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Smart specialisation and social innovation: from policy relations to opportunities and challenges

In the energy field, Social Innovation (SI) may evolve into a strong transformational function of the whole energy system. Citizens are in the focus of the European Union’s plans towards an energy transition based on citizen energy and a more decentralised energy system where the consumer is in focus. SI would in this sense not be any more an add-on to classical technology focused innovation, but driving the whole transition process in the energy field. This means also serious repercussions on the regional level, as a more decentralised energy supply system will open-up opportunities for usage of local resources and involvement of citizens and local businesses. With smart specialisation strategies in the implementation phase, clean energy is one of the main priorities for most EU regions.
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Abstract

In this paper some ongoing tendencies of Social Innovation (SI) in the EU and its relation to the smart specialisation (S3) approach are discussed. The analysis is limited to the energy field, particularly to the context of renewable energy production, energy efficiency measures and heating and cooling. The paper is part of the policy support provided by the Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy (S3PEnergy) to EU regions and member states. Therefore the focus has been put on Smart Specialisation, and the relevance of such SI initiatives for economic development and potential upscaling in regions, and for an increased proactive consumer involvement.

The social innovation approach is disaggregated here in the categories of organisational, social, financial, educational and business. Case studies were developed to understand the character of those categories.