Over the last decade, Smart Specialisation has been the main fulcrum of the European Union’s Innovation programme, better known as Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3). RIS3 emphasises public-private partnerships, with public funds being used to support private sector led ‘activities’ regarded as having the best opportunities for new innovation and commercial gain. The funding is targeted at the regional level so as to build upon a region’s existing advantages, specialisms and capabilities. However, the ability of RIS3 to enhance the prospects of so-called lagging regions has been seriously questioned. In part, this is because RIS3 can induce a so-called ‘Matthew effect’ by unduly favouring more dynamic and leading regions, which are blessed stronger technological capabilities and business networks, and are more likely to generate new and exciting innovation projects.
In a recent paper in Regional Studies, Regional Science , Mariachiara Barzotto (University of Bath), Carlo Corradini (Birmingham), Felicia Fai (Bath), Sandrine Labory (Ferrara), and Phil Tomlinson (Bath) explore these issues, and summarise some ways in which RIS3 policy might be better tailored to promote growth in lagging regions. In doing so, they emphasise the importance of building upon place-specific assets, enhancing the regional innovation eco-system, technological upgrading, strengthening extra-regional collaboration and embracing social innovation.
The paper draws upon their RSA Policy Expo (edited) book entitled ‘Revitalising Lagging Regions: Smart Specialisation and Industry 4.0’ which was published last year, and successfully launched at the EU Joint Research Centre in Seville. Both the book and paper are required outputs from the RSA Policy Expo Grant Scheme (and are free to access for RSA members). A short article for e-Regions magazine also appeared here.
A new RSA Policy Expo Scheme Call will be announced shortly.