EU Regional Policy becomes increasingly important in implementing the Europe 2020 strategy for smart sustainable and inclusive growth and in particular for the flagship initiative "Innovation Union". To reach the smart growth objective the full innovation potential of all regions needs to be tapped, and regional disparities have to be reduced in an efficient way encouraging R&D and knowledge-intensive investment throughout the European Union. The development and implementation of regional innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS) by a coordinated transnational approach can support this objective.
The regional innovation capacity depends on many factors1 such as business culture, labour skills, education and training infrastructure, innovation support services, new sources of finance, the local creative potential as well as "good governance". Different regional stakeholders such as businesses, research centres and universities should work together in order to identify a region’s most promising areas of specialisation. Smart specialisation must also include mechanisms for policy learning involving public officials in the innovation strategy development and implementation process.
The GoSmart project aims at boosting transnational cooperation among industry, the research & development sector, and authorities in employing smart specialisation strategies especially in catching-up regions in the eastern parts of the Baltic Sea Region. GoSmart considers RIS as the central field of regional action and key response to the existing regional development challenges. The concentration of public resources on selected innovation and knowledge-based development priorities is increasingly being recognised as the most important resource for the stimulation of private RTD investment, the use of competitive advantages within European and global value chains as well as the encouragement of governance innovation and experimentation.
Policies for developing smart specialisation promotion strategies need to give attention to economic and social changes, both recent and expected in the future. Rather than being solely a matter of infrastructure and technologies, certain elements need to be put under the innovation studies’ microscope. Such elements include the creation of innovation-friendly business environments for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as intended by GoSmart project.2 The project promotes mutual learning, sharing best practices and translating RIS into practical joint actions for SMEs.3
1 C.f. European Commission (2010): Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020, p. 3-4.
2 L.c. European Commission (2010): Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020, p. 7 et seq.