The importance of government support for innovation is widely acknowledged, but the way governments support innovation is changing. We discern three trends: local innovation policies are gaining importance; governments increasingly choose a bottom-up, tailor-made approach to support specific innovations; and there is more collaboration between public and private actors. We analyse these trends and investigate how modern governments employ their administrative capacities to support innovation. We conduct a comparative case study of four attempts to realize integrated energy and waterworks, combining water safety and sustainable energy generation. Despite broad support, attempts to realize such innovative, multifunctional works in The Netherlands have had varying degrees of success. We examine the governmental support for these attempts and assess how governments' actions affect the innovation process. We conclude that all governmental administrative capacities have to be employed, and that public alignment is crucial for a synchronized endeavour. We elucidate the growing importance and special role of local authorities in innovation and demonstrate how modern governments spur innovation with tailor-made support in close collaboration with the private sector. We further conclude that ‘encouraging interaction’ is an insufficient public contribution to innovation and that expectations must be carefully managed to avoid role confusion in publice-private innovation.

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This study is executed as part the research project Energising deltas, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Opportunities for West and co-financed by the Province of Noord-Holland.,
Journal of Cleaner Production
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Grotenbreg, S., & van Buuren, A. (2016). Realizing innovative public waterworks: Aligning administrative capacities in collaborative innovation processes. Journal of Cleaner Production, (August 2016 (online first)). doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.08.128