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Reconciling Smart Specialisation Strategies with State aid – Not an Impossible Mission

This article highlights the relevance of State aid law both for policy makers and aid grantors when implementing smart specialisation strategies (S3).
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Abstract

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).