Communities & Actors Communities & Actors

Contacts Contacts

General enquiries: John Edwards

HESS II Case Studies

Centre Val de Loire: Eskarne Arregui

Puglia: Elisabetta Marinelli 

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Join the HESS community on Linkedin

HEInnovate - a self-assessment tool for HEIs to be more entrepreneurial

Higher Education Institutions Higher Education Institutions

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can play a key role in the design and implementation of S3. They are among the few institutions that act as 'boundary spanners', bridging all three elements of the 'Knowledge Triangle' (Research, Education and Innovation). 

The S3 Platform Policy Brief on Universities and Smart Specialisation shows how HEIs can build innovation capabilities in regions, and can play a much broader role than is usually considered. 

However, this potential contribution has not been harnessed by many S3, especially in less developed regions where HEIs can have a particularly important role to play. This has been a major observation by the JRC when reviewing and monitoring the S3 and was also highlighted in a report by an expert group convened by DG Research and Innovation. These observations are behind an S3 Platform project called Higher Education for Smart Specialisation (HESS), which is undertaken in partnership with the Commission's DG Education and Culture.

The HESS project

Starting in March 2016 for an initial twelve months, the HESS project focuses on how higher education and HEIs can contribute to the successful implementation of S3. It has two broad aims:

  • To help build innovation capabilities by strengthening the role of HEIs in regional partnerships.
  • To promote the integration of higher education with research, innovation and regional development in S3 policy mixes, particularly in the use of European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds


The main activity of HESS is 'action research' and capacity building in selected European regions. Two regions have been selected as pilots: Navarra in Spain, and North East Romania. In addition, we will be monitoring the involvement of HEIs in S3 implmentation and spending on education by the ESI funds on a more global scale. 

Specific objectives

  1. Understand and support HEIs to align their functions of human capital development with S3 priorities.
  2. Analyse how synergetic and strategic use of public funds can allow HEIs to better contribute to S3 implementation.
  3. Foster change within HEIs to take on a boundary spanning role in implementing S3.
  4. Promote external cooperation between the HEIs and other actors in regional partnerships.
  5. Co-produce knowledge within a Community of Practice and disseminate to a large policy audience.

Events Events

HESS Introductory meeting in North East Romania

Kick off for HESS in North East Romania!

HESS Introductory meeting in Navarra

HESS kick off meeting in Pamplona

Seminar on Higher Education and Smart Specialisation

Disseminated findings from the SmartSpec research consortium and developed concepts for the HESS project.

Mobilising Universities for Smart Specialisation

High level conference organised by S3 Platform and the European University Association

Related Events Related Events

HEI innovate

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Publications Publications

Higher Education for Smart Specialisation The Case of Navarre, Spain

Igor Campillo, Eskarne Arregui-Pabollet, Javier Gómez Prieto

Higher Education for Smart Specialisation: The Case of North East Romania

Elisabetta Marinelli, John Edwards, Cosmina Mironov

Universities and RIS3: the case of Catalonia and the RIS3CAT Communities

18/2016 Elisabetta Marinelli, Susana Elena-Perez, Josep Alias
This report contributes to the debate on the role of Higher Education Institutions in RIS3 by exploring the case of Catalonia. It first assesses the role...

Universities and Smart Specialisation

03/2013 Louise Kempton, John Goddard, John Edwards, Fatime Barbara Hegyi and Susana Elena-Pérez
This Policy Brief analyses the potential role of universities in the development and implementation of RIS3. Universities are often crucial institutions...

Related Publications Related Publications

Universities and Smart Specialisation: challenges, tensions and opportunities for the innovation strategies of european regions

2013 John Goddard, Louise Kempton, Paul Vallance
A paper written by leading researchers on universities and regional development, published in the Basque Economic Review.

Connecting Universities to Regional Growth: A Practical Guide

2011 European Commission - DG REGIO
This guide is intended to help improve the contribution of universities to regional development, with a view to strengthening the economic, social and...