The existence of a sound governance configuration is considered an important enabling condition for the effective implementation of the Smart Specialisation strategies.

At the same time, building better and more inclusive institutions along with improving vertical and horizontal coordination mechanisms and promoting collective action are important underlying objectives of the Smart Specialisation policy, particularly in institutionally weak contexts.

Governance for Smart Specialisation implies the ability to engage with the private sector and intermediate organisations, coordinate within and across public administrations and agencies and ensure continuity of policy through electoral cycles. Smart Specialisation requires organisations responsible for the management of the strategies with a clear mandate and political support along with organisational and analytical capacities to effectively design, implement, monitor and evaluate the policy. How well those bodies perform depends on their internal organisation and expertise as well as on the political and institutional framework within which they operate.

Governance arrangements are the result of existing institutional settings, administrative traditions
and capacity, history of public-private interactions, shared norms and values, informal networks and participatory processes. Those elements are context specific, so the resulting governance structures and processes tend to vary across the EU.

Given these differences, it is neither feasible nor advisable to propose a unique, monolithic, model of governance for Smart Specialisation that can be universally applied to every region or country. Nonetheless, it is still possible to draw the attention to the following three main framework conditions that can be considered generally relevant for effective governance:
  • Clear attribution of responsibilities and political support to the organisations responsible for the management of the Smart Specialisation strategies are essential to ensure their operational and coordination functions, and avoid the creation of structures with limited room for manoeuvre. The appointed bodies should be independent of and yet accountable to political representatives as well as private and civil society actors. Implementing bodies should have the necessary autonomy and adequate resources to limit rent-seeking behaviours and avoid incumbents and powerful lobbies capturing most of the policy resources or undermine the policy’s transformative intention. Clearly, autonomy should be accompanied by accountability. The right mix of autonomy and accountability should be carefully designed according to the characteristics of the political and institutional context and the administrative capacities.
  • Horizontal and vertical coordination. The channels for an ongoing negotiation and collaboration with private and public actors need to be ensured. Effective inter-ministerial/departmental coordination mechanisms and links with elected representatives should also be in place along with coordination arrangements between different spatial scales.
  • Availability of adequate skills and resources in both public authorities and relevant stakeholders, to effectively carry out strategy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

More emphasis should be put on the continuous assessment of these features, especially in countries and regions where institutional capacity is one of the major constraints for effective policy design and implementation.