Smart Specialisation in Albania

Smart Specialisation is expected to be of high importance for the growth of Albanian’s economy, unlocking the innovation and competitiveness potential in specific domains. Albania started the process of designing its S3 in 2016 and in 2017 Albania registered in the platform of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission for S3. Albanian S3 team developed an S3 Roadmap based on the JRC Framework and so far several steps have been taken to develop a Strategy at national level by keeping a regional perspective.

According to the S3 Framework, Albania has finalized the context analysis, through the Quantitative and Qualitative mapping, and conducted the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) phase. Main domains explored during the EDP phase are:

Domains: Agriculture Fisheries and Aquaculture; Manufacturing; Energy; Accommodation and support service activities; Information and Communication; Administrative and support service activities.
Cross-sectorial identified areas: Blue economy; Healthy food; Renewable resources energy; Extended BPOs

Inputs from EDP working groups will complement outcomes from the mapping phase, contributing to the drafting the final S3. 

During the EDP in Albania there have been different types of events: national events, sectorial workshops, roundtables, bilateral meetings with cross-border countries, interviews, etc. 

Considering the importance of this process for the Albanian Government and the fact that it covers a wide number of sectors, from February 2023 the process is coordinated by the Deputy Prime Minister leading the S3 Interministerial Committee and assisted by the National S3 Team.

Smart Specialisation Strategy will be a priority of the Government of Albania and an important instrument for directing future investments in the priority areas and in developing a knowledge based society.

Institutional Capacity Building

In April 2018, a comprehensive training on S3 with the focus on the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) was organised in Ljubljana with the aim of exploring the major steps, challenges, and expected outcomes of the process.

In May 2018, under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, JRC organized a high-level conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. The objective of the conference was to increase regional cooperation in Southeast Europe and support the Western Balkans' potential as competitive market economies, in line with the European Commission's strategy for the Western Balkans.

In July 2018, a well-attended awareness-raising event funded by UNDP and co-organised by the JRC took place in the country’s capital, Tirana. S3 pillars and Framework’s steps were discussed, with a special focus on the mapping approach.

A TAIEX workshop held in Brussels followed in November in order to delve deeper into the implementation and organization of S3 mapping process and EDP as well as the very crucial phase of monitoring.

In October and November of 2020, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Government of Kosovo organized a three-day online seminar. The event aimed to raise awareness around Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) pillar topics and encouraged participation from relevant ministerial representatives involved in the design and implementation of the S3.

On the 27th and 28th of January 2022, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) conducted a two-day online training course on the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) for Albania, Georgia, Kosovo*, and North Macedonia. This initiative was part of the project "Support to Smart Specialisation in Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region (E&I)" and aimed at strengthening institutional capacity building in relation to stakeholders' engagement.

In May 2023, a two-day training in Tirana in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission for the training of members of the National S3 Team, experts and policymakers from ministries involved in the Inter-ministerial Committee of S3, regarding Policy Mix and monitoring within the framework of drafting the next phase of the S3 strategy.

Analysis of Economic, Scientific and Innovative Potential

The Strategy of Intelligent Specialisation (S3) is an integration of industrial, educational, research/scientific policies, as well as innovation, aiming to generate economic growth by leveraging a country's innovative competitive advantages while addressing key socio-economic challenges in Albania. As part of this initiative, a mapping process commenced with the quantitative analysis in late 2020 and concluded in 2021 by a group of independent experts that analysed the Albania's capacities, resources, and competitive advantages. This phase was succeeded by the qualitative analysis, which wrapped up at the end of 2022. This led to the identification of 6 priority areas where Albania can strategically specialize:

1.    Agriculture, Fishing, and Forestry
2.    Manufacturing Industry
3.    Energy
4.    Tourism
5.    Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
6.    Business Process Outsourcing (Digital Services)

From the qualitative analysis, the following cross-sectoral areas can be considered for further evaluation:

1.    Blue Economy
2.    Healthy Food
3.    Renewable Energy Resources
4.    Extended Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

The potential of these priority areas have been assessed and further explored during the EDP consultations with the quadruple-helix actors (government, business, academia, civil society) in order to identify the S3 priority sectors with the highest potential where the investments in innovation can be a value added for the economic development.

This comprehensive evaluation will serve as a solid foundation for the subsequent phases of the Smart Specialisation Strategy, enabling Albania to strategically focus on priority areas and leverage its economic, innovation, and scientific potential for sustained growth and development.

Stakeholder Dialogue

Albania has successfully completed the comprehensive mapping process aimed at assessing the country's economic, innovative, and scientific potential as a first step before entering the EDP phase. The EDP phase was designed as a wide consultation phase with different stakeholders from the quadruple helix in order to explore further and identify the priority sectors of S3 that are most significative for Albania.

To ensure the effective implementation of EDP, a variety of events were organized, including national events, sectoral workshops, round tables and bilateral meetings with neighbouring countries. The EDP was structured in order to include experts and stakeholders from the quadruple helix, namely policymakers, academics, entrepreneurs, and civil society representatives. During the discussions, national Smart Specialisation Strategy experts facilitated the sessions and collected inputs.

The primary objective of this process was to leverage the collective intelligence of businesses, universities, research centres, civil societies, and government bodies. By doing so, key challenges, opportunities, trends, and policy responses were identified to unlock the full economic, scientific, and innovation potential of the prioritized domains.

Throughout the EDP phase, 32 meetings were held, including one opening event, 22 round tables, 6 national workshops, and 3 regional workshops involving Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. 

The EDP process has now been successfully concluded as of July 2023 and a final event, held in October 2023, as a platform to present all findings derived from the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process and present further steps toward the finalization of the Strategy.

Institutional Capacity for the S3 Implementation

In February 2023, an Inter-Ministerial Committee was established to oversee the drafting and implementation of the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) in Albania. This committee is led by the Deputy Prime Minister and plays a crucial role in ensuring progress in the drafting and implementation process of the S3. It also fosters coordination among various institutions and provides guidance throughout the entire S3 process.

The Committee has the task to: 

-    ensure the progress in the framework of the drafting and implementation of S3, as well as to ensure the leading process for the implementation and reporting of the institutions, in the framework of this process; 
-    promote the coordination at a high level of the institutions, in order to guide and lead the work, in accordance with S3; 
-    examine the final draft of S3, as well as documents prepared within this process, for which the opinion of the Committee is requested; 
-    recommend the necessary legal measures, as well as to orient the organizational work for legal initiatives, in the framework of S3; 
-    have a coordinating role with other initiatives that are related to S3; 
-    promote planning for the financing of measures through medium-term budget programming, cooperation with development partners, through the integrated planning system (SPI). 

In addition to the Inter-Ministerial Committee, there is a technical-level structure known as the National Team of S3. This team comprises experts and representatives from various institutions and organizations, that reports to the Deputy Prime Minister every trimester.

The Committee is assisted by a Technical Secretariat, whose role is played by the State Agency for Strategic Programming and Aid Coordination (SASPAC). 

Domestic and/or foreign experts, civil society, national and/or international organizations, personalities in the field, as well as representatives of other state institutions are invited to participate in the meetings of the National S3 Team, according to the related needs with the drafting of S3.

Status on Drafting and Consultation of the RIS3, and Implementation Process

The draft strategy is planned to be finalised by June 2024.

Remaining Challenges

As in many economies of the area, challenges concern mainly the following fields:

-    Improve statistic indicators in order in order to perform high quality quantitative analysis especially in relation to the innovative and scientific potential, to monitor the priority fields of S3, as well for evidence based policy making
-    Maintain high involvement of stakeholders in the continuous EDP to assure continuous quadruple helix dialogue.
-    Alignment of sectorial strategies with S3.

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