This web page is based on the “Toolbox 2.0 for Strategic Leadership of Innovative Networks: Four exercises to establish and revitalize networks – and seven pieces of advice for good network management” by Øyvind Heimset Larsen, Jon Gunnar Nesse and Ingjerd Skogseid. The toolbox contains tools both for establishing and revitalizing networks (strategic tools), and for running and maintaining networks (functional tools). Both the first and second version are results of a cooperation between Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) and Vestlandsforsking (VF).
The first version was inspired by the project “Innovation in Rural Places – Conditions and Barriers” (“IRCAB”), funded by the County Authority of Sogn og Fjordane, the Norwegian Research Council (the VRI programme), as well as HVL and VF. Even if the IRCAB project resulted in several reports, feature articles, book chapters and presentations, the researchers also recognized a need for the more practical approach. Moreover, both the County Authority and other stakeholders had expressed special interest in developing a toolbox that incorporated the new knowledge developed in the IRCAB project. Accordingly, the researchers elaborated a simple, first version of a toolbox for developing, renewing and operating innovative networks. The toolbox was theoretically based, but contained practical examples from the IRCAB project to be easily accessible and relevant to both business stakeholders and public policy funding schemes. To summarize, we applied a so-called functional analysis of networks, a method recognized internationally (Bergek et al., 2008; Heydebreck et al., 2014), and developed further by us. Our research findings in IRCAB led us to define a set of tools which may be useful when dealing with innovative networks and innovative processes across businesses.
It was the EU project “Interreg Europe P-IRIS” which presented the opportunity to test and make a second version of the toolbox. In P-IRIS, partners in six countries tested out the first version of the toolbox on three network cases in each country. This gave the authors not only new cases to use as examples, but also constructive feedback and positive motivation for making this new, improved and now tested version of the toolbox.
The toolbox was developed after completing the research project: “Innovation in Sogn og Fjordane County – conditions and barriers” (Nesse et al., 2014). The project received financing from the Sogn og Fjordane County Municipality and The Norwegian Research Council as a part of the VRI programme focusing on innovation in Norwegian regions. The research project was carried out under collaboration between Vestlandsforsking and Sogn og Fjordane University College , and these two organisations contributed with own financial resources to the project. The VRI programme was implemented in three phases. The programme we are indicating here is part of the second phase (2011–2014), with further reference: VRI2.
VRI2 explored the existing innovation systems in the county, the development of innovative networks, and how the two are related. We applied a so-called functional analysis of networks, a method recognized internationally (Bergek et al., 2008; Heydebreck et al., 2014), and developed further by us (Nesse et al. 2014; Nesse, 2017).
Our research findings in VRI2 led us to define a set of tools which may be useful when dealing with innovative networks and innovative processes across businesses. Some of the tools, if not all, may also be useful to individual businesses. We need to underline here that this toolbox is not an alternative, but rather a supplement to the handbooks on networks published by, for example, Weberg Kåsa and Brustad (2009).
The contracting body, which has observed and followed up many different networks in the county, was given the opportunity to give its input on the toolbox during the process. This work was anchored in the County of Sogn og Fjordane’s plan for value creation (Sogn og Fjordane County Municipality, 2014), where development of innovative networks was among the priorities.
Version 1.0 of the toolbox was tested out in the EU project P-IRIS, where six countries mapped 3 networks each, using a template which included use of the toolbox. See more about P-IRIS in chapter 1. The results and experiences from P-IRIS gave valuable input to this second version of the toolbox. This second version of the toolbox is funded by the Sogn og Fjordane County Municipality. The authors want to thank the County Municipality for the financing, and the partners in the six countries for the data and feedback, that have made this second and improved version of the tool box possible.
The most important changes in toolbox 2.0 are:
• Improved introduction, to make the toolbox easier to use
• More cases are included as examples (from P-IRIS)
• More about path dependency and fragmentation as barriers to change (chapter 2.3)
• Example of how the toolbox can be used to give input to strategy discussions in network board (chapter 4)
• Introducing multi helix cooperation as an alternative to triple helix (chapter 2.2, 2.3 and 3.3)
• Links to sources for more information on culture and leadership
• More exercises (chapter 2.3, 3.3, 3.7)
The target group for this toolbox is anyone working to achieve cost-effective, commercially oriented collaborations for innovation and restructuring of industries. To achieve this ambition, knowledge and competencies about the practical operation of networks are necessary. This is the objective of the toolbox.