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Involvement of policy makers in RIS3 on regional level - case of Hajdu-Bihar

Tensions between regional RIS3 expectations and centralised Member States

Written by András Ibrány and Zoltán Balogh

Reviewed by David Walburn


The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS process

What can be expected?

A quote

The experience of Hajdú-Bihar county

Expert's comments


The concept

The Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (S3 strategy) is a new approach providing knowledge based economic improvement and more focused support of research and development and innovation (R+D+I). The main idea behind S3 strategy is to analyse main characteristics and challenges of different regions and, afterwards, to identify local economic and R+D+I specialities of the largest potential.

Any S3 strategy could not be successful without building on local decison making processes and bottom-up approach. The main objectives of this process are to become aware of local possibilities and to identify those sectors and sub-sectors a region has comparative advantage no matter if it is high-tech or low-tech sector.


How to implement it

Although S3 is a general method for all EU Member States, but it should be noted that there are different constitutional territorial modells in Europe:

  1. Unitary state: in general one-level territorial system with centralized executive power, based on self-governments of regions

We should talk about a special group of countries which has not got a territorial self-government system, the regions/counties are directed by state administrative units (e.g. Greece, Finland, Luxemburg).

  1. Federalist state: countries of the continent with multi-level territorial structure, with a high independence of the regions

Except federalist structures, other Member States can not fully follow and adopt the S3 methodology. Although partnership principle and bottom-up planning is ensured in a way, but at the end the process result in a central strategy which is implemented by the central government.


Step in the RIS process

In such unitary states, S3 strategy documents and priority structures are synthetized on national level to develop a unified national document that effectively helps to implement and meet the expectations of the Europe 2020 Strategy and fulfil the requirements of ex-ante conditionalities. At the end of the process S3 strategy provides access for the availability of certain Structural Funds in the period of 2014-2020.

The way Member States are taking the views of local regional stakeholders and aggregating them in Step 3 (Vision) and Step 4 (Identification of priorities) can be a source of tensions. This will certainly be the case if a region has unique niches of specialisation that do not have a significant market share in the national economy.


What can be expected

The main driving force behind S3 strategy is to identify special R+D+I opportunities and break out points where a region/county may have comparative advantages. If in a unitary state a region/county has determined its S3 strategy priorities, a well organised financing system should be taken into place to implement the whole strategy by financing R+D+I investments in the region/county.

However in unitary states of the European Union S3 strategy planning and implementation structure at the moment is not willing to finance implementation on territorial basis. Besides the EU funds for which to access S3 is an ex-ante conditionality, no further allocations are available for the regions/counties. In order to make the process more effective during implementation a territorial financial support system should be available in unitary states as well, where financial decentralisation is on a lower level contrary to federalist countries. This allocated regional/county funds would better assist the individual region/county-level implementation of the national S3 strategies in unitary states. It would also help that local, county or regional level politicians would use the S3 strategy equally as any other document adopted for their territory’s regional development.


A quote

The development of national level S3 strategy in unitary states of Europe is a good tool to identify R+D+I break out points not only for the national but for the regional/county level that could boost economic development and serve the implementation of Europe 2020 strategy objectives. However, the most effective way to do this would be to provide financial support to region/county level strategies instead of financing only a national S3 strategy.


The experience of Hajdú-Bihar county

Stakeholders in Hungary have the opportunity to take part in the development of S3 strategy as bottom-up approach requires. According to the directions of National Innovation Office, there are two occasions in the process where local actors are directly involved into the process: the 1st workshop is to identify county level priorities (4-6) reflecting economic character of the county, and the 2nd workshop to evaluate national level S3 strategy document.

The 1st workshop was organised on 18th September 2014 in Debrecen, the county seat of Hajdú-Bihar County by the Head of Government Offices, where local companies, universities, clusters, chambers etc. were invited to identify smart specialisational priorities of Hajdú-Bihar County. More than 100 stakeholders were invited and almost 50 of them represented themselves at the workshop, where they identified 6 different smart sepcialisation priorites:

  • health-care sector
  • food processing industry
  • electronics, machine manufacturing
  • ICT
  • agriculture
  • renewable energies
  • material science

To assist buttom-up development processes and the work of county level workshops, the National Innovation Office prepared county profiles based on statistical data which document analyses institutional, human and financial capacities of Hajdú-Bihar County. The synthesis of the named priorities and county profile is carried out by the National Innovation Office. In the frame of another workshop on 16th October 2014, stakeholders had the chance to have an insight into the county-level synthesis and the draft version of the national S3 strategy and, naturally, to make any comment and corrections if required.

The decision making structure of the development of the national S3 strategy is the following in Hungary:

  • Central S3 Strategy Organisation: the working group of the National Innovation Office and Prime Minister’s Office that coordinates the development of S3 strategy
  • Interdeparmental Working Group: this organisation involves ministries and managing authorities to involve sectoral coordination and information on the planning procedures of 2014-2020 financial period of the European Union
  • National Coordinator Body: coordination of planning and development processes of S3 strategy involving Head of Government Offices, Presidents of County Councils and Professional Bodies
  • Professional Body: consists of representatives of economic, scientific and civil stakeholders to provide proefessional opinion on the processes
  • County Working Groups: coordinated by the Head of Government Offices based on directions of Central S3 Strategy Organisation focusing on the involvement of local stakeholders

The development process of S3 strategy applies the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) that enables the achievement of the goals by continuous analysis and evaluation of information, involvement of local stakeholders and by taking risks of decision-making.

According to the planned implementation structure, all priorities identified by county stakeholders are synthetized with all other documents of other counties (19 in Hungary) and that process results in the national level S3 strategy.

In Hungary, around 2 billion Euros of funding will be available for beneficiaries within the Economic Development and Innovation Operational Programme to implement S3 strategy.


Mr András Ibrányi

András Ibrányi is a development manager at the Hajdú-Bihar County Council. His main tasks are to coordinate and help planning procedures in terms of Hajdú-Bihar County Development Programme that is mainly financed by Territorial Operational Programme 2014-2020 and to take part in the S3 strategy planning processes in Hajdú-Bihar County.


Mr Zoltán Balogh 

Zoltán Balogh Ph.D. was graduated as an economist at the Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration. Later gained his Ph.D. in regional management at the successor of this university (Corvinus University of Budapest). He is the head of unit of international affairs at the Észak-Alföld Regional Development Agency, previously working for 4 years at the Representation Office of Észak-Alföld Region in Brussels. He was member of the Programme Committee of the FP7 Regions of Knowledge and Research Potential between 2011-13, and vice-chair of ERRIN network between 2010-11.


Expert's comments

This paper gives a factual description of the early stages of the implementation of RIS3 Strategy in the Hajdú-Bihar County in Hungary. The process of setting up the preliminary workshops is described, with the various participating bodies and the way in which the priority sectors for innovation and funding were identified under the leadership of the County Council. The description may well by helpful to other regional authorities embarking on similar programmes, but with the relatively recent start of the process evaluation at this stage is not possible.


Mr David Walburn


After a career in business David Walburn joined Greater London Enterprise in 1986 where he was responsible for venture capital and other small business support, before becoming Chief Executive of the organisation. He was the Chair of the London Business Angels Network and played a key role in the setting up of the European Business Angels Network. He has worked with the UK government and the European Commission on developing public policy initiatives to improve the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. He was the Chair of Capital Enterprise, the umbrella body for organisations supporting micro business development in London, until 2012.

For the last ten years he has been a Visiting Professor at London South Bank University where he headed the Local Economy Policy Unit and was the managing editor of the journal Local Economy.

He has served as President of EURADA, and been a member of a number of advisory bodies of the European Commission.  He has been an active member of the International Economic Development Council in Washington DC and has a wide range of international contacts with economic development organisations.

He continues to write and lecture on small business finance and regional economic development.