Meanwhile, the outflow and lack of high-educated workers effects on all European regions but particularly border regions. For economies that depend on innovation, knowledge generation, as well as quality production, a lack of high-skilled workers causes significant problems. Those economies must develop strategies to attract and retain human capital in order to foster their regional innovation activities and to stay competitive. It is quite known that transnational migration patterns can influence regional economic development positively. This happens by the return of migrants (re-migration) into the region or by the attraction of highly educated from abroad and the (re-) starting of regional activities, which e.g. can generate positive regional effects.
In the sub-project BRAND as part of the INTERREG IV C ‘Brain Flow’ Mini-Programme, which is funded by the ‘European Regional Development Fund’ (ERDF), five border regions (North-Rhine Westphalia, Värmland, Hedmark, Basel, Twente) are engaged in the development of strategies and instruments and capacity building to gain high-educated workers by the use of regional alumni networks and their networks to further regional and inter-regional partners. The project ratio aims at retaining the professionals after their graduation or making once migrated highly skilled return to their home region. It seems that highly skilled, who lived for some time or were born in a specific region are more likely to return to this, in comparison to those who never were connected regionally. Therefore, in the project we concentrate on regional alumni, which keep contacts to their home region and the regional alumni networks wherever they live or work. One of the main conditions for returning of highly educated is a ‘warm place feeling’ towards the home region and the information they possess about the regional economy and development. This information must be given to the leavers before they go. But the reality is different, many of the leavers do not even know the regional economic structure or the companies allocated in the region and they do not know what options are open to them. So, the mediation of regional facts, information and a ‘positive feeling’ to alumni before they leave is important and can influence their location decision. This is something to work on within the border regions. An important mechanism for spreading a positive and ‘warm place feeling’ and making people return is the creation of strong regional networks, especially alumni networks. These are exchange platforms for resources such as knowledge, images, regional pictures, social capital etc. In this sense, alumni networks can even reach a transnational dimension by interlinking each other across borders – especially in border regions where direct exchanges can easily be realised due to short implementation pathways.
To reach the goal of keeping alumni in the region or to make them return, three project phases will be accomplished. Firstly, we will have a review on regional (re-)migration patterns. Secondly, the current regional alumni situation will be analysed. And thirdly, a regional guideline and a joint action and business plan for strengthening and improvement of regional alumni networks and their trans-national interlinking activities will be designed and implemented regionally. Additionally, policy recommendations will be accomplished at the regional and national level to stimulate policy activities and to support regional alumni networks.