EU Macro-Regional Strategies

Four EU macro-regional strategies, covering several policies, have been adopted so far.

A 'Macroregional strategy' is an integrated framework endorsed by the European Council, which may be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds among others, to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area relating to Member States and third countries located in the same geographical area which thereby benefit from strengthened cooperation contributing to achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion.

S3 cooperation in the frame of the EU Macro-Regional Strategies

The EU Macro-Regional Strategies (MRS) endorsed by the European Council emphasise greater co-ordination between different stakeholders and the alignment of resources and strategies in order to address common challenges  in a defined geographical area.

To date, the European Union has put in place strategies for four  macro-regions:
These strategies all together concern 19 EU Member States and 6 non-EU countries.

The EU Macro-Regional Strategies (MRS) serve as multi-level platforms bringing together in an organised way national, regional authorities, sectorial ministries and agencies, managing authorities of programmes, academia, research, entrepreneurs, local associations and other stakeholders such as civil society to tackle the common challenges. Bottom-up approach supported by the MRS  is very important for the S3 strategies.

What is the rationale?

Cooperation in S3 at macro-regional level helps explore whether and how S3 priorities envisaged in national and regional strategies differentiate, or are complementary to, their neighbouring countries/regions. It also leads to the creation of strategic linkages to tackle common challenges when engaging in joint S3 initiatives.

By participating in macro-regional strategies, regional and national policymakers have an opportunity to:
  • Discuss the transnational dimension of S3, its importance, relevance, and practical issues
  • Learn about available analytical tools and implementation instruments, including value chain activities through cross-cluster and cross-region cooperation
  • Examine various cooperation opportunities and steps to be taken in order to stimulate transnational cooperation in areas of smart specialisation
  • Explore common interests and set up collaborative projects
  • Jointly consider how to mobilise relevant funding sources that will support their projects
  • Provide more appropriate common or coordinated replies to global issues, and thus increase the competitiveness of the macro-region.

Collaboration in S3 on macro-regional level could allow partners to take advantage of European regional diversity, as a group of regions might develop strategies based on co-evolution and complementarity. Such a collaborative approach to policymaking can be expected to boost critical mass and knowledge complexity while further supporting ongoing entrepreneurial discoveries in various types of regions


The macro-regional dimension in S3 provides a wider choice of combinations of actors, areas and expertise for strategic transnational R&I partnerships in the relevant S3 priority domains. MRS aim bringing together initiatives in different sectors which represent key challenges of the strategy, such as saving the sea or increasing prosperity. The challenges are connected to a wide range of policies which are organised in policy areas or priority areas (PA). Almost all strategies address wellness and prosperity of the region through research and innovation, which is an important policy area for macro-regional cooperation: in EUBSR – PA Innovation; in EUSDR – PA Knowledge Society; in EUSALP –  PA Economic Growth and Innovation. These policy areas coordinated by the National Coordinators (NCs) are the core strategic bodies gathering actors for macro-regional collaboration in R&I and smart specialisation.

What facilitates S3 cooperation in the MRS?

To facilitate a dialogue and interaction around S3 topics in the four existing EU macro-regions, the S3 Platform works closely with the MRS Priority Area coordinators in organising S3 seminars and workshops inviting a wide range of participants involved in the design and implementation of S3 strategies. These events provide arenas for launching a dialogue and initiating transnational multi-stakeholder consortia for developing collaboration opportunities within S3 priorities or horizontal measures to improve the national and regional RIS3s.

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