Monthly Archives: July 2013

Smart Specialisation and RIS3

Smart Specialisation, under RIS3, is defined by the Joanneum Research Institute in Graz as “an entrepreneurial process of discovery, identifying where a region can benefit from specialisation in a particular area of science and technology.”

RIS3 (Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy) is the implementation of this concept by the European Commission, which requires the design of a research and development strategy, beginning with a consensus view of the transformation of regional economy into something more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

One of the key missions of this program is the proper use of Structural Funds, which can be used more effectively and to increase synergies between different EU, national and regional policies, as well as public and private investments.

 According to the Commission, smart specialisation is essential for really effective investment in research and innovation. In the European Commission’s proposal on cohesion policy in the 2014-2020 period there will be a precondition for the use of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in 2014-2020 to support these investments.

Some RIS3 policy objectives that I would like to emphasize are:

– Making innovation a priority for all regions. In this sense, the statement that “Europe 2020 requires that policy makers consider the interrelationship of different aspects of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” is very important.

– Focusing on investment and closing synergies: “RIS3 focuses economic development efforts and investments in the relative strengths of each region, and European funding complements private investment.”

– Improving the innovation process, establishing priorities in the context of strategic intelligence on the assets of a region, its challenges, its competitive advantages and potential for excellence.

– Developing and implementing strategies for economic transformation, which include:

  1. Technological diversification from existing specialisations in related fields
  2. Development of new economic activities through radical technological change and cutting-edge innovations
  3. Taking advantage of new forms of innovation, such as open and user-driven innovation, social innovation and service innovation.
  4. Making regions more visible for international investors by focusing on what gives a region its greatest competitive potential.

In this sense, the European Commission stresses that it is important to highlight the experience of a region in an area of ​​knowledge or market niche and help increase specialisation. To achieve this it has launched a Smart Specialisation Platform (Eye @ RIS3), supervised by a management team with experts from the European Commission and Mirror Groups of “high level” European experts.

As a result, if you look at this platform and the results of specialisation in European regions and their target markets, we find the following:vRIS3 is undoubtedly a breakthrough with clear strategic value for Europe 2020, based on the specialisation of regions and therefore decentralization, rather than “coffee for everyone” as we say in Spanish. This program, therefore, suggests regional competitiveness, establishing a roadmap between industrial sectors and emerging technologies (which in our terminology would be the Ecosystems). However, if you look at the discussions happening in some regions, in Spain and in the rest of Europe, it seems that the sources of these regional competitive advantages must be based on the organic development of existing sectors by applying technological innovation. The possibility of building new regional ecosystems does not seem to be taken into consideration (for example, nanocellulose as a potential substitute for graphene).

In my opinion, it would have been interesting if RIS3 had clearly defined what industrial capabilities, industries and ecosystems are.

If industrial capabilities can be defined as a set of skills and knowledge for the development of business activities, such as electrochemical capabilities, the modification of aluminum or plastic, 3D design, etc.; if “industry” implies the grouping of different economic sectors such as the textile industry, services, aeronautics, etc.; and if the ecosystems are intelligent groupings of disruptive technologies (such as energy storage, neural networks, smart grids, biomaterials, etc.), then you should think seriously about the basic capabilities of a region and their connection with ecosystems, which would lead to the following scenarios (Spanish Version):

Image                 Source: 4Innovation

As can be seen, ecosystems define Innovation Routes or Maps as strategic goals, while the industrial sectors demand innovation as a starting point for competitive growth. The bridge between them is precisely the existing industrial capabilities that can be used in the construction of ecosystems, from the metalworking industry to the medical devices ecosystem, from the textile industry to the ecosystem of intelligent components, and so on.

Starting out with what Spain already has just to reach the same point does not seem to be a suitable route. To set out with what we have in order to reach new “blue oceans” is the true path of innovation.

This strategy is, in my opinion, the basis of the current strategic concept in a complicatedly systemic economic world. A world in which the future is not in any particular industry but in a blend of all of them. A world in which growth results from the application of innovation capabilities to different industries (in the way Apple or Samsung have done, from their innovation capabilities to books, music, video, movie rentals, TV, etc.).

Today innovation is the road to competitiveness: building competitive factors which provide us with windows of differentiation rather than large scale competition. And that, looking towards RIS3, would mean building innovation ecosystems and regional cells, based on our skills and lateral thinking (crossnovation), as networking would turn Spain into an interesting market for investment and divestment.

And here’s an interesting thought from RIS3: Regions must be more specialised in order to be smarter … but they have to be very smart in order to specialise really well.

Carlos Marquerie

CEO of 4 Innovation


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