Intensifying innovation cooperation through Slovenian Smart Specialisation Strategy
Nowadays, the technological and societal changes are accelerating at an unprecedented speed, which translates in highly uncertain environments. Hence, creating value - particularly in smaller EU Member States such as Slovenia with limited resources, capacities and capabilities - is largely dependent on intensive investments, high risks, high responsiveness and uniqueness/originality. Consequently, this can only be achieved through collaboration, i.e. through intertwining of investment and intellectual potentials and sharing risks between innovation stakeholders in niche areas, especially between competitors.
On the basis of the Slovenian Smart Specialisation Strategy (S4) we’ve managed to significantly intensify cooperation between Slovenian innovation stakeholders that operate in specific priority areas. The Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP), which included several dedicated events (e. g. workshops, conferences, consultations) and even a public call for expression of interests, was framed not only as a priority setting exercise but also as a discussion amongst a wide range of stakeholders (companies, research organisations, start-up community, social entrepreneurs, artists, innovators, scholars, students, etc.) to shape the governance structure of the S4. The inclusiveness and interconnectedness of the EDP, together with the government, acting as facilitator, conceptual leader and as a mediator amongst stakeholders, were essential elements. Through the EDP, the stakeholders operating in a specific S4 priority area have thus recognised the need for comprehensive and systematic cooperation amongst themselves and with the government.
Consequently, in 2016, the government launched a public call for the establishment of nine Strategic Research and Innovation Partnerships (SRIPs), i.e. one partnership per priority domain of the S4. SRIPs are designed as long-term quadruple helix bottom-up partnerships, which bring together (1) dynamic companies (especially SMEs), (2) knowledge institutions (e. g. research institutes and universities), (3) facilitators, innovation users and NGOs and (4) the State and municipalities that operate in a specific S4 priority domain. Their main purpose is to pool the investment and intellectual potential of Slovenian stakeholders, and help stakeholders set up a comprehensive innovation ecosystem with the aim of entering global markets and improving the position in S4 priority domains. The cooperation between stakeholders in a certain SRIP is based on the coordination of their R&D activities, capacity sharing, especially when it comes to market foresight exercises. It is also based on joint development of human resources, exchange of knowledge and experiences, on networking and collective interest abroad, as well as in relation to the policymaking authorities. In the last three years, the more than 780 stakeholders (83 % of which are enterprises, SMEs accounting for 79 % of these) joined the SRIPs and their activities have already resulted in the implementation of new demo/pilot projects as well as in the development of joint innovative products, services and solutions/processes:
- SRIP Smart Cities and Communities has been a major driving force behind the establishment of the Digital Innovation Hub Slovenia, which is designed as a central national one-stop-shop to help Slovenian companies to become more competitive with regard to their processes, products or services using digital technologies and raise awareness of the benefits of digitalisation.
- SRIP Smart Buildings and Homes, including Wood Chain has provided impetus for the development and implementation of demo project, called Demonstration, Research, Experimental and Validation Facility, which has already led to the development of a new terrain tracking and monitoring service using so-called orthophoto images, which also enables verification of construction and can be used in the digitalisation of the selected location with the concept of 3D design of the built environment.
- SRIP Networks for the Transition of the Circular Economy is one of the crucial partners in the strategic R&D programme called Cel.Krog, which aims to exploit the potential of biomass for development of advanced materials and bio-based products, by creating new value chains for cascading use of biomass.
- SRIP Sustainable Food Production has significantly contributed to the development of four sectorial value chains - i.e. in the dairy processing sector, meat sector, fruit sector and cereal sectors - which have connected stakeholders of the food-processing sectors that have never collaborated before.
- SRIP Sustainable Tourism has provided incentives for the development and creation of the Tourism 4.0 demo projects, which aims at creating a new format of dynamic collaboration system, an innovative ecosystem, among all tourism stakeholders sprouting a new generation of tourist applications, services and processes built on real-time tourist needs and wishes.
- SRIP Factories of the Future has been the driving force behind the GOSTOP (Building Blocks, Tools and Systems for the Factories of Future) demo project, which includes the development of new products and technologies with the leading role of agile SMEs and on the other hand the development of common concept of Smart Factory, which will lead to the set up uniform integrated systems to be used by the big production companies in order to optimise their production processes and to develop new high value-added products.
- SRIP Health-Medicine is developing a large-scale project proposal for the establishment of a Medical Valley - i. e. new university campus focusing on pharmacy, biomedical technology, biomimetic and biotechnology, which also includes the establishment of a regional proton radiation therapy cancer treatment centre.
- SRIP Mobility has set up the EDISON (Eco Driving Innovative Solutions and Network) partnership which inter alia focuses on the development of inductive wireless charging systems for electric vehicles, the development of new drives and applications and platforms for electro mobility. The achievement of the project so far is the introduction of nine electric cars and one electric bus and eleven filling stations in the Municipality of Koper. Additionally, SRIP Mobility has provided impetus for the establishment of a laboratory for 3D printing of metals.
- SRIP Materials as End Products has on the basis of the promotion of broader cooperation between its members contributed to the development of new joint developments in four different material fields. Its members have developed new so-called 'hot work tool steels', new light-weight high-strength construction steels, new Al alloy with increased use of secondary or recycled aluminium and new multicomponent magnetic material based on thermosets.
With the establishment of SRIPs as a cornerstone of the S4 implementation, Slovenia has managed to significantly intensify cooperation among innovation stakeholders, with tangible results. Additionally, as the SRIPs represent the government’s partner and counterpart in the discussion of matters relating to development policy, we’ve also managed to develop a comprehensive and inclusive S4 governance structure, which enables us to systematically include a wide range of stakeholders also in the implementation of the S4 in the sense of an on-going EDP.