The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Research Project: Public-private partnerships in transnational cooperation - possibilities and limitations

Project briefing

In the framework of the research project "Public-private partnerships in transnational cooperation - possibilities and limitations", the basic conditions of involving private actors in projects of transnational cooperation (INTERREG B) were analysed on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development.
Project duration: September 2010 - August 2011


The "European territorial cooperation" objective, especially the programme strand INTERREG B, focuses on the cross-border cooperation of national, regional and local partners in transnational cooperation areas. The aim is to strengthen a harmonious regional development of the total territory of the EU and to better integrate the new Member States.

Due to a stronger orientation of the EU programmes towards the goals of the Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies, the topic of "public-private partnerships" has again become up to date. Based on the usually rather intense participation of administrations, research and non-government organisations, the question was raised in the INTERREG programmes as well, how especially private actors could be better involved in projects. This discussion will also remain an important topic for the EU funding programmes beyond 2013 and their orientation towards the EU strategy "Europe 2020".


The cooperation of regional and local actors provides an essential element for developing regional economic and innovation structures. Improving the quality of life sustainably and strengthening the competitiveness of cities and regions can only be achieved by cooperation of many actors. Here, private actors increasingly assume an important role, since the innovation potential of private actors, due to their economic power and networking, is a central element for strengthening the competitiveness of regions.

However, involving private partners in EU projects of transnational cooperation is still difficult. Apart from a number of objective barriers, there are also numerous "soft" obstacles concerning the participation of private partners. Furthermore, the involvement of private actors in different cooperation areas is currently not harmonised. Whereas direct funding of private institutions is possible in some programmes, only indirect involvement is possible in others.

In order to better use the potentials of transnational cooperation, it is requisite to further systematically increase and well communicate the understanding of these problems but also the benefits to be gained from stronger participation of private actors to all those involved.


The present 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 the ones on state aid) were also examined concerning their influence on public-private partnerships. On this basis, recommendations should be given on how to proceed in cooperation areas in the future (also in view of simplifying/harmonising the rules and regulations of the various cooperation areas).

The following operative goals were formulated within the project:

  • 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

As far as possible within the framework of this limited project, a good balance of these five cooperation areas was sought in terms of data collection, analysis and recommendations.

The research project was carried out by Rupprecht Consult - Forschung & Beratung GmbH, Cologne, Germany.


  • Dr. Wilfried Görmar
    Division I 3 - European Spatial and Urban Development

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