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The potential of smart
specialisation strategies




Prof. Dominique Foray

Together with Prof. Dominique Foray, professor from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Prognos put together a policy brief on the potential of smart specialisation strategies (S3) for structural and transformation processes at regional level. The policy brief resulted from the collaborative work on previous studies on the topic of smart specialisation strategies on behalf of the European Commission. 

The policy brief shows the important contribution smart specialisation strategies can make to structural and transformation processes. Equally, in the context of smart specialisation strategies, the organisation of calls for projects is highlighted specifically as being central to their success.

Implementation makes all the difference

As guidance for political decision makers at national and regional level, the policy brief assessed the potential of smart specialisation strategies to contribute to structural transformation processes,

The results confirm that smart specialisation strategies can play an important role in structural and transformation processes. However, in order to reach their full potential, the new generation of innovation processes will have to find ways to resolve the tension between planned (top-down) and decentralised (bottom-up) activities through effective process control.

Smart specialisation strategies are characterised by a strong planning component. The planning rationale must, however, be complemented by a bottom-up process, thus, creating space for businesses to find their own solutions to specific problems, gaps, and possibilities in structural transformation.

Planning and bottom-up insights are thus two inseparable rationales of smart specialisation.

Furthermore, the paper illustrates that determining S3 priorities is not enough to ensure the implementation of transformation processes. In addition, the development of a transformation roadmap is required, and one which is implemented through the application of the right political instruments.

The paper shows that, for example, poorly designed calls for projects compromise effective transformation, in spite of S3 priorities.

The urgent recommendation is therefore to raise policy awareness of the importance of properly organising project calls such that the desired transformation can be implemented effectively.

Our approach

The policy brief is based on the results of the study on the prioritisation of smart specialisation strategies in the EU and a subsequent study on the topic.

A quantitative study design based on big data analysis was chosen to evaluate the key parameters of smart specialisation strategies.

Links and downloads

Policy brief (PDF)

Previous studies

Smart specialisation strategies (in German)
Subsequent study on smart specialisation strategies in the EU (in German)

Project team: Dr Jan-Philipp Kramer, Lennart Galdiga

Latest update: 07.11.2023

Do you have questions?

Your contact at Prognos

Dr Jan-Philipp Kramer

Partner, Head of EU Services

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Lennart Galdiga


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