Presentation of the key-concept of “smart specialisation”

April 22, 2016

Hat: Presentation of the key-concept of “smart specialisation”

Funding Scheme: 2016-04-22


The concept of “smart specialisation strategies” emerged in the European debate in the middle of the 2000’s. Since the new strategy Europe 2020, this concept became fundamental in the region strategies in order to benefit from European funds


The concept of « smart specialisation strategies » or S3 emerged in the European debate in the middle of the 2000’s, as an initiative from the « Knowledge for Growth » (K4G) group. This group, mandated by the Commission’s Directorate General for Research, aimed to appreciate the difference in competitiveness between the European Union and the United-States. They concluded that this difference could be explained and be solved by a « smart specialisation ». The « smart specialisation » relates with the economic concept from economists and geographers on innovation such as « the competitive advantage » of Porter, or the « value chain », but adjusted to the level of regions.

The three key factors of « smart specialization »
The « smart specialisation » is conceived in view of three key factors:
– the overall context : the specialisation is defined as part of a global value chain in which the region is able to locate itself and discover where is its competitive advantage compared to other geographic locations
– the choice of a specialisation : the region should specialise in specific fields and technology areas in which it is competitive and on which it will decide to prioritize by focusing its efforts and resources
– the search for a diversification associated : smart specialisation should preferably target fields or technology areas maintaining close ties, in order to maximise knowledge positive externalities between technology areas associated and then new innovative activities.

A concept at the heart of the new strategy Europe 202
Progressively, the « smart specialisation » concept has become a decisive leverage of the new strategy Europe 2020 and especially on the conditions of its local application on territories: this concept is now at the heart of the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy. Indeed, for the 2014-2020 programming, the European commission imposes to Member States and their regions, as a condition of granting Structural Funds, the development of a Research and Innovation strategy based on a smart specialisation. Therefore, each region must define priorities and focus its resources, in a context of limited budget, on delimited fields of activities or technology sectors. These fields and sectors should be those in which the region have a competitive advantage, based on regional specificities, and would then be likely to generate innovative activities that would gave regions, at mid-term objective, a competitive advantage in the global economy.
The concept of « smart specialisation » concerns then especially European funding in their contribution to research and innovation:
– To Structural Funds, notably ERDF
– To Horizon 2020 et European Programme for Research and development such as the COSME

For the European Commission, the smart specialisation provides to the regions a way out of the crisis : those strategies for economical transformation « bespoke » for territories should allow them to focus on research and innovation on specific and adapted fields and therefore and get back to economic development