Smart Specialisation is a strategic approach to economic development through targeted support to Research and Innovation (R&I). It will be the basis for Structural Fund investments in R&I as part of the future Cohesion Policy’s contribution to the Europe 2020 jobs and growth agenda.
Smart specialisation involves a process of developing a vision, identifying competitive advantage, setting strategic priorities and making use of smart policies to maximise the knowledge-based development potential of any region.
The European Commission launched the “smart specialisation platform” in June 2011 to support regions and Member States in better defining their research and innovation strategies. As there is no “one-size-fits-all” policy solution, the new platform will help the regions to assess their specific R&I strengths and weaknesses and build on their competitive advantage.
There is considerable diversity in regional innovation performance all over Europe. Only 27 EU regions, which means one in ten, have achieved the goal of investing 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in research and development. With regard to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), the European innovation landscape shows marked contrasts: the share of innovative SMEs in 2008, ranged from 13% in Hungary to 46% in Germany. There is a relative lack of vision in setting R&I priorities in Europe: sometimes either no clear priorities are defined or priorities are just copied from one region to another.
The new platform aims to encourage national and regional authorities to design “smart specialisation strategies”. Each region should identify its best assets and R&I potential in order to concentrate its efforts and resources on a limited number of priorities where it can really develop excellence and compete in the global economy. The platform brings together expertise from universities, research centres, regional authorities and businesses.
Smart specialisation strategies are multi-annual strategies defining a policy mix and budgetary framework focusing on a limited number of priorities to stimulate smart growth. The strategy is based on a strong partnership between regional authorities, the business community and stakeholders from research and academia.
These strategies should not only target science and technology-led innovation but also foster innovation that is non-science based (i.e. stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation in the public sector and service innovation). It should also ensure a more effective and complementary use of EU investments in the regions and help leverage private investments towards the regions’ areas of specialisation.