The Establishment of the Alexander Innovation Zone in the Metropolitan Area of Thessaloniki
This Greek Case Study addresses the Alexander Innovation Zone (AIZ), of the Metropolitan Area of Thessaloniki. AIZ aims to support and coordinate the local innovation ecosystem, which includes local stakeholders, research institutions and dynamic enterprises. AIZ is a classical “top-down” case, supervised by the Minister of Interior, which in practice has been detrimental to policy efficiency since the central level failed to acquire the ‘ownership’ of the initiative or put it high on its agenda. The strengthening of autonomy at a local level, on the other hand, was considered an important prerequisite for dealing with spatial injustice.
This strengthening, however, is in contradiction with the current political system’s arrangement, as it requires a mature framework of democracy. The crucial is not whether policies are designed ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’, but whether there is clarity in vision and roles and consistency in policymaking. This means that the two approaches can coexist. A distributive strategy may sound attractive to the lagging behind regions, but in practice, it does not bring real spatial balance as it does not trigger endogenous local mechanisms. On the other hand, a completely neo-liberal approach that does not involve redistributive mechanisms could lead to an exacerbation of regional inequalities. The mix of ‘distributive justice’, ‘procedural justice’ and autonomy depends on the nature of the local issue, to be tackled. Distributive policy, if treated as a ‘resource conveyor belt’ from the developed to less developed regions, will not accomplish spatial justice if it fails to mobilize endogenous dynamics.