When we heard about Smart Specialisation our first reaction was "What's new about this"? Innovation had for a long time been part of the development rhetoric and Finland had pursued a decentralised university system with the very purpose of stimulating regional development. Our region had access to both regional, national and EU policy instruments all with funds set aside for innovation.
In fact we were surrounded with numerous development ideas and instruments. However, instead of providing a return on investment we found that they actually caused fragmentation, duplication of effort and in some case even rivalry. The S3 process has helped us to address this. It is gradually gaining more momentum and we are also seeking to deepen our cooperation with European partners facing similar challenges.
It would be incorrect to say that Smart Specialisation has removed our challenges but it has provided us with a “tool-box” of core principles and a framework for European partnership. Focusing on issues driving innovation has also brought us closer to the partners within the business and research worlds.
We believe that the best route to economic development is through innovation. But at the end of day it is very difficult or even impossible to foresee or coordinate the process. All we can do therefore is to wear the 'spectacles' of different actors so we can understand how they see the world. This will provide a reference point for talking about innovation and allow people to tell us what we have not yet considered.