The region of Extremadura (Spain) has adopted an interesting approach to involving stakeholders in the RIS3 monitoring process, having created working groups by priority area, which meet regularly to discuss the strategy’s evolution. The new organisational setting is consolidating trust among territorial actors and capacity building for monitoring. At the same time, all participating actors are gaining an in-depth understanding of the development of the strategy.
Based in Badajoz, Fundecyt is the technology and innovation park in charge of the design and implementation of the Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) for Extremadura since its inception. It acts as the technical office for RIS3 whilst the General secretariat of science, technology, and innovation of Extremadura Regional Government is the decision-making body.
One major challenge is to maintain momentum and respond effectively to stakeholders' expectations. Members of the technical office for RIS3 have set a common base to understand more clearly the objective of these groups regarding the governance and the monitoring of the strategy. In that way, Fundecyt intends to develop a common vocabulary and mutual understanding of RIS3 trajectory in the region. It allows capacity building for monitoring and a better measurement of the changes that have occurred in the region thanks to RIS3 implementation.
Fundecyt has endorsed a bottom-up approach that involves regional actors in the governance and monitoring processes of RIS3. While the organisation has developed a series of results and output indicators, it engages with stakeholders to gather qualitative information and to develop a common reflection which supports the monitoring process as a whole. Working groups are in place for each priority areas and provide support in the implementation process by:
- Bringing qualitative information on the performance and impact of the measures developed;
- Giving advice and guidance on the formulation of the programs of Extremadura's RIS3.
The outcomes are shared with the relevant political representatives, thereby creating a direct link between the working groups and those in charge of making decisions. Moreover, all participating actors are developing a clear and in-depth understanding of the development of the strategy.
With regard to the composition of the working groups, they are about twelve to twenty-five stakeholders in each group. The selection process appears as a decisive step. The General Secretariat of Science, Technology, and Innovation of the regional government identifies the people, whilst Fundecyt invites them to join. Largely emanating from the triple helix, people are chosen according to their potential contribution to the task. Usually, they are recognised individuals in their field, be it on generation of knowledge and technology, entrepreneurial leadership, innovative dynamism, or their commitment to the territory and to previous stages of RIS3. Fundecyt identifies a leader for each group, who has the responsibility of coordinating the group, with the support of the RIS3 Technical office.
Since June 2017, the groups join together twice a year. For each meeting, Fundecyt prepares a report on the status of RIS3 implementation in the given priority area and circulates it in advance. The meetings share a common methodology across priorities:
1) presentation of the report; 2) open discussion; 3) launch of a questionnaire geared toward members, to gather information on their perception on the implementation of the strategy, the instruments available, the results obtained and future activities to be implemented, etc.
Each group is accompanied by a member of the RIS3 technical office as well as an innovation expert from the University of Extremadura. Together they ensure that the meetings and outcomes are framed accurately, to allow sound interpretation of the results of the conversation.
Some key results can be highlighted thus far. One is that stakeholders are inclined to share their thoughts and feel free to give their opinion. This is an important step for Fundecyt in its willingness to build trust among territorial actors. Furthermore, the organisation has gathered a good number of proposals to improve some of the policy instruments available within Extremadura RIS3.