National and regional authorities across Europe are developing smart specialisation strategies which build competitive advantage by developing and matching local research and innovation strengths to business needs. This will stimulate regional economic growth by addressing emerging opportunities and market developments.
Smart specialisation is based on the notion that regions cannot achieve everything in science technology and innovation, and therefore it is crucial to follow a thoughtful process of prioritisation, concentrating resources in certain domains of expertise based on the needs and available resources of each region.
"Smart specialisation strategies shall be developed …. in an entrepreneurial discovery process."
Regions such as Burgenland (AT) and Alsace (FR) have succeeded in generating regional growth, employment and increasing tax revenues by implementing regional development and innovation strategies based on energy efficiency and renewables.
Burgenland made strategic use of Cohesion Policy funding in biomass, solar and wind energy along with related research and training. Funding was channeled according to a long-term sustainable energy strategy, first developed in 1995. The strategy has been a great success in terms of jobs, regional development and energy security.
Back in 1998, Alsace designed a regional strategy for renewables and energy efficiency. This led to the launch of…In 2003, Energivie launched, using ERDF funding of EUR 1.9 million. Energivie succeeded in increasing the demand for renewable energy-related equipment through a comprehensive communication campaign coupled with advisory services for local authorities.
The project also supported the upgrade of existing professional skills and prepared the workforce for solar, wood-energy and construction sectors, along with conducting experiments (e.g. low energy consumption buildings in Mulhouse) and studies (bio-fuels, bio-gas, geothermal energy). From 2005, the second phase of the project focused on energy efficiency in buildings. In 2010, the region was awarded the prestigious label ‘Pôle de compétitivité’ http://competitivite.gouv.fr/
For the programming period 2014-2020, significant number of regions – possibly around 70 –are expected to focus Cohesion Policy resources for R&I in the area of renewable energy or energy efficiency.
In developing smart specialisation strategies for low carbon technologies, Member States and regions are invited to make full use of the knowledge developed in the framework of the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan.
In concrete terms, this means that regions should include SET Plan / Smart Cities / Horizon 2020 actors in the development of regional sustainable energy strategy. Typically, this could involve SET Plan Steering Group members, members of Horizon 2020 programme committee, researchers, EIT KIC InnoEnergy, European Energy Research Alliance, PPP on Energy-efficient Buildings, SPIRE PPP, other PPTs, JTIs, JUs, ETPs, EIPs, Marie Curie centres, research institutions with success in FP7. International networks (research and business networks) should also be consulted.
Smart specialisation (RIS3) involves making sure that the policy mix, i.e. the combination of policy instruments available in a region – grants, loans and other support – is effective in reaching the overall policy goals, helping businesses, and leveraging private investment.