RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


220 Smart specialisation and regional policy in the EU: fresh thinking or old wine in new bottles? (1)
Convenor(s) Fabian Faller (Kiel University, Germany)
Robert Hassink (Kiel University, Germany)
Pedro Marques (University of Sussex, UK)
Chair(s) Fabian Faller (Kiel University, Germany)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract The concept of smart specialisation (S3) has moved quickly from theory to practice to become a major pillar of EU regional policy in the current funding cycle (2014 – 2020). According to one of its main proponents (Foray 2015, 1), smart specialisation is about “the capacity of an economic system (a region for example) to generate new specialities through the discovery of new domains of opportunity and the local concentration and agglomeration of resources and competences in these domains”. Of fundamental importance are so-called entrepreneurial discovery processes (EDP) that build on the knowledge of local actors, including firms, universities, research centres, business associations and other organisations. According to the S3 literature, even though EDP can happen without governmental intervention, a strategy is often needed to foster them, especially in less developed territories.
Conceptually, smart specialisation, or closely related concepts such as clusters, can be seen as being part part of broader regional innovation theories, which aim at understanding how endogenous potential is developed in regions. On a wider level, these concepts are also part of discussions in the paradigm of evolutionary economic geography and relate to evolutionary concepts such as related and unrelated variety, path dependence, path creation and lock-ins. This goes beyond the practice of smart specialisation, questioning its potential impact on our understanding of how regional economies evolve. They key question for a concept such as S3 is whether it leads to better policy making processes and strategies or if it is merely old wine in new bottles. Another set of sub-questions that still need further discussion are: Does S3 promote innovative thinking among policy makers, when compared for example to cluster policies, which have a longer track record among policy makers? Will it be capable of delivering regional growth, particularly in places that have lagged behind in recent decades? Will S3 be effective in promoting new specialisms or will it rely on supporting existing industries? Will S3 strategies be capable of incorporating actors from both high-tech and low-tech parts of the regional economy, and operate effectively in high growth regions as well as in peripheral, structurally weak regions? The session aims to discuss critically smart specialisation as both concept and strategy and to compare experiences of smart specialisation strategies with older innovation approaches.
Linked Sessions Smart specialisation and regional policy in the EU: fresh thinking or old wine in new bottles? (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
How outward looking is smart specialisation? Mechanisms, drivers and barriers to interregional collaboration in research and innovation policy
Elivra Uyarra (The University of Manchester, UK)
Chiara Marzocchi (The University of Manchester, UK)
Jens Sorvik (European Commission, Seville)
Research and innovation networks are increasingly global, as evidenced by growing shares of international R&D projects, co-patenting and co-publications (see e.g. Wagner and Leydesdorff, 2005). Notwithstanding the contribution of proximity and place to knowledge spillovers and local buzz, innovation networks are rarely contained within regional boundaries and often transcend regional and national borders. This contrasts sharply with the dominant practice of designing and implementing regional innovation policies solely within the restricted boundaries of administrative regions (OECD, 2013). The recent advocacy for place-based approaches to regional development (Barca, 2009) and the development of regional strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) emphasise the need for research and innovation strategies to adopt an 'outward looking' approach (European Commission, 2012) in terms of their orientation towards global value chains, the assessment of priorities vis-à-vis other regions, as well as the consideration of cross regional projects and networks. However the motives and conditions for transnational and inter-regional collaboration in research and innovation policy remains so far underexplored. This paper seeks to address this gap by exploring the multiple rationales and dimensions underpinning inter-regional collaboration in research and innovation policy, mainly in the context of RIS3. The paper draws on primary data collected via a dedicated survey to regional development agencies and managing authorities of 151 EU regions in 14 member states. It maps existing collaborative efforts across EU regions, including the geography of these emerging experiences, forms of collaboration, as well as drivers and barriers associated to such cooperation processes.
Smart targets: Labor structure constraints on regional specialisation
Shade Shutters (Arizona State University, USA)
Urban planners often desire to transform their city or region into a greener, more sustainable, and more innovative urban economy. This requires reconstructing a city's portfolio of occupational and industrial specialisations. The pool of worker skills, embodied in those specialisations, form an intricate web of interdependencies that is best characterized and analysed as a communication network. This network is a critical component of a city's infrastructure, though it is often overlooked because of its lack of a physical manifestation. Yet like other infrastructural components, a city's occupational interdependency network enables – and more importantly constrains – the industries in which the city can specialise. Moving a city towards a more aspirational state, such as a creative economy, means breaking and rebuilding parts of that hidden network. Without understanding this structure and its role in urban transitions, a city's development vision may have little in common with the development trajectories that are realistically possible. Here I describe a novel methodology for helping cities through this transition by prioritizing targets for occupational specialization and industrial growth. Starting with high quality employment, we apply methods from information theory and complexity science to identify optimal targets for a city's occupational and industry growth. These targets incorporate the vision of regional decision makers but are grounded in a sophisticated understanding of the limitations arising from a city's current economic structure. By prioritizing targets this way, we facilitate a city's or region's Smart Specialisation, ultimately moving toward the goals of a greener and/or a more knowledge-based economy.

Patterns of uneven innovation: RIS3 scenarios in the Italian regions
Leonardo Bianchi (University of Rome, Italy)
Nicole del Re (University of Rome, Italy)
Andre Simone (University of Rome, Italy)
Almona Tani (University of Rome, Italy)
Key Enabling Technologies (KETs), either as an emerging sector or as a means to modernise traditional sectors, have been largely acknowledged as one of the investment priorities in fostering the transition to a "smart, sustainable and inclusive economy" (EC, 2010) and European regions have been encouraged "to identify their respective economic niches and competitive advantages in KET development and deployment activities" (EC, 2012, pg. 86). While the "smart" side of this strategy is highly dependent on the correct identification by each region of its core specialisations, the "sustainable" side strongly relies on the relatedness between the regional "technology space" (Boschma et al., 2013) and the aforementioned KETs, which is a key condition for the occurrence of technology transfer within a local economic system (Frenken et al., 2007; Boschma and Iammarino, 2009). Therefore, regions relying on the presence of KETs or related technologies within their technology space are more likely to succeed in the implementation of the RIS3 strategies, while regions led by core traditional industries might face serious obstacles, thus perpetuating patterns of innovation dominance with leading and following regions. Accordingly to this context, the present contribution surveys the methodological approach adopted by three Italian regions in the framing of their Regional Operational Programs (ROPs), assessing the methodological coherence of their evaluation and strategic approach within the RIS3 framework. For this purpose, we deploy the Location Quotient (LQ) to detect specialisation economies within the selected regions, thus providing a benchmark model to analyse their choices. Furthermore, we make a preliminary assessment of how regions declined their strategies into effective innovation incentives by looking at the issued calls for proposals related to RIS3.
Is smart specialisation a useful strategy for less developed regions?
Pedro Marques (University of Sussex, UK)
For the first time, all regions and/or nations of the EU have to devise an innovation strategy has a precondition to receive structural funds. Using the concept of smart specialisation, the aim of these strategies is that each territory identifies its current strengths and potential new areas of activity, which are then targeted for support. Many questions remain however about whether smart specialisation, and innovation policies in general, have been designed and implemented in ways that can address the shortcomings of less developed regions (LDRs). This paper will address this issue by developing three main themes. The first is the continuing reliance on a narrow definition of innovation that privileges STI and product innovation over other knowledge types and forms of innovation. This paper will try to explain why this definition is so dominant and how a more inclusive definition would be crucial for firms in these contexts. Second, this paper will argue that to understand the lack of competitiveness of firms in LDRs the key issue is low absorptive capacity, rather than sectorial specialisation or the dominance of low-tech vs high-tech activities. Third, this paper will draw on the emerging literature on the impacts of subnational governance on innovation, to argue that, particularly in LDRs, it is necessary to understand the interdependence of informal and formal institutions. The low levels of trust and networking are intricately linked with the way government and politics constrain individual decisions. A smart specialisation strategy that treats governance as merely a technical issue is not likely to address these problems. The paper will then conclude by suggesting further avenues for research and for practice.