Aligning smart specialisation with transformative innovation policy

Publication article | | REID Alasdair; STEWARD Fred; MIEDZINSKI Michal

Countries and regions in Europe increasingly engage in new approaches to research and innovation policies aiming to address societal challenges and ambitious sustainability goals. This is partly in response to the increasing gravity and urgency of these challenges experienced across Europe and partly driven by EU and international policy strategies, notably the European Green Deal (EGD) and the UN 2030 Agenda. In recent years, smart specialisation strategies (S3) have emerged as an important testing ground for new generations of challenge-oriented research and innovation policies. National and regional governments – including Czechia featured in this report – use smart specialisation as a policy space to experiment with and implement new approaches to support transformative innovation and leverage system change towards sustainability. In 2018, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) started developing a new challenge-oriented approach to S3 to align it with the ambitions of the EGD and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Based on the literature review and co-creation with S3 practitioners, JRC proposed a framework for reflection for policymakers on how to embed sustainability goals in the S3 process. The S3 for SDGs approach is now among key approaches supporting the Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI) - a new voluntary policy initiative on transformative innovation policy co-led by the JRC and the Committee of the Regions.


The report provides guidance on applying a mission-oriented approach to smart specialisation strategies (S3) to address societal challenges and achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Challenge-led missions are systemic frameworks that help align S3 with ambitious societal goals, and provide strategic direction to the implementation of policy instruments and projects mobilised through S3. The report focuses on areas relevant to mission implementation, including framing challenge-led missions, designing policy mix for missions, developing concrete practises to support mission implementation, and adapting the monitoring and evaluation system. The authors propose mission-oriented roadmapping framework to improve the coherence and directionality of policy instruments and processes mobilised through missions. The report was prepared in close cooperation with policy makers from the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade responsible for the Czech national S3 strategy. The publication is aimed at policymakers in Europe and beyond who are responsible for designing and implementing innovation policies that address sustainability challenges and goals such as the SDGs.

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