Smart specialisation… Quid est?


Smart specialisation is an innovation policy concept designed to identify the unique economic characteristics and assets of an area (usually a region, or a country) to address emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner….Basically? It means developing and matching the research and innovation strengths of a geographical area to the business needs Rather than being a strategy imposed from above, smart special­isation involves businesses, research centres and universities working together.

EU Legislation:

Smart specialisation is not new, it is in the continuity of the previous funding period (2007-2013). What is new is that the European Commission makes such strategies a pre-condition for ERDF funding. It will be the basis for European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) interventions in R&I, as part of the Cohesion Policy’s contribution to the Europe 2020 jobs and growth agenda (see Regulation (EU) 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013).

In England:

A Smart Specialisation Strategie (S3) has been developed at a national level, but has to be informed locally by the LEP ESIF strategies which need to focus on specific actions in support of innovation. The Government also asked LEPs to consider the development of a specific strategy of Smart Specialisation and particularly encouraged the use the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) RIS3 guide, available on the Smart Specialisation Platform:

Latest news:

on 12 February, speaking at a conference in Riga (Latvia), Charlina Vitcheva, Director of smart and sustainable growth at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional Policy, said that 59 of the 110 plans failed to meet monitoring and evaluation criteria, and lacked a “real vision for transformation”. Most Regions must prepare for failure as well as success, to allow them to take more risks in drafting their plans, and to simply avoid old and repackaged innovation strategies. See more at:

We recommend:

The role of Universities and Research Organisations as drivers for Smart Specialisation at regional level:

Universities play a key role in Smart Specialisation


This Smart Specialisation Strategy Policy Brief analyses the potential role of universities in the development and implementation of Smart Specialisation Strategies. These strategies are a central part of the new EU Cohesion Policy framework, designed to ensure effective spending of the large amount of EU funds that will be available for research and innovation.

Universites are often crucial institutions in regional innovation systems, especially in those with an absence of a dynamic, research led private sector, and there is rich history of academic and policy analysis in this area. However, with the new smart specialisation agenda, which differs in emphasis and design from previous regional innovation policies, universities have a potentially pivotal role to play in its delivery. This Policy Brief makes concrete suggestions on how universities can be integrated into Smart Specialisation Strategies to deliver their desired economic and social outcomes.