Chapter 1 – The background for the toolbox

Innovation in Rural Places – Conditions and Barriers (VRI2, 2011–2014)

This toolbox represents a practical summary of our experience, methodology and research findings from our VRI2 project in Sogn og Fjordane County. The project explored the existing innovation systems in the county, the development of innovative networks, and how the two are related. Our research findings 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.

It should be mentioned that there are also other useful handbooks on network cooperation, including Weberg Kåsa & Brustad (2009), “Håndbok for vurdering og gjennomføring av nettverksprosjekter” (Handbook for evaluation and implementation of network projects’ developed for Innovation Norway). The primary content in this handbook is the assessment and selection of network projects, management and administration of network projects, and follow-up and reporting on network projects. There is limited overlap between our toolbox and the Weberg Kåsa and Brustad handbook. In terms of innovation and risk management, there is a certain overlap regarding the themes, but they are handled differently. Therefore, we regard this toolbox as a supplement to the Innovation Norway handbook on network cooperation.

Through VRI2 we mapped and analyzed the functionalities of five networks. We evaluated functionality by performing a SWOT analysis, which examines strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities. The results of the SWOT analysis were used to identify driving forces and barriers to innovation in the networks. We also used functional analysis considered as a “best practice”, in a report from the EU/Interreg program on regional innovation systems (Heydebreck et al., 2014, pp. 10–12).

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