S3 – Smart Specialisation Strategy

Cohesion Policy programming 2014-2020 focuses on innovation-driven socio-economic development of territories, through innovative multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance – namely, the Smart Specialisation Strategy (hereinafter S3), aimed at identifying R&D&I investment priorities that complement the resources and production capacity of a territory to build comparative advantages and sustainable growth paths in the medium and long term.

Investment priorities are identified based upon an interactive process of public-private cooperation defined as an entrepreneurial discovery process –i.e., entrepreneurs endowed with scientific, technological and engineering expertise as well as market knowledge produce and share information on new economic activity domains in which the territory excels or has the potential to excel in the future, and any limits or constraints to be managed; and, in response, the public sector generates ad-hoc policy initiatives. The General Regulation establishing common provisions on European Structural and Investment Funds (Reg. (EU) No. 1303/2013) identifies smart specialisation strategies as ex-ante conditionality for using available resources to strengthen research, technological development and innovation (TO 1).

Both regional and national S3 thus represent the strategic framework to design and implement research, technological development and innovation policy interventions; moreover, due to their nature as development strategies, S3 also guide the reference policies of other Thematic Objectives (TOs) – primarily, TO 2 “Improving access to and the use and quality of ICTs”, and TO 3 “Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises, the agricultural sector and the fisheries and aquaculture sector”.

Italy has twenty-one regional S3 and one national S3.

The Territorial Cohesion Agency’s Project “Support to NSSS and RIS3 implementation and monitoring” is dedicated to S3 topics (funded by “PON Governance e Capacità Istituzionale 2014-2020” (Action 3.1.1)). In 2018 the Agency established the National Lab on R&I Policies” to foster ad-hoc interaction between regional and national administrations and other innovation ecosystem actors involved in implementing and redesigning the Strategies.

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