Peat Valley+
Oct 15th 2018 by Katrin Uurman

Economic and social changes in the European Union bring new opportunities and challenges. In this increasingly complex world, creativity and the ability to continue to learn and to innovate will count as much as specific areas of knowledge liable to become obsolete. Lifelong learning will be the norm in this knowledge-based economy (COM (2008)). Europe is competing with other parts of the world to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world (Europe 2020)”. The most effective modern economies will be those that produce the most information and knowledge – and make that information easily accessible.

How does that work?

Educational institutes play a major role in a knowledge-based economy. Evidence show – consistently, and over time – that countries that invest heavily in education and skills, benefit both economically and socially from that choice. Today, the role of the contemporary school goes beyond teaching and conducting research. It incorporates the high demand for new skills and knowledge, technology, and innovation as the foundations of a knowledge-based economy. What does that mean for today’s education institutes?
Research shows that it requires schools to be flexible and apprehensive to the needs of the labour market and the nearby future and to make a real connection with the regional partners. Schools therefore have to align their ambitions with the regional agenda (Godin, 2004). They will have to choose a new position in the region in order to remain up-to-date, flexible and competitive so they will add (economic) value (Rapport WRR, 2013). Thus, education institutes should collaborate with the triple helix with the main aim of exchanging knowledge for developing and using knowledge to increase the competitiveness of the region’s trade and industry. But knowledge transfer in the economy is a complex process. How should we go about this?

Schools should have to fulfill a double task: their traditional roles of education and research, and their role as regional innovators. This can only arise through structural cooperation between the triple helix (Leeuwis, 2003). The Triple Helix thesis is, that the potential for innovation and economic development in a Knowledge Society lies in a more prominent role for the education institute and in the hybridisation of elements from schools, industry and government to generate new institutional and social formats for the production, transfer and application of knowledge (Stanford, 2012).

The Dutch, Swedish and English have learned this lesson when working together during the Peat Valley project (Leonardo project) that has led to the current EU consortium ( They have seen the possibilities for finding new ways of cooperation and how this could lead to the repositioning of a school within the region. But they have also noticed that there is a variety of ways in which a school can bridge the gap between education and the working world. Each (re)position has also a different effect on:

  • the way a school works together with partners in the network (network forming)
  • the portfolio of services that a school provides (incl. services and curricula/education programs)
  • the capacity that is needed within the school (from new competencies to new systems and processes) in order to establish this (re)position in the region

The main question to be addressed in this application is: ´How can schools position themselves within the region and how does this relate to the type of network structure that needs to be built, the portfolio of services and the needed capacity within the school?´

In summary, the rationale of this project can be defined as: ‘The need for finding new ways of cooperation with triple helix partners and how this could lead to the repositioning of a school within the region’

The objectives pursued and need to be addressed are defined as follows: 

  • Repositioning; refers to renewal of mission and vision and renegotiation of public value with stakeholders. The question here is: how can a new public value on regional development be combined with more traditional public values around (professional) preparatory learning?
  • Networking; refers to the development of new interactive links with other regional stakeholders. It is the question how school management can contribute to the design of a strategic learning network in the region.
  • Capacity building; refers to internal change of organizational routines and processes, such as business models, HR etc. Management will have to be able to translate new external ambitions from the region in internal capacities, business models, self-managing teams and new systems.

In order to properly cooperate and answer the main question, partners have selected a real-life case study which is relevant in all the three partner regions.