Smart specialisation has required all regions to design their innovation and investment strategies based on their strengths. The approach is making a difference in the way European regions cooperate at all levels, most notably with local partners, actors and stakeholders, but also with other regions and across borders. The resulting innovations and new solutions help regions create value in the globalised world.
The EU is keen to build on this positive trend and further help Europe’s regions generate innovation-led growth. In a communication published on 18 July 2017, the European Commission proposes a set of four actions to help Europe’s regions invest in their strengths and generate innovation, resilience and growth through smart specialisation.
The Commission has identified four main challenges to regional innovation:
- Boosting innovation capacity in less-developed and industrial transition regions
- Increasing cooperation in innovation investment across regions
- The need to reform regional innovation systems
- Facilitating synergies between EU policies and instruments
Smart specialisation strategies can deliver actions and policy solutions to tackle these challenges:
- EU-funded pilot actions and tailored support can help regions revamp their innovation systems for industrial modernisation on the basis of their smart specialisation strategies.
- Building on the existing platforms and scaling up interregional innovation networks pools resources and integrates large investment pipelines, bringing together EU funds in the most efficient way.
- Smart specialisation is an incentive to carry out reforms and improve multi-level governance. Dialogue and engagement with stakeholders at local and regional levels reinforce the process.
- Simplifying synergies and aligning rules between different EU funding instruments remains an EU priority. Interregional cooperation will also be further facilitated.
Cooperation is key to smart specialisation. In addition to stakeholder dialogue and collaboration in the local context, regions can reinforce their innovation potential by strengthening links between stakeholders and infrastructures across different European countries.
Smart specialisation can help regions develop links and cooperation beyond regional and national borders to tackle common challenges. Interregional cooperation plays an essential role in this direction. Programmes like Interreg support this process. Via interregional policy learning, Interreg Europe fosters exchange of experience to improve the ESIF Operational Programmes, as well as smart specialisation design and implementation.