Interactive RIS3 Guide Interactive RIS3 Guide


Step 1 - Analysis of the regional context and potential for innovation

As highlighted in Part II, RIS3 needs to be based on a sound analysis of the regional economy, society, and innovation structure, aiming at assessing both existing assets and prospects for future development. The common principle that is central to such analyses is the adoption of a wide view of innovation that spans across economic activities and involves many sectors of the civic society.

The analysis should cover three main dimensions:

    • regional assets, such as technological infrastructures,
    • linkages with the rest of the world and the position of the region within the European and global economy, and
    • dynamics of the entrepreneurial environment.

Regional assets: a strategy rooted in the regional specificities
First, it is necessary to focus on the regional specific context, assessing the existing assets, evaluating major regional strengths and weaknesses, identifying any bottlenecks of the innovation system and key challenges both for the economy and the society.

Economic differentiation is one of the central principles behind smart specialisation. The key to successful differentiation is to exploit related variety, which suggests that a regional economy can build its competitive advantage by diversifying its unique, localised know-how into new combinations and innovations which are close or adjacent to it. The key point is that these new combinations must be feasible or accessible given the existing assets, so as to exploit the experience accumulated by regional actors. Therefore, it is important to capture during the analysis phase any existing differentiation patterns, in particular by looking at those activities that are emerging at the interception of existing and well-established ones.

Tools suitable for this kind of analysis can include SWOT analysis, regional profiling studies, targeted surveys and expert assessments.

Example 1 - Analysis of the regional context — Skåne's innovation capacity

Skåne carried out a self-assessment in 2009 and has also performed a network analysis, a functional analysis and an international peer review. Together, these form the basis for action plans and ongoing work. The studies try to identify what the weaknesses and strengths of the industrial and innovation system of the region of Skåne are. The studies show that:

    • relatively substantial resources are invested in the early stages to pick up ideas that have the potential to become new enterprises, but support structure for businesses is weak,
    • structure for picking up service innovations is poor,
    • access to risk capital is too limited,
    • need for a systematic environmental and market analysis is great and is not satisfied.

The analysis also shows that better coordination of the efforts of the various players is needed, as well as increased internationalisation of the supporting bodies. These findings have been important for Skåne in developing the regional innovation strategy.

Looking beyond regional boundaries: the outward dimension of smart specialisation
An assessment of existing regional assets implies looking 'inside' the region; however, this might be insufficient for a smart specialisation strategy. A major novelty of the smart specialisation approach is that a region has to make its strategic decisions taking into account its position relative to other regions of Europe, which implies that the RIS3 approach requires looking beyond the regional administrative boundaries.

In other words, a region should be able to identify its competitive advantages through systematic comparisons with other regions, mapping the national and the international context in search of examples to learn from, or to mark a difference with, and performing effective benchmarking. Moreover, a region should be able to identify relevant linkages and flows of goods, services and knowledge revealing possible patterns of integration with partner regions. This is particularly important in the case of less developed regions that would often need to source know-how and technology from the rest of the world. The position of regional businesses within international value chains in this respect is a crucial element to be considered.

This type of analysis is important because the concept of smart specialisation warns against 'blind' duplication of investments in other European regions. Such blind duplication of efforts could lead to excessive fragmentation, loss of synergy potential, and ultimately could hamper the reach of the critical mass required for success. On the contrary, interregional collaboration should be pursued whenever similarities or complementarities with other regions are detected.

Tools suitable for this kind of analysis can include comparative studies, rounds of interviews with other regions and interregional work groups.

Example 2 - International benchmarking in a Top Technology Region – Provinces of Limburg in the Netherlands and Belgium, Noord-Brabant (Netherlands) and Vlaams-Brabant (Belgium), Province of Liège (Belgium) and parts of North Rhine Westphalia (Germany)

The public administrators of the Top Technology Region contracted the Swiss research firm BAK Basel to benchmark and map out their economic strengths. The research resulted in an analysis and international benchmark of the region’s strengths and weaknesses. It indicates how the Top Technology Region relates on an international level playing field to similar regions such as Oberrhein and Øresund, and what development potential the cross-border region has.

The BAK-based study identified and confirmed a number of the region’s strengths, as shown in the BAK Technology Competitive Index. The Index reveals the technological strength of a region based on the scale and growth of the relevant sector, the number of publications and the number of patents. The focus is on sectors (clusters) that are by their nature 'top technological'.


Entrepreneurial dynamics: prospects for a process of entrepreneurial discovery

Smart specialisation requires deep involvement of entrepreneurial actors in the strategy design process. Entrepreneurial actors are not only firms, but also any individuals and organisations who have some entrepreneurial knowledge. This analysis aims to build a systematic understanding of the areas in the economy and society that have the greatest potential for future development, and that are ready to be tapped (or need to be encouraged and extracted).

The analytical effort carried out in order to generate the basic information input for a RIS3 should have a special focus on the regional entrepreneurial environment, assessing whether it is lively and can generate a significant flow of experiments, innovation ideas, or entrepreneurial discoveries, or it is poor in experiments and entrepreneurial proposals and hence such activities should be specifically supported.

Besides using and developing statistics on entrepreneurial activities, an effective appreciation of entrepreneurial dynamic can only be performed if entrepreneurial actors and management and governance bodies responsible of RIS3 engage in direct discussion. A RIS3 should hence provide for a set of consultation and auditing tools, as for instance technology auditing, interviews with cluster management and firms, mixed working groups, setting up of observatories and monitoring organisations.

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