Commission launches the "Smart Specialisation platform" to further boost innovation in the EU regions

On 23 June 2011, the Commission launches the "smart specialisation platform" 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 facility will help the regions to assess their specific Research and Innovation (R&I) strengths and weaknesses and build on their competitive advantage. This is another step on the path to achieving the objectives set by the Member States in the field of research and innovation as part of the Europe 2020 strategy.

A look at the "European Regional Innovation Scoreboard" shows that there is considerable diversity in regional innovation performance all over Europe. Only 27 EU regions – 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 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 at encouraging 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.

Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn said: "Regional Policy is already largely supporting innovation in the regions. But we must ensure that the EU investment creates the best possible impact on the ground. The platform will help the regions in designing forward-looking, well-designed and integrated strategies to further boost innovation, Europe's key driver for competitiveness."

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science added:

"This smart specialization platform demonstrates the Commission's determination to bring regional policy and research and innovation policy closer together in order to get the best possible results in terms of growth and jobs. The platform will help policymakers and businesses to make full use of research and innovation potential and talent in every part of the Union. The ultimate aim is to foster and develop all over Europe the kind of world-class excellence in science and innovation that today is confined to only a few EU regions. That is a necessity if we are to transform Europe into an Innovation Union and create jobs where they are most needed."


The platform was launched at the "Regions for Economic Change conference" in Brussels, the annual meeting point of Europe's structural fund managers.



Smart Specialisation Strategies

These 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.

An example of such a strategy is "Flanders in Action", a plan by which Flanders wants to rank among the top five knowledge-intensive regions in Europe in 2020.

The role of the platform

This new structure, also called the S³ platform, will provide direct assistance to regions and Member States in developing, implementing and monitoring smart specialisation strategies, it will:

  • provide feed-back and information to Member States and regions;
  • create and manage databases of policy-makers, experts etc;
  • promote an annual meeting on smart specialisation for policy-makers;
  • share information and knowledge (prepare a guide for policy-makers, case studies, a peer review methodology to assess the smart specialisation strategies etc.).

Where and Who?

The platform is established at the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (Joint Research Centre) in Seville in Spain for three years. It is run by a steering team bringing together representatives of several Commission services. All EU regions can participate in the platform. Developing smart specialisations strategies is important not just for those regions at the cutting edge but also those that are still developing their capacities.

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