Higher Education for Smart Specialisation: The case of Lithuania
The research shows that the Smart Specialisation Strategy in Lithuania has constituted an important framework to coordinate research and innovation policies and investments with a significant improvement from past experiences, creating a space for a participatory process of innovation stakeholders. The higher education institutions are actively participating in the S3 process, with a good correlation of the S3 selected priority areas and the higher education research capacities, but with no significant changes in the internal decision-making. The higher education system presents an unbalanced funding model, with most incomes devoted to education activities rather than research and innovation.
The research and innovation system of Lithuania is highly dependent on European Structural and Investment Funds, as national funding is comparatively very small, creating specific challenges in the implementation of the Smart Specialisation concept. Too narrowly defined priority areas can create a lock down effect in terms of broad support to innovation with limited funding sources to counterbalance. There is a growing demand of the productive sector of skilled students in engineering/STEM fields. This has increased demands of discussion spaces between public authorities, business and higher education to re-balance the attraction of students from social sciences to STEM studies, as well as a stronger policy to attract international talent. A long-term agreement between the Government and HEIs regarding the future HE educational offer, research priorities and resources could strengthen the contribution of higher education to S3, building on the experience of this case study and bringing forward its recommendations.