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Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation in Europe

Special issue call for papers from European Journal of Innovation Management

Guest Editor: Dr. Mikel Landabaso
Head of Unit Competence Center for Smart and Sustainable Growth, Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission


The topic of this special issue is Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialization both in terms of their development logic and policy formulation and practical implementation in the field.

Smart specialisation is a process of priority-setting in national and regional research and innovation strategies in order to build “place-based” competitive advantages and help regions and countries develop an innovation-driven economic transformation agenda. This agenda should allow every region, regardless of the level of development, face up to the challenge of globalization by developing and matching research and innovation strengths with business needs and capabilities and address emerging business opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner, while avoiding duplication and fragmentation of efforts at EU level. The latter should be done by improving connectivity across regions and countries in order to contribute to more efficient innovation systems by facilitating access to knowledge and building R&I critical masses, including linkages to related clusters elsewhere, while at the same time allowing regions to “particularize” themselves in the global economy. Most importantly, these strategies should be developed through collaborative leadership by new, more efficient multi-level governance structures involving national or regional authorities and innovation stakeholders, such as business, universities and other higher education institutions, the R&D and technological community and social partners in an “entrepreneurial discovery process” (an entrepreneurial selection of market opportunities). Moreover, these strategies involve clear priority setting and tough choices with scarce public resources, through the identification of region-specific competitive advantages, evidence-based policy design grounded on sound evaluation and monitoring as well as allowing for policy experimentation and risk taking by public authorities. 

Smart Specialisation strategies are a cornerstone of the reformed cohesion policy for the upcoming programming period 2014-20 and an integral part of the European 2020 agenda, in particular regarding the so-called flagship “Innovation Union” (see note 1). Moreover, they are likely to be a pre-condition for regions and countries to access resources from the European Regional Development Fund for investments in the research and innovation fields and could channel important funds over the next seven years, involving every single region in the European Union. Thus, the critical importance of getting good quality strategies to maximize the impact of these financial resources, which are likely to be one of the few fresh sources of public money in many regions hard hit by the crisis in a context of tight budgets and strict financial control. It is precisely in this context of crisis where beyond austerity and on top of sound macroeconomic policies Europe urgently needs new public policies that address the conditions for microeconomic competitiveness through innovation-driven growth. In short a new type of industrial and regional policies.

Several international organizations, such as the OECD (see note 2), the World Bank in a number of Eastern European countries and regions as well as a large number of international experts and academics have engaged with the European Commission in the process of deepening our knowledge in this development and policy area, by further exploring the early smart specialisation concept (see note 3), refining the methodological tools at its disposal, addressing measurement methodologies and the development of indicators, and in particular advancing in its practical implementation in the field through specific policy tools. Most importantly, over 130 regions and countries have already joined the RIS3 Platform (see note 4) and are in the process of designing such strategies. This is precisely why this Special issue of the European Journal of Innovation Management is so important. It is a call towards the European academic and researcher community to help shaping and developing the smart specialization concept and thus contribute to the design of research and innovation strategies that can help regions and countries to better position themselves in the global economy through sustainable growth and employment creation through targeted policy intervention.

The special issue invites for submission of papers in a series of topics given below. Although the list is not exhaustive, topics for contributions within this special issue include comment and criticism about:
• the concept itself and theoretical background of smart specialisation;
• the proposed methodology, including key steps defined at the Guide on regional / national Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS³)  ;
• the smart specialisation governance structure and related policy tools and horizontal fields of intervention (e.g. clusters, university-enterprise cooperation, diffusion of key enabling technologies, start-up support and incubation, entrepreneurship, R&TD+I infrastructures, skills, innovative public procurement, eco-innovation, etc.);
• case studies at regional and / or national levels in the EU describing efforts to design and implement smart specialisation strategies;
• measurement and assessment methodologies for strategies and innovation impact.

Time schedule
• Full paper submission: 30 October 2013
• Notification of acceptance: February 2014
• Revised submission: April 2014
• Final acceptance notification: May 2014
• Publication : Last issue EJIM 2014

If you wish to discuss your contribution informally please contact Dr Mikel Landabaso ([email protected]) or the associate editor Professor Nicos Komninos ([email protected]).

1. COM(2010)546
3. Initially developed by Dominique Foray and Bart van Ark (2009) and  subsequently developed by Paul David, Bronwyn Hall, Phil McCan and others.