The origin of the interest of Tunisia in the Smart Specialisation approach dates back to 2015, the year of publication of the report "PASRI - Support Project for the Research and Innovation System" (PASRI, 2015). Funded by the European Union as part of a larger program, PASRI carried out the first in-depth study of the Tunisian research and innovation system.
Following PASRI, Tunisia has shown a great interest to adopt a Smart Specialization strategy. In 2016 through the National Agency for the Promotion of Scientific Research (ANPR), the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR) introduced this concept to R&I ecosystem stakeholders with a first seminar for senior decision-makers including different ministries, regional leaders, representatives of the private sector, and civil society. The event was organized with the support of the EC TAIEX instrument. Since then, several actions and events followed such as:
- The participation of ANPR at the international workshop “Smart specialisation and strategy training in EU enlargement and associated countries” organized by JRC in Seville in January 2017.
- The visit in Tunisia in November 2017 by DG NEAR and JRC representatives, which was the occasion to gather actors from the MHESR, the Ministry of Economy, as well as other relevant stakeholders.
- The participation of ANPR, IRADA, Ministry of development, investment and international cooperation at the international workshop “TAIEX multi-country workshop on S3 in the Enlargement and Neighbourhood region” organized by JRC in Ukraine in 2018.
- The participation at the “Roundtable on Smart specialisation in Africa” in the framework of “2018 SMARTER conference on Smart Specialisation and Territorial Development” organized by JRC and the Regional Studies Association in Seville in 2018.
- The participation at the “Third Expert Group Meeting on STI Roadmaps for SDGs” with an intervention on “The opportunity of S3 as a STI tool for achieving the SDGs” organized by the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Team on STI for SDGs in collaboration with G-STIC and the JRC, in Brussels in November 2018.
- The participation at the workshop “Smart Specialisation Strategies and Sustainable Development Goals” organized by the JRC in Seville in February 2019.
- Organization of a workshop in the framework of the “Journées ANPR” with JRC participation, in March 2019.
In 2018, the Smart Specialisation process was formally launched in Tunisia through an official request that was sent by the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Investment Support to the European Commission. Following this step, a national inter-ministerial Smart Specialisation team was established.
Tunisia has undertaken preparatory actions mobilising Smart Specialisation team and exploring opportunities in launching S3 in three pilot regions; Bizerte in the north, Sfax in the center, and Medenine in the south.
In particular, ANPR in collaboration with the Regional Initiative to Support Sustainable Economic Development (IRADA) Program has worked on the application of the Smart Specialization approach in the three pilot regions by organizing several awareness events and promoting the experimentation in Sfax.