Transnational learning through local experimenting:

the creation of dynamic complementarities between economy and society

TRANSLEARN is an EU funded research project.

Workshop and project meetings of the Translearn project
at HSE between 28th and 30th of August 2006

During the last ten years, the Nordic Countries have fared excellently in a number of international comparisons. For this reason their national business systems have received a lot of attention. One indication of this is the fact that the EU Commission decided to fund a research project called “Transnational learning through local experimenting” (Translearn). The Helsinki School of Economics (HSE) is the coordinator of the research project.

By means of fieldwork, local experiments conducted by the subsidiaries of multinationals are being identified and followed up. The aim of the Translearn project is to find the hidden mechanisms behind the success of local development projects. The explanatory mechanisms to be discovered are based on dynamic interaction between the private and the public sector and on the activities of non-mainstream eco-systems and accumulated social capital.

The Nordic countries have been labelled in the Variety of Capitalisms literature as coordinated market economies. Several systemic features have contributed to the competitiveness of businesses. These include long term supplier-buyer relations, cluster-based innovations, strong involvement of the state in the economy and in the development of an inclusive welfare state. Inter-sectoral complementarities have also been developed via neo-corporatistic negotiations of the government and various interest organisations. These characteristics distinguish the Nordic countries from liberal market economies like those of the USA, the UK and Ireland, where economic growth has also been fast. The indicator-based findings show that it is possible to prepare for the progression of globalisation in many ways. Market forces are not the only way to execute fast structural changes.

International comparisons have shown that the mechanisms behind economic growth and innovations are poorly understood. Nor is it possible to talk about a general “Nordic model” in relation to the Nordic countries; there are significant differences between the national business systems. Differences can be detected, for instance, in sector-based specialisations, regional diversity, in the functioning of labour markets, and in professional and organisational cultures. Due to national and local differences, best practice should be transferred with care and best practices should be “translated” for local contexts. Despite the difficulties in transnational learning, other institutional settings and working environments can provide interesting inspiration to national and company-specific development work and new approaches can be developed.

Initiated in April 2006, the Translearn project, held a workshop at HSE in August. Research teams from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Slovenia gathered to present country-, locality- and company-specific case studies. In addition, the workshop was used to discuss differences in national business systems in order to discover relevant dimensions for cross-national comparisons in case studies and to explore transnational learning opportunities when the new experimental governance practices of the EU are implemented. An interaction forum consisting of academic researchers and leaders of national innovation systems supports the project. The forum met in Helsinki for the first time to assess and comment on the projects. The international closing conference of the Translearn project will be held in Helsinki in March 2009.

























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