Tilburg Center for Regional Law and Governance

Interdisciplinary research on transformations and innovations in regional law and governance aimed at understanding as well as shaping society.

Vignet Tilburg Center for Regional Law and Governance

Hybridity in city-regional governance: learning from innovations across borders


  • Linze Schaap
  • Niels Karsten
  • Carlo Colombo
  • Maaike Damen


In the network society, (government) authorities are increasingly unable to make policies in an autonomous fashion. Social and economic issues transgress territorial and administrative borders. Addressing such problems requires innovative and adaptive cooperation across such borders. In essence, what is needed for effective governing is hybrid governance across (sub-) national territorial borders, across sectors and across the public-private divide.

In different sectors, new ways of governing, such as tripartite collaborations, and a growing use of ‘alternative’ governance instruments can be witnessed. Their effectiveness may very well depend on the context of the sector with its specific regulations. Intriguing question however is whether a governance arrangement that is solid in one context could prove to be beneficial in another context too. Mutual learning is vital for innovative urban and regional governance and regional law. That leads us to the first research question: How, and to what extent, can policy and lawmakers learn from experiences with hybrid regional governance in different contexts?

Hybrid governance is challenging, and it has, potentially, at least one downside: the difficult safeguarding of its (democratic) legitimacy. Traditional direct legitimization has eroded, partly because it only provides legitimacy at one level whereas governance nowadays is unequivocally multi-level. Besides, elected fora only represent citizens in places where the latter live and vote, while citizens are bound to have interests in places or spaces where they do not live (and vote) but work, recreate, or with which they identify without the possibility of securing representation. Second research question hence is: How can (democratic) legitimacy be safeguarded in a context of hybrid regional governance?

The project focuses on four case-studies in as many city-regions around Europe:

  • the neighborhood management in Berlin (D);
  • Brainport Eindhoven, a triple-helix cooperation focusing on innovation, that operates in the city-region around the city of Eindhoven (NL);
  • Greater Copenhagen and Skåne Committee, a cross-border cooperation acting on economic policies in the Øresund region (DK-S);
  • the Metropolitanraum Zürich, a multilevel cooperation across municipalities and Cantons in the city-region of Zurich focused on spatial development (CH);
  • A city-region lab is organized in every city-region during the 3,5 year duration of the project.


November 2017 – Zürich city-region lab. On the 9th and 10th of November the fourth city-regional lab has taken place, this time in Zürich. During a two-day programme hosted by the Verein Metropolitanraum Zürich, participants from the four participating city-regions in the project were informed on the governance structure of the Greater Zürich area and discussed its challenges, such as its effectiveness and legitimacy. On the second day, the participants reflected on the governance capacities of the governance structure and to what extent specific characteristics of the hybrid governance arrangements are transferable to the other city-regions. All participants were eager to learn from experiences in the other city-regions.

With all four city-regional labs having taken place, the researchers now focus on analyzing and reporting the results from the labs. They will also make several efforts to disseminate their findings to the wider academic public and to practitioners in city-regions in Europe.

July 2017 – presentation at Province of Noord-Brabant. On the 11th of July, the team gave a presentation on the results so far, concerning the city-region labs in Berlin and Eindhoven. Interested experts from the province were invited to this open lecture, as well as both public and private stakeholders from the region, such as knowledge institutes and regional cooperation organizations. In the discussion following the presentation, there was an interesting exchange on what can be learned from both cases, in the way that such hybrid initiatives are inspiring to other policy areas and regions as well.

May 2017 – the third city-region lab, in Malmö. Discussing the set up and working of the Greater Copenhagen and Skåne Committee, where both the Danish as well as the Swedish regional and local governments in the regions Skåne (S), Sjælland (DK) and Copenhagen Capital (DK) cooperate, lead to interesting exchanges between local stakeholders and the international participants from the other city-regions. During this lab, attention was also given to the learning between the city-regions on challenges and solutions regarding governance.

February 2017 – the second city-region lab was organized in Eindhoven. During two days, the participants discussed the challenge of Brainport of becoming an inclusive region and expanding its triple helix structure to a multiple helix structure. The participants received a presentation about smart lighting in the city, and visited the living lab of Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security at Stratumseind. The discussions and conclusions from this second lab have also been analyzed in a report.

July 2016 – the first city-region lab took place in Berlin, with the cooperation of the core group of participants from all four city-regions and local stakeholders. A report has been issued, assessing the discussions during the city-region lab and its conclusions.


  • 2015-2018

Funded by

  • NWO
  • Province of Noord-Brabant