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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).

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

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.

Civil Society Organisations and Cross-Border Networks in the Western Balkans journal article

Dragisa Mijacic, Jasna Zarkovic

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 3, Page 187 - 199

This article discusses a methodological approach in examining cross-border networks for understanding the impact of cross-border cooperation programmes, especially on socio-economic development and social cohesion. Cross-border cooperation programmes bring together different types of beneficiaries and their interaction offers interesting opportunities to test brokering roles that arise from the interaction between them. Using the empirical data on grant projects from all eleven cross-border programmes between IPA beneficiary countries of the Western Balkans for the financial framework 2007-2013, collected through a complex exercise of analysing different documents publicly available at websites of contracting authorities and operating structures, and using principles of social network analysis, the study discussed in this article successfully tested the key hypothesis that civil society organisations are the most successful type of beneficiaries in providing brokering opportunities to bridge the structural holes between different actors in cross-border cooperation programmes, regardless of the programme measure or geography.

A Practitioner-led Working Group for ‘Facilitating Better Transnational Cooperation’ journal article

Process, Lessons Learnt, Outcomes

Peter Toth

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 3, Page 200 - 210

In the 2014-2020 EU Programming Period, the role of cooperation in the framework of LEADER has been enhanced. For more effective cooperation, a better understanding of the differences and similarities in relevant rules and procedures in EU member states is needed. To facilitate this, the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) set up a working group comprising of LEADER Cooperation Practitioners (PWG).

Transnational Cooperation – an Opportunity for Social Innovation of Rural Regions journal article

Thomas Dax, Stefan Kah

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 3, Page 211 - 222

Transnational cooperation is a policy instrument of the LEADER programme that has been available to local actors since the start of LEADER 25 years ago. However, its potential for social innovation has been underutilised so far. An assessment of the international debate about the usefulness of the scheme and the analysis of a case study in Austria provides insights into obstacles and opportunities of this instrument. In particular, there are opportunities for a greater use of transnational cooperation due to increased spatial interrelations and the extension of the LEADER approach to other European Structural and Investment Funds, i.e. by implementing Community-led Local Development (CLLD). The current (2014-20) EU programme period might therefore provide additional stimuli for creativity in rural development activities.

The Involvement of Non-EU Member States in European Territorial Cooperation Programmes journal article

Irene McMaster, Heidi Vironen

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 3, Page 235 - 244

Non-EU Member States play an important role a number of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) Programmes and initiatives. This article focuses on the role of non-EU Member States in ETC, specifically INTERREG, examining the basis of their involvement, what participating countries ‘get out of it,’ and how this may change in the future.

Added Value of Cross-Border Cooperation journal article

Experience from the Nordic Context

Lisa Hörnström, Anna Berlina

European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, Volume 5 (2017), Issue 3, Page 178 - 186

Territorial cooperation is assumed to bring added value to regional and local activities, contribute to balanced development across European regions, and increase integration between different parts of the European territory. Territorial cooperation can bring added value in terms of finding solutions to common problems, help to mobilise critical mass, contribute to learning, and build structures for future territorial cooperation. Cooperation across national borders has a long tradition in the Nordic Region. Cross-border cooperation committees (CBCCs) were established in various border areas as early as the 1960s. When the Interreg initiative was introduced in the Nordic Region in 1995 it brought additional funding and strengthened cross-border and transnational cooperation. The scope of this study is to explore the added value of Interreg programmes to the Nordic CBCCs. The priority areas of the cross-border programmes covering Nordic regions will be compared with the objectives of Nordic cross-border cooperation. Further, two examples will be highlighted to illustrate the two-way linkage between Interreg cross-border programmes and Nordic CBCCs.

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.

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.