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Reconciling Smart Specialisation Strategies with State aid – Not an Impossible Mission journal article

Péter Staviczky, Fatime Barbara Hegyi

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 4, Page 264 - 276

This article highlights the relevance of State aid law both for policy makers and aid grantors when implementing smart specialisation strategies (S3). Smart specialisation involves member states or regions focussing their investments related to research and innovation on areas that will exploit emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner, while State aid law contributes to the effective implementation of policies, controls the spending of public funds and prevents subsidy races between Member States, thereby enabling to the maintenance of effective competition on the internal market. The article aims to contribute to the cross-policy approach necessary for the efficient use of European Structural and Investment Funds. It also shows that complying with State aid law can be done with less administrative burden than in the previous programming period, however planning is needed to ensure compliance and to minimise risk of breaching the requirements. Thus, the right approach to State aid law is the early recognition of situations where State aid may be present and making the necessary steps to avoid the risk of repayment to the grantor (recovery).


Lessons Learnt from the Closure of the 2007-13 Programming Period journal article

Martin Ferry, Stefan Kah

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 4, Page 287 - 298

This article is based on a study for the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament. It analyses the closure process for programmes funded under the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund in 2007-13. Programme closure is often seen as a purely technical process. It involves shutting down the operation of a programme, finalising the reporting and recording of results, and ensuring sound financial management. However, closure also plays an important strategic role. Key decisions are taken by programme authorities at this stage: in the allocation of remaining funds; in securing and raising awareness of achievements and legacies; and, in ensuring a smooth transition to the next programming period. These decisions are taken in the context of considerable pressures: to absorb the maximum funding available; to respond to financial controls and audits that often take place around programme closure; to deal with issues arising from the implementation of specific projects; and, to ensure administrative resources are available at a time of transition between programme periods. Based on a review of academic and evaluation evidence, recent research, legislation, EC and Member State policy papers as well as evidence from EU, national and sub-national stakeholders, this article details the regulatory provisions, guidance and support provided for closure in 2007-13, and assesses the issues faced and responses made by programme authorities, summarised under three headings: absorption, types of intervention and administrative capacity.


From Projects to Transformations: Why Do Only Some Countries and Regions Advance? The Case of the Slovenian S4 journal article open-access

Peter Wostner

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 84 - 96

The paper scrutinises the Smart Specialisation approach conceptually as well as its practical application in the case of Slovenian Smart Specialisation Strategy, the S4. It argues that Smart Specialisation still tends to be too narrowly applied and that its potential, on the EU level, is not yet fully exploited. The paper investigates where the roots of competitiveness in the modern world lie and argues that investment is a necessary but not a sufficient condition and that it is structural transformation that is at the heart of advancement. The Slovenian S4’s major contribution is not only in the setting of national priorities as regards innovation. What matters even more is that S4 is fundamentally transforming the way stakeholders on the ground interact with each other, creating value networks, but it is also transforming the way policy-making is done within the government. It is shifting the perception of the government as a source of financing to a facilitator of change. The paper demonstrates how fundamental is the difference between the financing of projects and the financing of policies. They are the flipside of the same coin as investment and structural transformation, with the former being a necessary but not sufficient condition for advancement of non-frontier regions and it is here that policies like Cohesion policy with their ex-ante conditionalities really make a difference. Finally, structural transformation is very hard to achieve, which is why putting external pressure for change but also a guarantee of longer term commitment through ex-ante conditionality, i.e. outside pressure, is critical.


RIS3 Implementation in Lagging Regions: Lessons from Eastern Macedonia and Thrace journal article

Mark Boden

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 77 - 83

The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission provides support to selected slow growth and less developed regions in the implementation of their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3). In addition to the envisaged impacts in these regions, this work also aims to generate wider lessons for RIS3 implementation across the EU. This article describes the approach and key outcomes of this RIS3 support activity in the Greek Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Focused on the engagement of stakeholders across the region, this activity has sought to catalyse the entrepreneurial discovery process in the region, identifying and developing ideas and partnerships for research and innovation projects. It has examined the development of technical and administrative capacities necessary to advance RIS as well as the structures and processes for effective and appropriate RIS3 governance. This work has led to the development of a “tool box” to support RIS3 implementation. This toolbox is currently being developed and further refined and developed for application in less favoured regions across the EU.


RIS3 in the French Research and Innovation Context journal article

Maud Pelletier

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 53 - 68

The concept of smart specialisation has been applied in France at the regional level in the Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3), in changing national and regional contexts and with highly different innovation ecosystems. The process of designing the RIS3 gave every region an opportunity to set out and clarify its specific characteristics, assets and positioning in terms of innovation. It also enables the regions to adopt an entrepreneurial discovery approach which mobilises the region’s innovation ecosystem, based on a shared strategy. Designing a strategy, however, is only a first stage in carrying out a successful smart specialisation process. This process is meant to cover the entire 2014-2020 programming period and there are still many stages to go through to ensure that these strategies benefit to French regions and that their impacts are harnessed locally. The impacts of RIS3, which are integrated in a broader policy framework in the field of research and innovation, will also depend on how strongly linked they are to other European policies (such as ESIF programmes, Horizon 2020, COSME, etc.), but also national policies (such as Investment programme for the future, the new industrial France, clusters policies, the New Deal for Innovation, etc.) and regional policies. This is obviously a long term changing process that will take time to produce its full benefits for the regional innovation and economic ecosystems, as well as for the territories and their inhabitants. It is therefore early to assess the real impacts and value added of smart specialisation. Nevertheless, looking ahead in terms of the overall smart specialisation approach, some conclusions and questions can be highlighted for this policy in a post-2020 perspective.


Smart Specialisation in 2014-2020 ESI Funds Programmes: Not Just a Narrative journal article

Laura Polverari

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 20 - 31

This article explores the way in which Smart Specialisation has been integrated in the programming and implementation of the ESIF Operational Programmes of countries and regions which are partners in the IQ-Net Network – a network for improving the quality of Structural Funds programme management through exchange of experience. It discusses the design of Smart Specialisation Strategies through entrepreneurial discovery, the implementation of the strategies as part of the ESIF programmes, and the lessons learnt so far. It shows that the Smart Specialisation approach, albeit not novel in all cases, is considered on the whole as useful and to have contributed to better prioritisation and more joined-up policy-making. However, these are still early days and success will rest on effective implementation. This will require on-going engagement with stakeholders, to test and refine the validity of assumptions and choices made, and above all continued political endorsement to support cross-sectoral working and hold the private sector to account on their commitments to the strategy. The focus should now be placed on ensuring that implementation rises to the challenge and that adequate support is provided to regional and national authorities and to all types of stakeholders, throughout the life of the ESIF programmes, to allow them to continue to drive the Smart Specialisation approach through.


Smart Specialisation, a Strategy to Support the Transformation of a Consolidated Manufacturing System – The Emilia-Romagna Experience journal article

Silvano Bertini

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 32 - 43

Emilia-Romagna is a strong manufacturing region aiming to regenerate the roots of its competitiveness in the framework of the knowledge and innovation economy. Following the Smart Specialisation approach, the effort is twofold: consolidating existing fundamental clusters by introducing Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in their knowledge basis and innovation processes; and fostering the emergence of new, highly innovative industrial systems, able to attract new qualified employment. The regional approach is highly systemic, not oriented to single niche industries, but geared towards complex and integrated clusters around common themes. Emilia-Romagna’s Smart Specialisation Strategy represents an ambitious effort to position a manufacturing system on the frontier of the new social needs.


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

Overview of Progress with Implementation and Lessons Learnt

Georgios Peroulakis

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 12 - 19

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


Corallia’s Cluster Development Programme: An ERDF-funded Initiative Supporting Smart Specialisation in Greece journal article

Nikos Vogiatzis, Jorge-A. Sanchez-P., Vassilios Makios

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 69 - 76

Corallia is a Unit of the Research and Innovation Centre Athena, under the auspices of the General Secretariat for Research and Technology, established in Greece for the management and development of Innovation Clusters. Corallia’s activities focus on knowledge-intensive and exports-oriented technology segments, where Greece has the capacity to build sustainable innovation ecosystems, thus effectively supporting Smart Specialisation strategies in those regions. In the last decade, Corallia has implemented successfully several milestone national development programmes for cluster development, utilising European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This paper describes the cluster development programme that Corallia managed in the 2000-2006 and 2007-2013 programming periods that were co-financed by ERDF via the National Operational Programmes of the 3rd and 4th Community Support Frameworks respectively.


Smart Specialisation Concepts and Significance of Early Positive Signals journal article open-access

Dimitrios Kyriakou

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 1, Page 4 - 11

We emphasise the need of keeping in mind the definition/focus of the smart specialisation strategy (S3) approach regarding place-based regional economic transformation, as well as the importance of avoiding both the Charybdis of top-down dirigisme, and the Scylla of hands-off handicapped government. Short-termism should be avoided for transformation processes; nevertheless, there are certain visible first steps and first fruits in a long regional economic transformation process can be highlighted (such as compliance with ex-ante conditionalities, strategy production, administrative innovation, revisiting compartmentalisation, etc.). An additional promising development regards the attractiveness of S3 as a more generally transposable policy framework, applicable in other policy areas, as well as the global interest, far beyond the EU, that is being shown in the S3 process/concept. At the same time, one must beware of longer-term, deeper caveats regarding top-down temptations, simplistic one-size-fits-all recipes, and issues of participation/representation-giving voice to the voiceless.