Smart specialisation strategies: Stronger focus on synergies and interregional cooperation  
Smart specialisation strategies: Stronger focus on synergies and interregional cooperation
The regulatory framework around smart specialisation strategies (RIS3) needs to be reformed to increase synergies between the European Structural and Investment Funds and regional innovation and development policies, as well as to encourage interregional cooperation and the creation of value chains across European regions, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) argues in an opinion adopted today.
The assembly of Europe's local and regional representatives recommends better coordination in the design, drafting, implementation, monitoring and follow-up of smart specialisation strategies, involving all relevant stakeholders at national, regional and local level. To increase synergies between regional innovation and development policies and financial instruments, the management of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) should be simplified and made more flexible to allow efficient application of funds to smart specialisation.      
Rapporteur Mikel Irujo Amezaga (ES/EA), Head of Navarra Delegation in Brussels, said: "I consider that RIS3 should not be restricted to matters of research, innovation and business development but should focus on more aspects of the economy. With our experience in Navarra, I would like to recommend the reform of the current regulatory framework, before the end of the 2014–2020 period, giving new impetus both to synergies between the ESIF and programmes and to interregional cooperation."
The opinion suggests allocating more resources to Interreg Europe which provides a suitable framework for RIS3-related networking. Pilot projects for interregional cooperation could also be supported with appropriate ad hoc financing instruments combining grants and loans and public and private funding. "Creating critical mass at territorial level is essential if the EU and its industries are to be competitive on a global scale. Cities and regions are appropriate location for forging the necessary links between EU policies, industry, research centres, higher education institutions and citizens, but the regional strategies need to be more interconnected. This way we can enable the creation of value chains throughout the EU and prevent duplication in investment", rapporteur Irujo added.
Markku Markkula , President of the European Committee of the Regions, stressed the importance of smart specialisation as an instrument for economic transformation and the renewal of Europe: ''Every region and city in Europe needs to have more strategic partnerships so they can make the most of the latest knowledge and technology. A lot of work has already been done to improve the take-up and implementation of smart specialisation strategies. However, we need to get more out of RIS3 by orchestrating existing projects and processes better. Co-creation should become a guiding principle for EU financing instruments and project evaluations. This will require a more entrepreneurial mind-set and smarter tools to support bottom-up movements."
Ramón Luís Valcárcel Siso , Vice-President of the European Parliament and rapporteur of a report on RIS3 adopted in April 2016, said at the plenary session: "We have to continue supporting RIS3 strategies to boost growth and jobs in Europe and to help cities and regions to tackle unemployment and build a stronger Union. In this regard, the CoR opinion is very important to continue monitoring the RIS3 process with the perspective of regional and local authorities."
More information
Smart specialisation provides a path for innovation-driven differentiation and economic transformation, building on local assets and comparative strengths. Having a research and innovation strategy for smart specialisation (RIS3) is a prerequisite to receiving funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The European Commission has launched a public consultation which will feed into a new communication on smart specialisation in May. This will be followed by a Smart Regions conference in Helsinki on 1–2 June.
Lauri Ouvinen
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