Our S3 process has led to the formation of an innovative capacity building and advice facility called the Smart Specialisation Hub. This resulted from a process where newly established Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have been tasked with the delivery of smart specialisation, within the framework of nationally defined priorities.
At national level, 'Smart Specialisation in England' includes a number of broad priorities based on two strategic documents; the National Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth (2011) and the National Industrial Strategy (2013), the latter focussing on eleven industrial sectors and eight 'Great Technologies'.
At the same time, we have mobilised the LEPs as strategic local actors to stimulate smart specialisation. The UK government has taken the radical step of de facto devolution of over 96% of the entire allocation of ERDF and ESF to these local partnerships. They are currently refining their own priorities, with many establishing 'innovation boards' involving local universities.
Despite their relative infancy some LEPs have developed fully fledged strategies and took part in the S3 Platform peer review workshops (e.g. Manchester and Cornwall). Nevertheless, we recognised their need for more support. Taking inspiration from the S3 Platform, we have used ERDF technical assistance to set up the Smart Specialisation Hub, directed by a specific sub-committee of the ESIF PMC. The experience of LEPs and the Hub so far is that the real benefits of smart specialisation cannot be felt only through written strategies, but that the concept must continue to change the way people think and act.