What is smart specialisation (strategy), and why is it important?

The Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) is a policy concept developed as an instrument for boosting national or regional innovation, specifically focused on the strengths and the competitive advantages of a region, through enhancement of partnerships between businesses, public entities, and knowledge institutions.

Registered countries and regions in the S3 Platform, Source: JRC

The importance of the Smart Specialisation Platforms is underlined by its primary role in the EU’s Cohesion Policy: over the programming period 2014-2020, developing a Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) has been a prerequisite in order to receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

How is smart specialisation relevant to PARSEC?

The strategy has an inclusive nature, which implies that each sector and each territory has a chance to be included in it thanks to the shaping of attractive and promising structural transformation projects. The focus is on entrepreneurial discovery, where entrepreneurs are the moving force of progress, as opposed to a strictly top-down approach from policy and administration. And this does not happen only on paper: there are, in fact, significant indications that thanks to S3, regions and countries have put in place mechanisms that may circumvent the logic of selective intervention.   

Nonetheless, this does not mean that all the realms covered by the policy are created equally: in a 2015 report, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) aimed at analysing the S3 of 198 European regions and emphasised the predominance of ICT, agriculture, and energy amongst European research and innovation capabilities, whilst identifying food production as the most common business/market priority. At the same time, at least 20% percent of the EU budget for the period 2014-2020 has been dedicated to supporting climate action.

S3 is therefore yet another niche where the EO-enabled innovations developed under PARSEC (in food, energy, and environment) will be sought. Due to the broad range of fields of application of the policy, the results are expected to be many and diverse: from innovations in precision agriculture to the great potential in the already competitive fields of environment and energy, where Copernicus data has proven to be an irreplaceable source of innovation.

How and where to begin with smart specialisation (strategy)?

The one-stop knowledge shop for S3 is without a doubt the EU-created Smart Specialisation Platform.  It is the main tool designated to provide advice to EU countries and regions for the design and implementation of their S3, as well as guidance material and good practice examples, and to support access to relevant data. In line with these objectives, the platform facilitates peer-reviews and mutual learning through, among else, the organisation of Peer eXchange and Learning workshops throughout 2020.

PARSEC will provide further support and information on S3 to second stage beneficiaries through the PARSEC Regional Smart Specialisation Info Card Deck.