A strategy for smart specialisation should be designed around the following key principles:
- Smart specialisation is a place-based approach, meaning that it builds on the assets and resources available to regions and Member States and on their specific socio-economic challenges in order to identify unique opportunities for development and growt.
- To have a strategy means to make choices for investment. Member States and regions ought to support only a limited number of well-identified priorities for knowledge-based investments and/or clusters. Specialisation means focusing on competitive strengths and realistic growth potentials supported by a critical mass of activity and entrepreneurial resources.
- Setting priorities should not be a top-down, picking-the-winner process. It should be an inclusive process of stakeholders' involvement centred on "entrepreneurial discovery" that is an interactive process in which market forces and the private sector are discovering and producing information about new activities and the government assesses the outcomes and empowers those actors most capable of realizing this potential.
- The strategy should embrace a broad view of innovation, supporting technological as well as practice-based and social innovation. This would allow each region and Member State to shape policy choices according to their unique socio-economic conditions.
- Finally, a good strategy must include a sound monitoring and evaluation system as well as a revision mechanism for updating the strategic choices.
These elements should be clearly reflected in the RIS3 documents and exhaustively explained. Strategy developers should also bear on mind that the reason why smart specialisation strategies became an ex ante conditionality for the European Regional Development Fund investments in research and innovation was to ensure that the ERDF funds:
- Fit into the overall research and innovation policy (as outlined in the Innovation Union flagship's "Features of well performing national and regional research and innovation systems");
- Complement the existing national or regional funding and governance and legal measures that form part of their policy mix.
- Support effective and efficient measures that provide incentives to private R&I investments.