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Solutions for innovation transfer between countries with different legislative, regulatory and funding regimes: case studies from rural passenger transport projects.

Gray, David; Mesjar, Lyndsay; Ironside, Lauren


Lauren Ironside


European programmes such as Interreg are predicated on the principles of demonstration and adoption of innovation, transfer of best practice between jurisdictions, and transnational cooperation to address shared challenges. However, governance, funding, planning and regulation regimes can vary substantially between partner countries within the EU, complicating and – potentially – acting as a barrier to the adoption, implementation and scaling of best practices from another jurisdiction. These barriers contribute to an already challenging environment within which to transfer innovation and implement new or green transport initiatives (Ward 1984), especially as differing approaches are often required for rural and peripheral areas (Porru et al 2020) compared with more urban or populous areas (Shah et al 2021) given demographic shifts and evolving travel needs. This paper will draw on findings from the Interreg NSR G-PaTRA project (Green Passenger Transport in Rural Areas) and will use CO2 reduction in rural passenger transport as a case study to demonstrate how variance in rural transport governance regimes can present a barrier to the adoption of best practice. It will also provide some examples and recommendations (generated from key policymakers) for how rural transport policy transfer can be more effectively facilitated and supported. The G-PaTRA project sought to promote green transport mobility by enhancing the capacity of authorities to reduce CO2 from personal transport in remote, rural, and island areas. The project aimed to embed more zero emission vehicles and a project extension allowed further work to understand the implications of the COVID pandemic for rural transport systems. The project supported a variety of carbon reduction innovation demonstrator projects and case studies, ranging from business cases for hydrogen ferries and rail, using electric vehicles on rural routes, demand responsive transport and car sharing, and the use of smart data to optimise available transport resources and drivers. An innovation scoring method was developed to identify and categorise the major barriers and facilitators of innovation transfer, sorting the barriers into technical, institutional, operational, and social categories. While good practice was demonstrated, it was found that the transfer of innovation was particularly impacted by different transport governance regimes in terms of funding, subsidy ownership and planning of services and vehicles and the extent to which transport was regulated, and the local governance structures (and the roles and relationship between national, regional, and local bodies). These were termed 'institutional' barriers, and they by far presented as the most challenging barriers to innovation transfer within this rural passenger transport context. Following identification of institutional barriers as the most prominent challenge, an extensive literature search and interviews was conducted in March 2022 to map the legislative, regulatory and funding frameworks for passenger transport in the G-PaTRA partner countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Scotland. This was followed by a workshop to develop the case studies for good practice in innovation transfer. To demonstrate this complexity, this paper maps out the governance regimes for ferry, rail, registered bus, demand responsive transport, and car sharing in the six partner countries. The paper then provides two case studies (demand responsive bus and transport optimisation) to contrast how the actors, financial regimes, and bureaucracy involved in implementing public transport innovation varies substantially between different partner countries and how this can impact on the prospects for innovation being implemented successfully. The findings of a key influencers workshop will then be used to demonstrate practical solutions for overcoming barriers to innovation transport in green rural transport and for facilitating the transfer of best practice across different institutional jurisdictions, including the targeting of key influencers to achieve political buy-in, which is seen by participants as key to driving innovation and which can overcome the institutional and bureaucratic inertia. The findings will be of interest to practitioners working in this sector. The paper also contributes to the academic discussion around innovation transfer and rural green transport initiatives.


GRAY, D., MESJAR, L. and IRONSIDE, L. 2023. Solutions for innovation transfer between countries with different legislative, regulatory and funding regimes: case studies from rural passenger transport projects. In ETC conference papers 2023: proceedings of the 51st European transport conference (ETC 2023), 6-8 September 2023, Milan, Italy. Henley-in-Arden: AET [online], abstract number 8143. Available from:

Conference Name 51st European transport conference (ETC 2023)
Conference Location Milan, Italy
Start Date Sep 6, 2023
End Date Sep 8, 2023
Acceptance Date Jan 4, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 8, 2023
Publication Date Dec 31, 2023
Deposit Date Jan 23, 2024
Publicly Available Date Apr 26, 2024
Publisher Association for European Transport (AET)
Series Title European transport conference past papers repository
Series ISSN 2313-1853
Keywords Rural transport policy; Europe; Case studies; Green transport
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Graeme Baxter is credited as an author on the conference proceedings website, but is not listed as an author on either of the documents for this paper.


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