Regional GDP per head, US$ 2005, PPP
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Brussels 64,253 63,572 61,985 62,297 60,637
Copenhagen 41,090 40,479 38,658 40,224 39,731
Dublin 46,050 44,162 40,910 40,676 40,664
Disposable household income, US$ 2005, PPP
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Brussels 17,389 17,489 17,614 17,154 16,199
Copenhagen 14,278 14,385 14,447 15,045 15,146
Dublin 18,221 19,067 18,917 18,321 17,216

Table 4 includes two indicators of impacts, namely regional GDP per head and disposable household income. Regional GDP per head in Dublin was ranked in between Copenhagen and Brussels, but all the three areas have witnessed some fall in this indicator over the years, possibly as a result of the economic crisis. Nevertheless, in terms of disposable household income, Dublin led the performance over its two counterparts. Although these two indicators show somewhat mixed performance of Dublin, but its overall performance in impacts is better than that in the previous indicators.

Table 5: Summary of the performance of the RISs

Inputs Processes Outcomes Impacts
Brussels Medium Medium Medium High
Copenhagen High High High Low
Dublin Low Low Low Medium

In Table 5 above, I summarise the performance of the RISs in the CBD. Brussels displays medium levels of inputs, processes and outcomes, but achieves high level of impacts. Copenhagen enjoys high levels of inputs, process and outcomes, but somehow only displays low level of impacts. Dublin lags behind its two counterparts in inputs, process and outcomes, but performs relatively well in impacts.

In general, it suggests that the RISs are systems with complex dynamic interactions between all the factors. In the case of Dublin, it consistently faces challenges in the inputs and processes indicators, although it show high level of impacts. These fundamental challenges might limit the potential of Dublin in making further progress in impacts.