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Towards a transformative Smart Specialisation Strategy: lessons from Catalonia, Bulgaria and Greece

Developing an S3 and EDP that support systemic transitions requires a new institutional design. The new EU programming period offers significant opportunities and those involved in Cohesion policy should seize them by being open to working in new and challenging ways.
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Abstract

There are increasing demands on our economies and societies for transformational change. The European Union (EU) and global actors such as the United Nations (UN) are giving increasing attention to social and environmental sustainability. This paper reflects on how Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3), and in particular the search for actionable policy pathways through the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP), need to evolve. To respond to the challenges ahead, S3 must also contribute to the transition towards more sustainable and inclusive pathways, in line with the European Green Deal’s objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this sense, we argue that we need a transformative Smart Specialisation, sustained by a transformative EDP.  

With this objective in mind, we begin by examining the current policy context and frame S3 in the broader EU agenda. We stress the importance of aligning S3 to the EU New Industrial Strategy and the European Green Deal, mustering momentum to address social and environmental challenges. We then introduce conceptual and policy frameworks which can support the development of a transformative EDP, namely Sustainability Transitions, Transformative Innovation Policy, and Responsible Research and Innovation. We then report on two pioneering policy experiences that -building on the above conceptual foundations and approaches- have attempted to imbue the S3 and EDP with transformative elements, namely the POINT (Projecting Opportunities for INdustrial Transition) Reviews by the Joint Research Centre and the Shared Agendas in Catalonia. We conclude with a discussion of some implications for the future of Smart Specialisation and highlighting the challenges ahead.