Project Details


Study on public-private partnerships in transnational cooperation projects (INTERREG)

Project goal

The study was intended to show how INTERREG programmes currently succeed in involving private actors in transnational projects (INTERREG B), which barriers exist, which are the advantages of involving private actors and which steps can be taken to better involve them. In this context, EU regulations (such as rules on "state aid") were analysed to examine their influence on public-private partnerships. On this basis, recommendations were developed on how to proceed in the INTERREG cooperation areas in the future; e.g. in view of simplifying/harmonising the rules and regulations of the various cooperation areas.

The project pursued the following operational goals:

  • developing a systematic understanding of the status quo of involving private partners in transnational cooperation;
  • describing benefits and potentials of public-private partnerships as well as presenting successful forms of cooperation;
  • identifying best practice examples; developing concrete and practice-relevant recommendations for action for transnational programme committees.

In the course of this research project, the five cooperation areas with German participation were investigated:

  • Baltic Sea Region (BSR)
  • North-West Europe (NWE)
  • North Sea Region
  • Central Europe (CE)
  • Alpine Space


Involving "private actors"

The INTERREG B cooperation areas use different definitions of the term "private actor", which is also reflected in differing regulations concerning participation. In addition, the European state aid regulations are an important determinant for the involvement of private actors. These regulations, however, are complex, they cannot be easily applied to the INTERREG programme context and they are perceived by the programme actors as being fraught with risk. While there are no uniform guidelines, easily implementable in INTERREG B, managing authorities and programme secretariats have developed different practices for the involvement of private actors, ranging from restrictive to actively supportive.

In the five INTERREG B cooperation areas, currently (as per August 2011) a total of approximately 300 private partners is involved, for whom more than 50 million euros ERDF funds are being spent. That amounts to around 8% of all partners and 7% of ERDF funds allocated so far. The share of private partners in INTERREG is largest in the North Sea Region (13%) and in Central Europe (12%), whereas in the Alpine Space (7% ) and North-West Europe (6%), the percentage is only half as high; in the Baltic Sea Region, the share of private organisations is low (2%). These proportions also apply to the share of funds received by private partners.

In comparison with the forerunner programme INTERREG III B, primarily the North Sea Region and North-West Europe have experienced an increase in the share of private actors, whereas the direct project involvement of private partners decreased in the Alpine Space and the Baltic Sea Region.

The participation of private actors in INTERREG B as a whole shows a clear disparity in relation to the special strategic importance of public-private partnerships, which is called for in numerous EU policy documents.

Advantages of involving private actors in INTERREG

From the point of view of many private actors, INTERREG is nevertheless a potentially promising programme. The interview partners of this study described INTERREG as:

  • a good tool to open up new markets and to test new ideas;
  • a possibility to create networks and increase the visibility of a company in the market; • a path towards cooperation between competitors in a market segment;
  • a good opportunity to gain "EU experience";
  • a good option to work more intensively on one’s own topics in cooperation with European partners;
  • a way to profile the company as potential investor and service provider.

The involvement of private partners also provides advantages for the cooperation projects, as they can:

  • use the up-to-date and practical know-how of private partners for innovation;
  • integrate the market and marketing know-how of companies in a targeted way for sustainable project implementation and application-oriented results;
  • open networks of private companies to all project partners;
  • make communication channels and technical infrastructure of private partners available to the project.

Role of Rupprecht Consult

We conducted the study under contract of BBSR. Our research work included semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders from all five cooperation areas with German participation as well as evaluation workshops and desk research.

Contact details

Siegfried Rupprecht
+49 221 6060 55 11