The Interdisciplinary Centre for Baltic Sea Region Research (IFZO)’s goal is to set up a sophisticated network for interdisciplinary research in the Baltic Sea Region and to promote young researchers. Above all, it aims to bridge between the Baltic Sea riparian states, to contribute to a better understanding between different academic traditions. The interdisciplinary nature of the centre and its focus on transformation is mirrored by the six research clusters: International Relations and Security, New Nationalisms, The Topicality of Cultural Heritage, Sustainability in the Baltic Sea Region, Energy, and Regional Development and Rural Areas. The centre currently receives a two-year seed-funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which is to be followed by a five-year main phase.
The research agenda of the cluster Regional Development and Rural Areas aims at analysing the transformative importance of socio-technical innovations in the context of rural areas. The project concentrates on innovative practices by regional actors, with a focus on bottom-up initiative and community, which are organized both formally and informally and may have a strongly varying degree of diffusion. The cluster seeks to explore this topic by focusing on two impact dimensions: the provision of public services and the regional development of rural areas. Transformation is therefore defined within the project as a long-term transformation of the rural region’s economic system and the provision of public services towards a more sustainable mode through, for example, the introduction of socio-technical innovations.
Three overarching processes constitute the centre of the cluster’s research agenda. First, the process of socio-technical innovation creation and application in rural regions is to be addressed. Secondly, the question needs to be raised, if and how such innovations can be diffused regionally, nationally and internationally. What opportunities and barriers exist for the adoption of models and innovations from other countries in the Baltic Sea region? In conjunction, the third important strand of research is policy analysis. The current literature stream of policy mobilities can be applied to the Baltic Sea Region in order to analyse, whether best practice policies might be transferred between the riparian states. The project thus primarily addresses the conference theme of geographies of transformative innovation policies, but also implicitly the role of specific actors in transformative change and the role of experimentation with policies and niche innovations.
By answering these and further queries, the cluster Regional Development and Rural Areas seeks to contribute to the scientific and political discussion on rural development and aims to develop strategic recommendations for the European level from a multi-level perspective on a bottom-up process. The IFZO is planned to function as a competence centre for scientific policy advice on the Baltic Sea Region. On the one hand, policies are analysed as described above and close cooperation with policy makers sought as part of the empirical work. On the other hand, the research’s results will be central for policy recommendation and co-creational work with practitioners.