Smart specialisation (S3) is designed within the reformed cohesion policy of the European Commission, as a locally based strategic approach that is characterised by identification of priority areas that need to be supported, and builds on the analysis of strengths and opportunities for the economy and the process of entrepreneurial discovery with a broad stakeholder participation. Smart specialisation connects innovative policy with selected priority areas. Innovations, primarily but not exclusively those related to technological progress, are monitored and supported in a broad sense in those selected priority areas, with an appropriate mechanism of measures.
The European Union has embraced this concept to ensure regional development based on innovation and synergy of diversity. Key features of smart specialisation are: stimulation of innovation through entrepreneurship, modernisation and adaptation; courageous adoption of innovative solutions in public administration; strategic technological diversification in the areas of relative strengths and potentials of the economy; enhanced diversification through promotion of new connections, synergies and spill-over effects in the economy.
Through partnership and a bottom-up approach, smart specialisation brings together public administration, academia and business community and civil society to share the task of implementing an innovation-based long-term growth strategy, with the support from European Union funds. One of the most important elements of smart specialisation is coordination in programming and use of EU funds, which was missing previously, causing investment fragmentation.
By identifying key priority areas, S3 enables the concentration of research and innovation capacities and infrastructure. Thus, a critical mass of researchers comes together in the public and private sectors to work on strategic research and development topics, with the aim of achieving research excellence, commercialisation of innovation, and improving the competitiveness of the economy in general.
Since 2011, the European Commission has been advising regional and national decision-makers about the preparation and implementation of smart specialisation strategies, through Smart Specialisation Platform mechanism (What is Smart Specialisation – Smart Specialisation Platform (europa.eu). The platform enables mutual learning, data collection, analyses and networking for 222 regions, 180 of which are EU and 42 non-EU regions.
Smart specialisation thematic platforms were also created. Regions join forces and pool resources based on proper smart specialisation priorities in high-value-added sectors (Agri-food, Energy and Industrial Modernisation). In these sectors, narrower thematic partnerships are developed, for example in the fields of 3D printing, medical technology, smart grids, solar energy, sustainable buildings, high-tech agricultural production, etc.
Identifies strengths and comparative advantages of the country (region)
During the European Programming Period (2021-2027), smart specialisation is expected to continue to play a major role in the cohesion policy and regional development, as well as towards economic transformation in the long run. Specifically, given its strong value-added potential, smart specialisation can boost innovation-driven growth in the EU’s industrial transition regions and further integrate regional economies into European value chains. It also has great potential to foster eco-innovation processes that respond to global environmental challenges, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.