Municipal innovation partnerships (Kommunale Innovations Partnerschaften) A concept for the revitalisation of rural areas?

Klaus Deimel
Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University

Mischa Ellenberger
Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University

Natalie Chirchietti
Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University

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Cathleen Müller
Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University

In a traditional perspective the missions of higher education institutions (HEIs)such as universities comprise (1) the generation and accumulation of academic knowledge, and (2) the diffusion of knowledge via academic education. More recently, attention has also been drawn to a third role of HEI activities: the regional development - their “third mission”.
The term “third mission” refers to all society-related activities of Universities in order to develop and maintain cooperative and bilateral exchanges with the regional society, organisations and companies. Today universities are not only supposed to produce new knowledge, but increasing the benefit of the social, cultural and economic development of our society. Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff suggest their view of a triple helix of industry, governments and universities posing that universities should embrace the three missions and become so called “entrepreneurial universities”.
Against this background Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University (Germany) developed a program titled “ Kommunale Innovationspartnerschaften” (KIP) (Municipal Innovation Partnerships) in order to meet the requirements of the above mentioned third mission approach. The core of the project is the development of strategies and concepts to extend the positive effects of universities into rural areas, which we call a repeater effect. This effects should be achieved without establishing a full fledged university location in those rural areas. This project, which commenced in 2018 and will be finished by 2023, is funded by G erman Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).
For many years rural regions have been suffering from a loss of attractiveness due to urbanisation for citizens as well as businesses. Negative Effects of this develompemnt are a strong thrive for urbanization with an overcrowding of urban areas and a widespread loss of population in the rural areas. Younger people are leaving rural areas leading to a severe demographic problem of overaging in those regions. In addition rural infrastructures such as convienent shopping facilities, cultural activtities, medical services are bleeding out. Economic infrastructural conditions in terms of road infrastructure, public transport, fast, broadbend internet connectivity are in many of those regions in a poor condition. In economic terms small and medium sized companies leave those rural areas. This leads to lower number of jobs and a diminishing annual tax income for rural municipalities. Many German rural municipalities are in fact currently overindebted and under supervision of a regional administration board.
On the other hand academic studies proved that communities having a university infrastructure and are actively cooperating with universities prosper sustainably There are two specific effects that are supporting this positve development. Primary effects stemming from direct investments into universitites, consumptions expenditure from operating an HEI or direct employment effects. Secondary effects such as transfer of knowledge, consulting, joint research, which will affect the economic development of rural regions positively
In order to avoid a decoupling of the rural areas, the BRS-U is developing and implementing Municipal Innovation Partnerships (KIP) as a pilot project with an local municipality. Objectve is to develop an innovation and transfer management concept („cooperation toolkit“) for cooperations between universities and rural regions.
The pilot project will be performed in three distinctive steps. Stage 1 comprised (1) the analyses of academic knowledge and best practises on university regional stakeholders interactioins, (2) an initial analyses oft he current situation of our project partner in terms of a SWOT analyses as well as the development of a readyness index for cooperation in this pilot project, (3) development of a general concept and a cooperaitons toolkit“ for the cooperation between H-BRS and rural regions. In the second stage of the project, we worked out a general concept and selective measures have been developed in cooperation with the pilot municipality) based on the taxononmy of Henke/ Pasternack/Schmid. In stage 3 of the project the planned concepts and measures will be implemented , their effectiveness will be evaluated and recommendations for action and implications for other universities and communities will be elaborated.
Currently the project is at the end of stage 2. On our poster we will deliver a brief report on the results of our initial empirical analyses as well as a discussion on our initial experiences with the already implemented measures .