RIS3 in Lagging regions

Regions covered only in Lagging Regions 1 – 2016-2018

The core aims of the JRC RIS3 Support to Lagging Regions project are to provide concrete support to the implementation of RIS3s in selected low-growth and less developed regions in EU member states and to develop a cross-cutting approach to key issues regarding growth and governance in those regions.

Building on the specific support activities and positive outcomes of the previous JRC project on the refinement and implementation of a RIS3 strategy in the Greek region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (REMTh), the Lagging Regions project also aims to:

  • Improve understanding of slow and limited growth in EU regions and links to macro-economic framework conditions, taking RIS3 as an entry point.
  • Develop and disseminate lessons and a tool box for other EU regions.
  • Contribute to advancing relevant theory on (implementation of) smart specialisation by codifying hands-on experiences.

Main activities of the project

  • Stocktaking and assessment of state of RIS3 implementation in the selected territories
  • Specific support activities - Undertaken in each of the selected regions, these centre on stakeholder events focused on catalysing and sustaining the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process, mutual learning activities, as well as targeted support for RIS3 implementation, such as appropriate instruments, funding opportunities and tools and approaches for monitoring and evaluation implementation. Work also has a focus on linkages between national, regional and sub-regional RIS3.
  • Horizontal support and peer learning - addressing key common issues with wider relevance, including RIS3 governancemonitoringindustrial transition and transnational collaboration
  • Analysis, tool development and policy recommendations – the outcomes of both specific, as well as more horizontal support activities, provide the basis both for further policy support and the refinement and adaptation of methodological approaches for wider application.

The impacts of this work and the lessons emerging are highly relevant not only for stakeholders in the region, but for those in other lagging regions across the EU as well as for policy makers at EU level.

Conducted in collaboration with DG REGIO, this project implements a series of preparatory actions of the European Parliament. These include:

  • Support for growth and governance in lagging regions - Building on the REMTh approach, this activity goes further in providing appropriate and specific support for activities in the selected regions and in developing a more cross-cutting approach to key issues regarding growth and governance in such regions, including: governance, human resources and mobility, transnational cooperation and refinement of the RIS3 model. 
  • The economic competitive advantages and the potential for smart specialisation at regional level in Romania – Also building on the REMTh approach to provide targeted support in RIS3 refinement and implementation, this activity aims to ensure a coherent, coordinated and sustainable approach, to secure, develop and enhance engagement of relevant stakeholders in Romania, including the linkages between the regional and national RIS3s. This activity initially focused on two regions (North East and North West) and is now being expanded to all Romanian regions.

By Regions and countries

The project covers regions of two specific types: 'low growth regions' those characterised by a persistent lack of growth over more than a decade; and  'less developed regions', with rising, but still low levels of GDP.  On this basis, work is organised along these two types of lagging regions, in partnership with the relevant national and regional authorities:

  • Low growth regions
  • Less developed regions
    • Bulgaria - national level, Severen Tsentralen* 
    • Hungary - national level, Észak-Alföld* 
    • Poland  - Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Lubuskie, Podlaskie, Warminsko Mazurskie* 
    • Romania - Nord-Est, Sud-Est, Sud - Muntenia, Sud-Vest Oltenia, Vest, Nord-Vest, Centru, and București - Ilfov
    • Croatia - national level

(*regions covered only in Lagging Regions 1 – 2016-2018)


The development of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) has put considerable pressure on EU regions and member states, which have had to reflect on their governance of innovation policy.  On the one hand S3 governance requires embedding participatory elements to the policy process, on the other, as S3 is framed against broader socio economic objectives; it demands coordination across government departments and policy actors that were previously peripheral to innovation policy.

Supporting good S3 governance has thus always been a concern of the Targeted Support activities.

Activities have covered issues such as:
  • Coordination between national and regional level;  
  • Coordination between different policy areas;
  • Integration of stakeholders’ input in the governance process;
  • Communication with the EC level;
  • Support to S3, through political cycles;
  • Synergies between Cohesion funds and other EC, national and regional funds.

In particular, a Governance Working Group has been organised examining the issues above through role-playing methodologies. Furthermore, the working group has engaged in an exercise to support the development of an improved governance system. The working group has brought together representatives of national, regional and EC institutions.


Monitoring is also a long-standing concern for regions involved in RIS3. Within the Targeted Support activities we have run a working group addressing various facets of monitoring with policy makers and experts. These include:
  • The importance of a clear logic of intervention, linking policy instrument to S3 priorities and various types of indicators;
  • The different data-collection options, with their pros and cons;
  • The role of stakeholders in monitoring;
  • The politics of monitoring;
  • The role of coordination;
  • The balance between creating comparable vs region specific indicators.

These works has led to the creation of a MOOC, targeted to policy makers and practitioners: Monitoring Smart Specialisation Strategies.

Most recently we have opened two further areas of work:
  • The potential use of national and international open data for RIS3 monitoring;
  • The evaluation of RIS3.

Related documents

Leaflet: Smart Specialisation for Lagging Regions
(405 KB - PDF)

Latest news

News article |
POINT Review of Industrial Transition of Greece

Greece is setting its sight to a sustainable future that also leads to increased prosperity and greater social cohesion. Building on stakeholder consultations and extensive research following the POINT (Projecting Opportunities for INdustrial Transitions) methodology of the JRC, the review...

View More 


Smart Specialisation Strategies in Portugal
The event aimed to bring together policy-makers, entrepreneurs, academia, and citizens to contribute to the debate on how to improve the governance and “Entrepreneurial Discovery Process” of Smart Specialisation Strategy in Portugal.
Working Group Understanding and Managing Industrial Transitions: Findings of Reviews of Industrial Transition & Launch of Support Coalitions 14-15 July 2020 – ONLINE MEETING (all times CET)
The 3rd Working Group meeting is held virtually and will feature the findings and recommendations of the JRC Industrial Transition Reviews of Andalusia, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania. The reviews focus on an industrial theme of growing global importance suggested by the relevant government...
View More 


Territorial impact and responses to COVID-19 in Lagging Regions

The impact of COVID-19 has been asymmetrical, and the crisis has exposed the inequality and vulnerability of certain groups and territories. Places that were more connected had earlier cases but have tended to show greater resilience whereas weaker regions, smaller firms and disadvantaged workers...

Jayne Woolford
POINT Review of Industrial Transition of Greece

Greece is setting its sight to a sustainable future that also leads to increased prosperity and greater social cohesion. Building on stakeholder consultations and extensive research following the POINT (Projecting Opportunities for INdustrial Transitions) methodology of the JRC, the review...

JANSSEN Matthijs; TOLIAS Yannis; PONTIKAKIS Dimitrios
Interregional Cooperation and Smart Specialisation: a Lagging Regions Perspective

The aim of the present report is to explore key aspects of interregional and international cooperation in order to better understand whether and how they contribute to strengthening innovation ecosystems and interact and influence Smart Specialisation Strategies. The potential for lagging regions...

Jayne Woolford, Effie Amanatidou Elisa Gerussi, Mark Boden
View More