Smart Specialisation is about identifying the region’s key activities, areas or technological domains that provide a competitive advantage in the global context and focusing efforts on those. In other words, R&D and innovation funding should not be spread thinly across several technology areas but rather on carefully selected priority areas that provide an inter-regional comparative advantage. This concentration of efforts reduces fragmentation and duplication of efforts in and between the EU regions.
The concept of Smart Specialisation is formally defined in the EU regulation no. 1303/2013 as follows:
Smart Specialisation Strategy means the national or regional innovation strategies which set priorities in order to build competitive advantage by developing and matching research and innovation own strengths to business needs in order to address emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner, while avoiding duplication and fragmentation of efforts; a Smart Specialisation strategy may take the form of, or be included in, a national or regional research and innovation (R&I) strategic policy framework.”
Smart Specialisation must not be regarded as a simple industrial specialisation in a certain area. For example, concentrating on energy production isn’t a specialisation aligned with the RIS3. Instead, Smart Specialisation is about specialising in R&D and innovation related to promising sectors. The idea is to improve the relations between the R&D and innovation resources and activities, and better the sectoral structure of the economy. For instance, focusing on the development of new renewable energy sources and energy production technologies are aligned with the Smart Specialisation ideology.
Even though Smart Specialisation concentrates on R&D and innovation, it doesn’t mean that the RIS3 is only for R&D leaders. In fact, while it’s necessary that some regions concentrate on creating general purpose and ground-breaking innovation and R&D, it’s just as crucial that other regions focus on transforming these new concepts into practical applications that can improve quality and productivity in multiple sectors. Turning ground-breaking innovations to practical applications is by no means an easy task. It requires effort and good relations between the knowledge producers and users to generate practical and feasible applications.