As the ecoRIS3 project, funded by Interreg Europe gets off the ground and all partners are preparing for the transregional swot activities, this may be an opportune time to take a look at RIS3 and what it involves. Even the term RIS3 can be confusing, covering as it does what is also called S3- or Smart Specialisation Strategies. RIS3 in some ways captures all of the foregoing as it refers to Regional Innovations Strategies which invoke the key elements of S3.

Another term growing in popularity is that of a “Regional Innovation Ecosystem”. This has a number of core elements with “regional” indicating a strong territorial content, “innovation” covering elements such as research and development and of course “entrepreneurship and ecosystem” representing a combination of strands working closely together in line for example with the quadruple helix of Industry, research, government and civil society all combining.

Therefore RIS3 or S3 is of itself a very SMART acronym telling us that regional development is going to take place in a manner that builds on location, regional research and production strengths, that it will involve all of the key actors from business, research, government and other civil bodies, that building on research and production strengths is important and that clustering and entrepreneurship are both priorities as important objectives.

Europe is actively driving the RIS3 agenda, in line with Europe 2020, to make the Union more competitive, innovative and to drive growth and job creation. Many European Members States have adopted a NUTS 2 regional approach to the development of their strategies.

To date over 100 areas of Europe , mostly regions have completed S3 strategies and the Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy has provided an online Smart Specialisation Platform (S3 Platform) to provide advice, information and support to S3 strategists/ policy makers.

Part of the resource included SMART Stories from regions which clearly demonstrate that thanks to the valuable contributions of national and regional authorities - that Smart Specialisation has gone far beyond the mere fulfilment of the ex-ante conditionality criteria linked to Cohesion Policy allocations. It has triggered a change in the way innovation-driven regional development policies are dealt with across Europe, confirmed by the outcome of a number of recent surveys.

Visit to see what is happening in different Member States. While you are on the S3 site please take the opportunity to study the wide range of commission supports and advice to EU countries and regions for the design and implementation of their Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3).

These include:

• Providing guidance material and good practice examples

• Informing strategy formation and policy-making

• Facilitating peer-reviews and mutual learning

• Supporting access to relevant data

• Training for policy-makers

The site provides information, on not alone what is happening in Europe but also on other continents.

An important aspect of S3 is peer review and international collaboration on best practices, encouraging mutual learning among the participants. The ecoRIS3 project will, in conjunction with meetings of its steering committee, be organising workshops for international participants from all partner regions. These workshops will afford participants the opportunity to listen and learn about what is happening with regard to S3 in other regions and to also visit innovative initiatives within the host region. Partners have funding to bring members of their local stakeholders groups to such events.  

The ecoRIS3 partners are fortunately positioned through the project, to undertake some very serious work over the next five years, in terms of perfecting the S3 approach in each of the regions, exchanging best practices and putting forward strategic ideas for incorporation into local regional and national planning.

Work on the exchange of best practices has already commenced and each of the partner regions is now beginning a SWOT Analysis on the operation of S3 in their regions, this will also involve undertaking a composite analysis across all of the partner regions, which by the end of 2017 should present a good overview of how well the partner consortium is positioned in terms of moving towards highly performing planning and realisation of regional growth and job creation strategies.

For anyone interested in gaining some further insights into the S3 world, I can recommend reading the JRC Technical report entitled Smart Specialisation and Innovation in Rural Areas. While the report puts a focus on rural areas, it also gives an excellent overview of R3 its background and important in terms of future European prosperity, growth and social integration. The report can be downloaded by clicking here.

John McAleer, CIT