The Smart Specialisation (S3) Platform  has recently published a position paper and a policy insight paper on Smart Specialisation Evaluation. For regional managing authorities, the evaluation of their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) is increasingly relevant to assess and to readjust their strategies for the current programming period 2014-2020 and the future programming period 2021-2027. 

Smart Specialisation is a place-based innovation policy concept to support regional prioritisation in innovative sectors, fields or technologies through the entrepreneurial discovery process (EDP), a bottom-up approach to reveal what a region does best in terms of its endowments in science and technology (Foray, David, & Hall, 2009). RIS3 aims to correct some common issues that regions face when drafting their regional innovation strategies such as: 

  • the picking winner syndrome,
  • the lack of understanding of the regional institutional context,
  • and the copy-paste imitation of innovation policies designed in best performing regions. 

The policy insight paper, titled Smart Specialisation Evaluation: Setting the Scene, provides its readers with the main evaluation concepts in S3 evaluation. Evaluation can be undertaken at different stages of the policy cycle, namely through:

  • Ex-ante evaluation: it provides useful information to improve the intervention logic of the S3 at the initial design stage.
  • Process (implementation) evaluation: it provides useful insights on policy developments to policymakers to amend their strategies. 
  • Impact evaluation:  it aims to identify the effect of the policy intervention on socio-economic outcomes. 

The report points out that a well-designed monitoring system can act as an early-warning system to signal critical aspects in the S3 implementation. Monitoring allows to identify the elements to be further assessed in evaluation exercises. 

The position paper, titled Position Paper on S3 Evaluation, provides some in-depth analysis on S3 evaluations in the current programming period 2014-2020 and the next programming period 2021-2027. 

  • For the programming period 2014-2020, S3 evaluation, in contrast with monitoring, is not explicitly listed in the fulfilment of the ex-ante conditionalities. Due to the absence of a regulatory compliance, regions must judge themselves the value of complementing their S3 monitoring activities with evaluation. And evaluation does complement monitoring activities to assess and amend regional innovation strategies to improve innovation outcomes.
  • For the programming period 2021-2027, the European Commission’s proposal for a Common Provisions Regulations (CPR) lists as item 3 in the fulfilment criteria, “monitoring and evaluation tools to measure performance towards the objectives of the strategy”. As a result, S3 evaluation is explicitly on the agenda. Regions are, however, left to their own devices regarding how to plan, execute, and use S3 evaluation results. 

If you are an Interreg Europe project working on the topic of Smart Specialisation, we are pleased to inform you that the next Policy Learning Platform thematic workshop will be on “Better Monitoring, Evaluating, and Designing RIS3” on Wednesday 25 September in Brussels, Belgium

Read the policy insight paper online 

Read the position paper online 

Image credit: Photo by Marek Levak from Pexels