The concept of smart specialisation that was initially developed for a higher impact of the research and innovation investments for knowledge-based economic transformation of the European Union (EU) Member States and regions has been met with a lot of interest in a growing number of countries outside the EU.
The JRC Smart Specialisation Framework for EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region is adopted on a voluntary basis by the countries interested in applying this EU-made innovation policy concept. JRC provides methodological support and guidance via its Enlargement and Integration Action, which so far has helped 13 EU Neighbours. Additional support is provided by DG REGIO and DG NEAR.
Georgia is among the five Eastern Partnership countries that have expressed interest in applying the smart specialisation approach to research and innovation policy. To date, Georgia has carried out a number of preparatory actions including the mobilisation of its smart specialisation team and exploring opportunities for smart specialisation in one of the regions. The region of Imereti has been proposed as the first pilot for mapping economic and innovative potential.
Smart specialisation strategy development is still in an early phase in Georgia. First contacts between the EC and Georgia on S3 started already in 2017 and 2018. But the practical process in the country was planned to be launched only in March 2020 with trainings to be held in Tbilisi and Imereti region for the national S3 team, policy makers and local stakeholders. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed these planned activities to Autumn 2020. Online trainings should replace the face-to-face meetings for the remaining months in 2020. However, the analytical mapping phase (following the Smart Specialisation Framework for EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Region) has been continuing and a report has been provided in July 2020. It involved experts provided by JRC, and from Georgia’s statistical office Geostat.
Georgia chose a regional approach to Smart Specialisation. It plans to focus first on Imereti as a pilot region, and then expanding to a total of 4 regions (including Imereti). This approach is due to its current Pilot Integrated Regional Development Programme (PIRDP), which is also focused on Imereti and three more regions and follows the EU regional policy approach.
In terms of S3 governance, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (MRDI) is in charge of S3 policy and of strategy development. Its Department of European Integration drives the process. A broad national S3 team has been formed, involving 37 experts. This team includes representatives of other main ministries: the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport (MES), the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (MESD), Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture (MEPA), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The main agencies for R&I and business support are represented, including the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation of Georgia (SRNSFG), the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), the Rural and Agricultural Development Agency ARDA, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) office Sakpatenti, the statistical office Geostat, the business support agency Enterprise Georgia, and Chamber of Commerce and Trade. Beyond the team, international donor organisations are also involved, e.g. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
In cooperation with the European Commission (JRC Seville), the Georgian authorities in charge of S3 will hold an S3 Awareness Event on the 25th of November 2020. The online event aims to raise awareness about smart specialisation at national and regional level in Georgia as well as to present the first findings from the mapping analysis on existing economic and innovative data can provide.