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The State of Play with the Approval of Regional Smart Specialisation Strategies in the EU

Overview of Progress with Implementation and Lessons Learnt

Georgios Peroulakis
Keywords: Smart Specialisation, EU Funds, Regional Development, ESIF Programme, RIS3, EFSI, ERDF

The 2014-2020 ESIF programmes marked an important turn on results-orientation and resource-concentration in areas where a competitive advantage is identified and critical mass can be built. The objective is clear: to create investment which can produce a higher impact in terms of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs. With regard to smart growth, Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3s) are paving the way for the economic transformation of EU regions based on knowledge and innovation. By being one of the many ex-ante conditionalities, the Smart specialisation strategies are embedded in the new operational programmes of assistance to the European regions. Bottom-up decisions were facilitated by introducing the entrepreneurial discovery process (EDP) in the design cycle. This made effective the collaboration between Triple/Quadruple Helix actors in the adoption of the RIS3s and the design of the OPs and calls in a majority of EU Regions. The conceptual, regulatory and programming phases took quite a long time but now, at around half way into the 2014-2020 period, we enter in to the implementation stage. Over 120 Smart specialisation strategies have been submitted to the European Commission during the negotiations of operational programmes establishing priorities and allocating funds at national or regional level. Allocations of circa €40 billion from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will mobilise an estimated amount of circa €250 billion to support the RIS3s, including other ESI Funds, national and regional public funds, private investments, resources from Horizon2020, COSME and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – Investment Plan for Europe. What really matters now is to proceed with the implementation, so as to transform strategies into projects, not allowing sliding back into “business as usual”. The credibility of the Smart specialisation concept and of the EU Institutions that promoted it is at stake as is the future development of EU Regions

Georgios Peroulakis is Senior Administrator at the European Commission, DG REGIO – Greece and Cyprus; contact: This Article represents solely the views of its author and cannot in any circumstances be regarded as the official position of the Commission.


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