The Academy for Smart Specialisation is the research and innovation agreement between Region Värmland and Karlstad University for the period 2016–20.
Establishing smart specialisation strategies has become vital in making the best use of limited resources; but it has become obvious that it is not an easy task to manage these innovative approaches and to establish the necessary linkages between actors with different competences and skills. Smart specialisation strategies are established throughout Europe, but there is often a lack of concrete actions for linking research and innovation with a user-driven need and with strong collaborations with industry, public sector and civil society. The Academy for Smart Specialisation is the research and innovation agreement between Region Värmland and Karlstad University for the period 2016–20. Through the agreement and the creation of an organisation implementing the agreement, an operational tool has been developed; a tool for the transformation and renewal of the private and public sectors in Värmland as well as for the development of research and education at Karlstad University. The concept of ”Smart specialisation” involves finding strong areas in the region with the capacity to evolve into internationally competitive industries.
Karlstad University and Region Värmland will run the Academy jointly, creating a meeting-place for researchers, companies, financiers and entrepreneurs. By linking research, innovation and education, the Academy will prepare Karlstad University students for employment to drive industrial development in the prioritised areas in Värmland.
Both partners invest funding and it is expected that external funding will be attracted to a total of at least €15 million over five years. The working group consist of six persons, working to a level of two persons full-time. A steering committee meets at least twice a year.
Evidence of success
The Academy has been successful in filling the gap between strategy and concrete actions. The Academy has managed to drive the process of establishing over 10 new strategically important projects involving strong collaborations, by organising the benefits to be a “win”-situation for all actors involved. It is obvious that by working with this model, unique combinations are created that can lead to innovative solutions for the future benefit of society and for advancements in research.
The success of the Academy relies on trust between partners involved. The application processes for the establishment of projects could be rather complex when there are different timelines for different calls and different internal administrative routines need to be followed.
Potential for learning or transfer
A quote from Mark Przeor at DG Regio could be used to demonstrate why the Academy could be interesting for other regions to learn from: “The Academy for Smart Specialisation is a best practice in Europe on how you can connect universities to smart specialisation. You have managed to do this more tangibly thanks to the concept of the Academy for Smart Specialisation”. The Academy is a result of a collaboration that originated in an OECD project over ten years ago about universities’ role in regional development. Since then, culture and working methods have evolved around cooperation which has meant that joint investments have been made to build research capacities, researchers have contributed to the design of the region's RIS3, and there are numerous research and innovation projects established in all specialisation areas. Interest has been shown for the concept of the Academy from different regions in Sweden and Europe. Now also from Brazil at ministerial level.