Project summary

COHES3ION aims at improving the PERFORMANCE and IMPACT of S3 and linked ERDF OPs, in terms of delivery of innovation by R&I actors by the integration of the territorial dimension into S3 governance and policy mix, contributing additionally to territorial cohesion in terms of Growth and Jobs.


COHES3ION is composed by 8 regions interested on integrating the territorial dimension into S3 governance, displaying different levels of maturity, areas of concern, and solutions, in the S3 GOVERNANCE & POLICY MIX field. The shared common challenge is to align the S3 to all territorial levels with 2 aims:

- SMART PRIORITIES: Identification of complementarities and synergies between the different levels, in terms of priority or niche opportunities, allowing for the farther specialization of specific territories (region, county, city, metropolis level).

- GOVERNANCE: Coordination of innovation support players promoting the mobilization of stakeholders and delivering innovation support services all along the territory.


Exchange of experience will focus on: 1) Definition and evaluation of S3 considering spatial planning and monitoring tools; 2) Horizontal coordination of innovation support services at different territory levels; 3) Alignment of placed-based S3 from sub-regional levels (province, county, metropolis, city) to regional S3.


To that end, COHES3ION will achieve the following outputs and results:

- Development of 8 Smart Territorial Maps.

- Identification and exchange of 20 validated good practices in 3 focus areas.

- Holding of 42 policy learning events with more than 240 stakeholders.

- Engagement of 8 Stakeholders Groups all along the exchange and strategic thinking process leading to the definition and implementation of 8 Regional Action Plans, aiming at the improvement of regional S3 Governance and/or the development of new sub-regional S3.

- Issue of Policy Recommendations for the mainstreaming of the territorial dimension into ERDF OPs and S3.


from 1 Aug 2019
to 31 Jul 2022

Research and innovation


Lead Partner

What policy instruments does the project address?

PA 1 of OP is linked to Basque S3, "Basque Plan of Science, R&I 2020 (PCTI Euskadi 2020) and co-finances part of its policy mix. IP 1.b) looks for the improvement of the performance of innovation by companies and SMEs in cooperation with R&I agents, to increase competitiveness on priority areas of S3. Measures include grants for R&I projects, feasibility studies, tech investments, and start-ups creation on S3 areas, run both by Basque Government and Biscay Provincial Council, as Intermediary Body (IB) of OP.


Improvement is needed at S3 GOVERNANCE as so far the territorial dimension has been overlooked. Innobasque, Basque Innovation Agency is in charge of mobilising actors for S3 implementation through 7 Pilot Work Groups in the priority areas following a vertical, cluster-based approach. Up until now, no representation from territorial players, local and regional development agencies (RDAs) and province and municipality support services, has taken place in Work Groups.


Basque Government and Innobasque have just started to address this issue, looking for a new governance framework between regional, provincial and county levels. This demands a further coordination between the vertical (sector-based) and horizontal (territorial) levels, looking for improvements in the coordination between Innobasque and territorial players, the coordinated effort of support services by these players for SMEs to be engaged in S3, and a better measurement of S3 and OP measures by territory.

Which partners are working on this?
  • BEAZ S.A.U.
  • Azaro Foundation

Under PA 1, the OP looks for increasing the level of research with company engagement by supplying applied research. Main schemes under I.P.1a:

- Research Centres Programme, which develop world-class largescale research centres.

- Spokes Programme, which further develops existing research centres through new research areas and new company and academic collaborations.


Under I.P. 1b the Objective is to increase the level of commercialisation of research by the Higher Educational Institutions (HEI). Main actions are:

- Commercialisation Fund, which creates an environment that promotes entrepreneurship Innovation

- Partnership Programme, which propels the use of key technologies by Irish SME’s through collaborations with HEI.


All projects selected have to align with Ireland Smart Specialisation Strategy. However there is no territorial dimension or targeting detailed within this strategy at regional, county or city level.


In this context, arising under the Local Government Reform Act 2014 the SRA has assumed the preparation of a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Region that will provide a long-term regional level strategic planning and economic framework in support of the implementation of the National Planning Framework of Ireland (Ireland 2040 Our Plan).The concept of Smart Specialisation cuts across the entire RSES process.


The new RSES provides a timely opportunity to consider and align S3 strategies in Ireland at regional level.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Southern Regional Assembly

COHES3ION targets TO1 of ROP. Under Investment Priority 1b), 4 Specific Objectives (SO) are programmed focusing on increasing the innovation activities of companies and the strengthening of the regional innovation system, by the funding of operations aligned with Calabria S3.


Through the POR, the Calabria region will exclusively focus on the S3 innovation areas by funding projects for :

• Innovation vouchers by SMEs and other consultancy services for innovation support.

• Collaborative R&I projects between companies and research.

• Valorisation of research results.

• Support to the participation of companies and research in EU research programmes, national and EU clusters and technology platforms.


SO1.2. specially focuses on the strengthening of the innovation capacities of the regional innovation system built around the S3. This has been built following a cluster or sector based approach through 7 Innovation Poles in target priority areas and the agency of innovation support bodies CalabriaInnova and CalPark Science Park. There is no territorial dimension considered on the current S3 Governance neither at strategic nor operational level.


Through COHES3ION the engagement of territorial players in the operational level of the S3 is looked after in order to reinforce the Regional Innovation Network and improve the number of companies and SMEs involved in innovation activities coming from all the territory.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Calabria Region

PA1 includes Specific Objective 1.2., aiming at raising economic competitiveness, through technology transfer in order to increase the share of innovative SME’s that cooperate with others by creating and developing innovation and technology transfer entities. Measures include grants programmes to support:

- Entities for Innovation and Technology Transfer.

- Science and Technology parks.

- Investments for SMEs implementing the result of R&I.

- Complex strategic projects in the field of smart specialization.


PA1 of the ROP is implemented according to the “Framework Document for Regional Smart Specialization Strategy” (Concept Note) which has been developed following an EDP process with assistance from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) thorough the Lagging Regions Pilot project of DG Regio. The document is a simplified version of the S3, describing specialization areas in general, but a new SE is in the works in synergy with 2 initiatives: the second edition of the Lagging Regions Initiative as well as Supporting Innovation in Romanian Catching-Up Regions project, implemented in partnership with the JRC and the World Bank.


COHES3ION with such activities will allow an improvement of the governance system of the S3, reaching out to SMEs and innovation actors from all over the region, to the counties and gateway cities such as Cluj-Napoca. COHES3ION will contribute to the implementation and testing of the new governance system for S3, integrating a territorial dimension.

Which partners are working on this?
  • North-West Regional Development Agency

The OP finances measures which contribute to making business competitive, creating jobs in SMEs and support measures which advance innovations, research and technological development amongst others. PA 1 aims at 'Maximising the innovation potential of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW)'s economy', which is guided by identified lead markets for NRW that were established in the course of the innovation strategy – acting as the state’s S3. NRW's innovation strategy combines the state's research, lead market and technology transfer strategy in a common approach.


The OP and the innovation strategy concentrate on a broad state level approach, supporting lead markets and technology transfer by specific calls for funding using a top-down approach. It lacks attention on sub-regional differences within NRW regarding the innovation capacity and smart specialisation for future calls. NRW is characterised by its sub-regional disparities between its sub-regions. This applies especially for the biggest sub-region, the Ruhr Metropolis.


BMR envisions improvement in two respects for the current OP:

⁃ Development of a sub-regional S3-strategy for the Ruhr Metropolis using a bottom-up governance approach that develops sub-regional specifications and identifies innovation niches or priority areas within the Ruhr Metropolis, aligned to NRW’s S3.

⁃ Proposal of a framework for better targeted calls that contribute to the sub-regional differences and to an improved cohesion policy.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Business Metropole Ruhr GmbH

With limited funding (€37 millions), the ERDF OP concentrate resources to one PA: The Capital Region’s special challenges. Following a Sustainable Urban Development approach, three TOs are included: strengthen R&I, competitiveness in SME and low carbon economy.


Eligible measures under TO1, IP1b) include support to Innovative Public Procurement, improved access to R&D infrastructure (testbeds etc) and open data among SME, and cooperative projects between higher education, research and SMEs. Focus is to support growth in SMEs.


Since the region lack a specific Research and innovation strategy for smart specialisation (RIS3), the prioritization process has been guided by the ERDF OP´s focus on Sustainable Urban Development, combined with the ambitions of the Stockholm's Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS), "Stockholm 2025". After a dialogue with DG Regio, a process of update the RIS in line with smart specialization has been initiated.


This effort, in parallel with COHES3ION will allow overcoming some challenges:

- Engagement of private companies, and innovation players from metropolis and the territory in strategic collaborative projects and platforms.

- Further focus on the evaluation of results considering the aspects of smart specialisation and different regional unbalances.

- Awareness raising and information about the S3 principles all along the innovation players of the territory.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Region Stockholm

TO1 of ROP is devoted to strengthen R&I. Under Investment Priority 1b), different grants are programmed aiming at the support of collaborative R&I projects between companies and research centers in the smart specialization areas set up by Mazovia S3, the Regional Innovation Strategy for Mazovia up to 2020 (RIS Mazovia).


Mazovia is one of the best developed, but also the most economically diversified regions in Poland. Thus, the potential of Mazovia is unevenly distributed. The motor of the Mazovian economy is Warsaw together with the metropolitan area, which plays a special role in building competitiveness of the region. The development of this area, however, is largely in isolation from development of the entire region, and mechanisms of development processes between the metropolis and the region are very weak.


Uneven development led to a deformation of the statistical picture of the entire region and that’s why Mazowieckie Voivodship has been divided into two statistical units since January 2018: the Warsaw capital region - encompassing Warsaw with nine counties and the rest of the Mazovian region.


Under COHES3ION the Office looks for a better integration of these 2 realities into the S3 governance by the identification of centers of geographical concentration of enterprises in the frames of areas of smart specialization and even whole sectors, that will allow increasing the balanced participation of SMEs from Mazovia region under IP1b) measures of target ERDF.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Mazowieckie Voivodeship / Office of the Marshal of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship in Warsaw

This project has alignment with Priority Axis 1 of the Operational Programme (OP). Priority Axis 1 aims at maximising the Innovation Potential of the Welsh economy. This includes focusing on increasing the innovation activities of companies, academic research and collaboration. In addition to the strengthening of the Welsh innovation eco system by the funding of operations aligned with the current Welsh smart specialisation (S3) strategy (Innovation Wales 2014). Measures planned under IP 1b) include: Innovation support services for companies, provided by a team of Innovation and IP Specialists; Innovation grant funding for eligible businesses accessed via Innovation Specialists; Support for Welsh Research Institutions to facilitate specialist technology transfer.


However there is no territorial dimension or targeting detailed within ERDF OP or S3 at regional, county or city level even though there is a noticeable unbalance between the innovation capacities and performance between the East and West Wales regions. In this context, the Welsh Government has recently published its new pan Wales Economic Action Plan (EAP) which asserts a move from a traditional sectoral focus to a more regional approach. Key themes within this plan is promotion of Innovation and R&D. The new EAP provides a timely opportunity to consider and review current S3 strategies and action plans in Wales at a regional level.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Welsh Government