Higher Education for Smart Specialisation (HESS)

Higher Education for Smart Specialisation (HESS) is an initiative launched in 2016 by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, promoting partnerships between higher education institutions and public authorities in the context of Smart Specialisation Strategies.

The primary objective of the Higher Education and Smart Specialisation (HESS) project is to analyse how HEIs can be better integrated into S3 policy mixes and how the European Structural and Investment Funds can be more effectively spent to achieve S3 objectives. The project also aims to explore how institutional capacity in Europe's countries can be enhanced  by strengthening the role of HEIs within the 'quadruple helix' of government, academia, business and civil society.HESS combines targeted territorial support activities, with cross-cutting activities, to generate more widely appropriable lessons for EU territories and support to evidence-based policy.

Higher Education for Smart Specialisation (HESS)

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

Activities

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.

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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Latest news

News article |
Higher Education and Smart Specialisation in Lithuania - Final Event

This workshop was organised as part of the project Higher Education and Smart Specialisation (HESS): Lithuania case study carried out by the Joint Research Centre of European Commission in collaboration with the Government Strategic Analysis (STRATA).

Events

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Publications

PUBLICATION |
Higher Education for Smart Specialisation, A Handbook

The Higher Education in Smart Specialisation (HESS) project has been developed in collaboration with DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (EAC) since 2016 and seeks to engage stakeholders from Higher Education in regional development processes and regional innovation ecosystems to ensure places...

Woolford, J and Boden, M (2021) (eds)
PUBLICATION |
Higher Education for Smart Specialisation: The Case of the Northern Netherlands

This technical report presents the findings of the case study carried out in Northern Netherlands on the role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the design and implementation of the Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3). It is one of the case studies undertaken in the project Higher...

Paul Benneworth, Eskarne Arregui-Pabollet
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