A S3 should prioritise domains, areas and economic activities where regions or countries have a competitive advantage or have the potential to generate knowledge-driven growth and to bring about the economic transformation needed to tackle the major and most urgent challenges for the society and the natural and built environment. The number and nature of these priorities will vary from region to region. Note however, that although a first set of priorities should be identified when the S3 is designed, they can be changed or modified when new information/developments make it advisable.
Priorities could be framed in terms of knowledge fields or activities (not only science-based, but also social, cultural and creative ones), sub-systems within a sector or cutting across sectors and corresponding to specific market niches, clusters, technologies, or ranges of application of technologies to specific societal and environmental challenges or health and security of citizens (e.g. ICT for active ageing, mobility solutions to reduce traffic congestion, innovative material solutions for eco-construction, etc.). While some regions or countries may prioritize one or more Key Enabling Technologies (KETs), others will focus on applications of such technologies to specific purposes or defined fields.
Social, organisational, market and service innovation, or practice-based innovation, play as important a role in S3 as technological innovation based on scientific research. This is especially relevant for regions with comparatively weaker technological and science basis. S3 involves not only radical innovation but also exploiting niches by innovating in traditional fields, through developing and applying new business or organizational models, and adapting/exploiting innovations deriving from tacit knowledge and experience in these areas.
Most often, prioritised choices of domains, areas or specific economic activities will be complemented by horizontal measures. These aim at realizing adequate framework conditions for entrepreneurship, supporting the operation of all types of firms both in domestic and international markets, and for developing inter-firm, inter-cluster, and cross-border collaborations.