Stakeholder collaboration (entrepreneurial discovery process) is one of the key elements for smart specialisation strategies and a core element of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Enabling Condition "Good governance of national or regional smart specialisation strategy" for the period 2021-2027. However still, after years of implementation is a challenging concept for most European regions and countries. The COVID-19 crisis is also requiring countries and regions to adapt the entrepreneurial discovery process to the new conditions where it is more difficult to have in-person gatherings.
Evidence collected shows that the entrepreneurial discovery process's efficient functioning requires governments to act as platforms to enable, sustain, and guide stakeholders' participation across the policy-making process. The entrepreneurial discovery process has evolved into a continuous activity, starting with identifying broad priorities during the definition of the Smart Specialisation strategies and keeping stakeholders' participation going throughout the strategy's implementation. As a continuous activity, it imposes substantial requirements on public authorities regarding governance and institutional arrangements (e.g. creating new structures or adapting previous ones). Capacity building is central for promoting greater stakeholder engagement and effective coordination of this process. For instance, there is a need for capacity building related to 'collaborative decision-making', 'shared leadership', 'communications skills', communicating ideas, and generating common understanding across different disciplines, technological paradigms, ways of thinking/doing. Keeping stakeholders informed about how their feedback contributes to policymaking processes help maintain stakeholders' interest and involvement. Effective communication can also help to get the right partners and reach those actors whose participation in the entrepreneurial discovery process is low.
Altogether, the next generation of smart specialisation strategies offers the opportunity to enhance the entrepreneurial discovery process's effective functioning by taking stock of the lessons learned over the past few years and the current crisis.