Higher Education for Smart Specialisation, A Handbook

Publication article | | Woolford, J and Boden, M (2021) (eds)

The Higher Education in Smart Specialisation (HESS) project has been developed in collaboration with DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (EAC) since 2016 and seeks to engage stakeholders from Higher Education in regional development processes and regional innovation ecosystems to ensure places contribute to local and broader European growth and transformation. This Handbook is the result of more than four years of analysis and cooperation with regions on how Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the design and implementation of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3), as part of the 'Higher Education for Smart Specialisation' (HESS) project. This new edition retains the core aim of supporting both regions and HEIs in the implementation of smart specialisation and the effective dissemination and application of knowledge through cooperation as well as the supply of high-quality human capital.


Smart specialisation was introduced under Cohesion Policy in the 2014-2020 programming period and sought to ensure the prioritisation of funding in areas where territories could have a competitive advantage. The policy is founded upon an Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) that mobilises the key research and innovation stakeholders in the region to jointly analyse and exploit regional strengths and potentials. Smart specialisation links higher education institutions to their territories: the places where universities are based matter. Higher education - at the interface of research, education and innovation - is a key asset in boosting regional growth and green and digital transitions. In the 2021-2027 programming period there is an enhanced focus upon the development of human capital as part of the Smart Specialisation process under the ERDF specific objective “Skills for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship”. This handbook responds to the incorporation of the seven fulfilment criteria for good governance in smart specialisation in the new regulatory framework but from the perspective of Higher Education. HEIs should be involved from the early definition of the S3 governance structures and priority areas and contribute across the three HEI missions (research, teaching and outreach/community) and S3 governance levels (strategic, technical and bottom up). However, differences among HEIs and higher education systems, each with their own regulatory arrangements, strategic priorities, capacities and profiles imply varying contributions to and roles within the design and implementation of S3. The HEI fit within the innovation system i.e. the organisational and policy context within which they operate, their geographical scope and location, as well as their alignment with S3 objectives result in diverse levels, types and themes for engagement.

HESS Handbook(Online).pdf
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