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HEInnovate - a self-assessment tool for HEIs to be more entrepreneurial

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Higher Education for Smart Specialisation: Towards strategic partnerships for innovation

S3 Platform Policy Briefs John Edwards, Elisabetta Marinelli, Eskarne Arregui-Pabollet, Louise Kempton

Higher Education for Smart Specialisation The Case of Navarre, Spain

Igor Campillo, Eskarne Arregui-Pabollet, Javier Gómez Prieto

Higher Education Institutions Higher Education Institutions

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can play a key role in the design and implementation of S3. They are among the few institutions that act as 'boundary spanners', bridging all three elements of the 'Knowledge Triangle' (Research, Education and Innovation). 

HEIs can build innovation capabilities in regions, and can play a much broader role than is usually considered. However, this potential contribution has not been harnessed by many S3, especially in less developed regions where HEIs can have a particularly important role to play. This has been a major observation by the JRC when reviewing and monitoring the S3 and was also highlighted in a report by an expert group convened by DG Research and Innovation. These observations are behind an S3 Platform project called Higher Education for Smart Specialisation (HESS), which is undertaken in partnership with the Commission's DG Education and Culture.

The HESS project

Launched in March 2016, the HESS project focuses on how higher education and HEIs can contribute to the successful implementation of S3. It has two broad aims:

  • To help build innovation capabilities by strengthening the role of HEIs in regional partnerships.
  • To promote the integration of higher education with research, innovation and regional development in S3 policy mixes, particularly in the use of European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds


The main activity of HESS is 'action research' and capacity building in selected European regions. Two regions were selected as pilots: Navarra, and North East Romania and currently we are working in Centre Val LoirePuglia and North Central Bulgaria. In addition, the project monitors the involvement of HEIs in S3 implmentation and spending on education by the ESI funds on a more global scale. 

Specific objectives

  1. Understand and support HEIs to align their functions of human capital development with S3 priorities.
  2. Analyse how synergetic and strategic use of public funds can allow HEIs to better contribute to S3 implementation.
  3. Foster change within HEIs to take on a boundary spanning role in implementing S3.
  4. Promote external cooperation between the HEIs and other actors in regional partnerships.
  5. Co-produce knowledge within a Community of Practice and disseminate to a larger policy audience.


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Università, Alta Formazione e Smart Specialisation in Puglia: i progetti HESS e Targeted Support

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Publications Publications

Support services for Centres of Vocational Excellence

Edwards, J.H., Redford, D. and Paiva, T.

Higher Education for Smart Specialisation: The case of Lithuania

Zilvinas Martinaitis, Eskarne Arregui Pabollet and Lina Stanionyte
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