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Collaboration between local authorities in Weser-Ems

Voluntary initiative to take over the task of regional development, ensure continuity and create common policies in a centralized administrative structure, Weser-Ems region, Germany

Contact person:

Dieter Meyer


URL: new website under preparation

Link of the GP to the RIS3 steps:

Step 5. Establishment of suitable policy mixes


Country:  Germany        Name of the region: Weser-Ems        NUTS Level:  2

Description of the GP: 

Established in 1978, the region Weser-Ems was administratively dissolved at the end of 2004 due to an administrative reform in Lower Saxony. While the State Government of Lower Saxony has a small representation office in Weser-Ems, the region is currently without a formal regional authority. However, local authorities of the 17 Landkreise and kreisfreie Städte (districts and independent cities) of Weser-Ems established an assembly to voluntarily take over the task of further developing the region, ensure continuity and create common policies, for instance, in the field of innovation.

The region started to work on its first Regional Innovation Strategy in 1996 (within the framework of a project financed by EU Funds) and then permanently continued to develop and update it until 2010 (even despite the above mentioned reform and administrative dissolution in 2004).

Right now, Weser-Ems is working on a RIS3 Strategy, using mainly its own financial resources. The aim of developing a Smart Specialisation Strategy is to identify the region’s biggest strengths and further its development based on these strengths. The other objective is to plan common actions and projects implemented together by the districts and cities of Weser-Ems.

Regarding the organisational structures of innovation policy on regional level in Weser-Ems, there is a consensus among the Landkreise / Städte that each of them is or groupings of them are responsible for a specific policy field. The innovation field is led by Landkreis Ammerland. Each Landkreis / Stadt designates the personnel on operational level to carry out the day-to-day work concerning innovation policy.

Challenges addressed by the GP:

Building on what you have – Ensuring continuity of the governance structure
Organize it – Ensuring leadership

Impact and beneficiaries:

The assembly was established during the first RIS exercise in the 1990’s. It has been operating until now and carries out the innovation policy to answer specific regional issues of Weser-Ems regardless of the lack of formal competences which would usually be vested in Germany’s administrative structure. Moreover, the expertise and capabilities of the assembly have been recognized at state level. Through the existence of the assembly it was also possible to provide the region with continuity in terms of non-formal governance structures.

The continuing intensive collaboration of local authorities also enabled a subsequent major success: the development of the Regional Strategy for Smart Specialisation “Cross-Linking Knowledge in Weser-Ems 2020”, which has been taken into account for the draft of the RIS3 of Lower Saxony as well as for the draft of the Operational Programme ERDF/ESF.
Next to the local authorities of Weser-Ems themselves, the region as such and its 2.5 million inhabitants benefit from the collaboration, as it is inter alia thanks to these processes that Weser-Ems is among the most dynamic regions of Germany today. In national comparison the unemployment rate, for example, is rather low in most parts of Weser-Ems.


Requirements and limitations:

This GP example could be inspiring for administrative structures which search their place on the administrative landscape especially in centralised states that lack regional administrative “traditions” and regional innovation policies as such.

Nevertheless, it has to be taken into consideration that the system is based on the principle of voluntariness and on the readiness of the local authorities to participate and dedicate their efforts (also financially). The legitimacy and its binding character solely rest upon the regional consensus. While this might seem to be a limitation at first, it has been this trust and mutual understanding to work together for the development of the region that has proven of value since years and has been a key factor for the success of the collaboration.

Funding source:


  • Districts and independent cities (37%)
  • Economy (13%)


  • ERDF (50%)