Dr Pierre-Alexandre Balland

Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Dr Pierre-Alexandre Balland

Project title: Relatedness, knowledge complexity and technological opportunities of regions: A framework for smart specialisation

The main aim of this project is to contribute theoretically and empirically to the smart specialisation debate in the regional studies literature. Smart specialisation is the underlying innovation policy concept for Europe 2020 - the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade. In a world where knowledge and innovation are the main drivers of sustainable growth, the smart specialisation strategy aims at supporting regions in developing new research and technological areas of specialisations. The goal of this policy is not to make the economic structure of regions more specialized (i.e. less diversified), but instead to identify and transform specific strength and hidden opportunities in new comparative advantages. The concept is based on the idea that regions should focus on their own particular skills and expertise to secure comparative advantage in high-value added activities. The policy concept, however, has been recently criticized by several scholars as a perfect example of policy running ahead of theory and this project aims at contributing to this important debate by providing (1) a sound theoretical underpinning of the policy concept, (2) new empirical evidences on how (EU) regions develop new specialisations, and (3) a policy-oriented framework to identify systematically research and technological opportunities in regions.

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