top of page

Network Effects: The innovation multipliers of international collaboration for cities

This research report, co-authored by lab director Dr Ellie Cosgrave alongside Dr Tim Moonen and Jake Nunley from The Business of Cities and Oliver Zanetti from Nesta, reviews the innovation benefits for cities and subnational governments of international collaboration. View it here.

  • There are considerable opportunities for boosting innovation through more effective international collaboration at an SNG level - particularly in the COVID-19 era.

  • In recent decades, subnational international collaboration networks have become more widespread, more complex and have utilised a wider range of collaboration mechanisms.

  • For cities and SNGs seeking to maximise innovation from an international collaboration, the landscape is very complicated, and there has been little guidance on process or benefits.

  • Picking the right international collaboration opportunity to ensure the maximum benefit to an SNG’s innovation capability requires a clear understanding of the fast-moving landscape, as well as the choices and opportunity costs, and the future value proposition.

  • The opportunity for international collaboration isn’t just for major cities, there are effective ways of participating for second and third tier cities as well as regions and devolved nations too.


Subnational governments should:

1) Take a ‘whole of place’ approach to international engagement, by:

  • Understanding their existing international commitments, and regularly reassessing their value and objectives.

  • Taking a more integrated approach that looks beyond political boundaries, siloes and timescales.

  • Avoiding treating different collaboration networks as optional or interchangeable.

2) Concentrate on collaborations that are innovation-ready, by:

  • Ensuring credible leadership and expert facilitation to negotiate international differences and tease out innovation potential.

  • Setting clear shared objectives, commitments and responsibilities.

  • Creating the profile and appetite to engage a wider stakeholder base, including citizens, business, investors, universities and other levels of government.

3) Pursue national-level policy partnerships to unlock capacity for internationalisation, by:

  • Identifying the national players and resources that can enable a more systematic and innovation-focused collaboration agenda.

  • Connecting international collaboration to national strategies, for example: creating more centres of productivity which distribute innovation capacity.

  • Seeking to access personnel and development opportunities operating at a national level with specific international collaboration expertise.

bottom of page