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Smart Story: Andalusia RIS3 mid-term evaluation - An independent and participative process marks the starting point for S3 Andalusian Strategy revision

Involving regional stakeholders in the Smart Specialisation Strategy mid-term review

The Andalusian Regional Government has carried the mid-term evaluation of its Innovation Strategy 2020, RIS3Andalucía, between March and June 2019 through the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development, the IDEA Agency, acting as the Technical Secretariat for the Strategy design and Implementation. It considers the first phase of implementation period (2014-2018) with the final objective to guide the decision-making process for the rest of the implementation framework. The outcomes and recommendations of this process are published in the document Progress Intermediate Evaluation. RIS3 Andalucía. Final Report”.

A methodology composed of 15 evaluation criteria[1] was developed to perform the mid-term evaluation that draws on the involvement of the regional quadruple helix stakeholders. Indeed, it was very important for the Region of Andalusia to develop an independent and participatory approach to collect the views of regional actors and maintain a dynamic Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP). A wide range of regional actors have taken part to this appraisal, through 60 interviews (32 actors from the RIS3Andalusia Technical Team and 28 actors from various Andalusian Knowledge Systems); 155 actors participating in 12 workshop groups (one for each priority, and 4 additional ones tackling specific R&D&I management issues) and 3 surveys (with 315 completed questionnaires by the Technical Team members, beneficiaries and Andalusian Knowledge Agents).

A useful exercise to guide the decision-making process

As a result of these works, some relevant findings emerged.

RIS3Andalucia had a positive influence in the formulation of different regional strategies, plans and programmes where key Smart Specialisation components were adopted. Notably, both Entrepreneurial Discovery Process and the RIS3 governance were integrated in specific development strategies in the fields of ICT, Energy, Bio-economy and Health. ). Most of them have developed a participatory approach that follows the RIS3 perspective, involved regional actors and stakeholders as part of their governance scheme and endorsed the 8 regional specialisation priorities. Moreover, the Andalusian Industrial Strategy (EIA2020) is a relevant example, with the creation of dedicated working groups to ensure the integration of RIS3 priorities in its strategy implementation. Besides, the Andalusian Plan for R&D&I (PAIDI2020) has also endorsed the RIS3 priorities that serve as the basis for all the activities it supports.

However, the mid-term review also indicates a low integration of the RIS3Andalucia priorities in the decision-making processes of managing entities. Several bottlenecks have been identified related to the i) administrative structure and governmental changes; ii) limited institutional support and members’ participation mainly due to the low number of sessions held during the period 2015-2018; iii) the Andalusian Knowledge Agents have a reduced knowledge of RIS3Andalucia.

The monitoring of RIS3Andalucía has not generally been integrated into the monitoring systems of the Andalusian Regional administrative centres involved, partly due to i) shortfalls in the design phase; ii) the lack of an implementation plan with quantified objectives, iii) RIS3 measures had no budget; iv) the weak momentum of the governance bodies. The annual monitoring reports have been moderately useful since the data collected was mainly of a financial nature and did not provide precise information regarding project execution. The analysis performed remained too general to provide sufficient insights for decision-making.

The effectiveness of the incentives to companies has been moderate: half of the companies indicated that they would not have executed their projects without a subsidy and 37.5% have broadened the scope or improved their innovation activities thanks to the incentive received. 

The commitment of the Regional Government to foster technology-savvy industrial development is reflected in the RIS3 prioritisation process and the corresponding funding allocation, in the framework of RIS3Andalucía, through the IDEA Agency. The “manufacturing industry” is the productive branch that most benefitted from innovation support (55.9% of subsidies approved). Also significant is the fact that high and medium-high technology activities (5% GVA of regional economy) represent 30.2% of incentivized investment.

Regarding the achievements in terms of Sustainable Development, 88.6% of companies involved in projects subsidised under the RIS3Andalucia boast of a positive impact on the environment. Furthermore, it is worth noting that although product innovation is the most complex way of innovating, 35,6% of companies that benefited from RIS3 subsidies have developed innovative sustainable products. Progress are also being made in the reduction of energy consumption (20,8%) and raw materials reduction consumption (18,1%).

Preparing the way towards the next S3 2021-2027

A set of 27 recommendations have been defined concerning the design, implementation, governance, evolution and advancement towards future S3 for the next 2021-2027 period[2]. To highlight some of them:

Regarding the future S3, the review suggests to integrate two new challenges - social innovation and technology transfer – as final objectives. The review also led to the reformulation of priorities and the redefinition of their lines of actions, reducing their scope.

In addition, a review of the instruments is foreseen, to establish coordination mechanisms at different levels and to adapt the monitoring system together with the Key Performance Indicators. For instance, the Region wishes to promote specific incentives to high-risk projects with great impact potential. Besides, to improve the support system of R&D&I projects, the Region will apply reimbursable financial instruments when there is evidence of a market failure, and combine them with subsidies when necessary. In addition, it will intensify the use of innovative public procurement.

Furthermore an integrated gender approach, including gender equality criteria applied to governance, as well as gender-specific measurement for monitoring (data and information collection as well as indicators), should be considered. What is more, a global communication plan for the strategy should be implemented to foster awareness-raising and knowledge dissemination actions targeting SMEs, and to enhance R&D&I cultural changes. Thus, together with the review of the governance model, including relevant national actors managing EU involved funds (CDTI), the objective is to reinforce institutional engagement and momentum in order to put S3 at the centre of the regional agenda.

The 3 final recommendations for the future focus on: i) analysing again the current bottlenecks to communicate on innovations and notably on digitization; ii) the elaboration of an Implementation Plan ensuring the feasibility of monitoring; iii) and the creation of new working groups that promote the participation of the Andalusian knowledge agents to update the EDP results.

To conclude, the mid-term assessment report integrates the recommendations into 6 improvement proposals for the future, defining for each one of them the main actions, the scope (linked to recommendations), and assigning to each one a level of urgency, together with a timetable to be tackled and a level of feasibility: RIS3Andalusia Review; Governance Improvement; EDP Updating; Monitoring and Evaluation Plan Review; Implementation plan; Dissemination Campaigns for RIS3 Andalusia.

All these findings, recommendations and improvement proposals grounded and nourish the RIS3 approach building up the schemes towards the future S3 post 2021.

 

Quote: "RIS3 has generated new dynamics in territories, we have learned from the experience and created a commitment in our region designing better instruments to invest in the areas jointly identified by companies, academia and administration” Fernando Casas, General Director of the Andalusian Agency of Innovation and Development IDEA.

 

More information:

 

[1] Developed through 161 questions, taking into account quantitative and qualitative elements from primary and secondary information sources, the criteria were grouped under 4 categories: design (relevance, external and internal coherence); implementation (quality of management and quality of follow-up); governance (participation); results (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction); and impacts (territorial impact, sectorial impact, collateral effects, economic convergence, equal opportunities, sustainable development).

[2] 12 recommendations regarding design about challenges, objectives and priorities, programming and instruments; 9 about management and monitoring; 3 about Governance and 3 recommendations on the advance towards the future S3.