Smart specialisation strategies (RIS3) represent one of the most ambitious regional innovation policies launched in the EU and represent a major challenge for some governments. While developing a smart specialisation strategy has not been an entirely new adventure for the Basque Country, there is enough novelty in the RIS3 process to generate a challenge even for the more mature regional innovation policy systems.
The recently published Orkestra report builds on previous analysis on the early implementation of the Basque Country RIS3 (Aranguren et al, 2016) and explores how the processes initially launched have evolved since then. The report focuses on the 2016-2019 period and takes into consideration the results of 28 interviews to key players of the Basque RIS3 process.
The analysis finds significant changes in the governance of the entrepreneurial discovery processes of the three strategic priority areas (advanced manufacturing, energy and bio-health) and the four opportunity niches (ecosystems, food, urban habitat and creative and cultural industries). These changes are materialising both in players’ engagement and in the strategy they are following.
The report presents six major conclusions that are the basis for recommendations for the future:
- In line with a ‘live strategy’, a new configuration of priorities is emerging
- There is an increasing transversality, when it identifies as priority themes such as internationalisation, skills, new business models and entrepreneurship
- Engaging SMEs remains a big challenge; the Basque experience shows the key role of cluster associations, local development agencies and vocational training centres
- The integration of social challenges (and civil society) remains a key challenge. We could get inspiration from the Agenda 2030, transformative innovation policy or mission-oriented policy approaches
- There is a specific need for larger and more integrated projects. This will require further adaptation actions in the implementation and policy mix
- There is a need to work in making the regions “voice” heard in the EU decision-making dynamics and to strengthen coordination across regional initiatives.
The evolution of the entrepreneurial discovery process observed in the Basque Country sheds light on some of the key issues of the RIS3 development across Europe. These include the experimentalist nature of the policy, the necessary reform of research and innovation systems, the importance of monitoring and evaluation as a strategic diagnosis tool, and the need to re-enforce synergies between the different EU policy instruments and between the European regions.
You can read the full report at this page.