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The policy making process in national level RIS3


Written by Áron Szenes

Reviewed by David Walburn

 

The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS process

What can be expected?

A quote

References

Acknowledgements

Expert's comments

 

The concept


In the 2014-2020 programming period, the research, development and innovation processes of the national economies and their successful socio-economic utilization are set as priorities in the European Union in order to maintain and increase the economic role of the Community and the wellbeing of the Member States. The most important objectives of the seven years are: 1) making Europe a world-class science performer; 2) eliminating the barriers to innovation; 3) strengthening cooperation between the public and private sectors.

It is important, that all nations and territorial units develop their own research and innovation strategy in coordination with each other. These strategies are to ensure that the financial support available from the Structural Fund – as a key instrument of the cohesion policy – can be used in a coordinated manner, building on national and regional synergies.

Increasing the competitiveness of the Community, the strategies define that which Member State could be the best in which area of research, development and innovation, based on the actual situation. This means a certain level of division of labour and territorial specialisation that would facilitate EU level co-ordination and help to avoid parallel/unnecessary developments. These documents are the smart specialisation strategies (also known as RIS3 or S3), and are similar to other innovation strategies that were prepared in previous programming periods, but differ from their ancestors:

  • the local target audience and resources are widely involved in the strategy-building;
  • the emphasis is moved from technological research and development to fostering the full process of innovation;
  • it is not only “best practice adoption”, but the strategies strongly build upon the economic competitive advantages and future potentials while recognizing the unique strengths and values of the areas.

The preparation of the smart specialisation strategies is not only a recommendation, but has also been incorporated into the EU body of law. Regulation 1303/2013 EU provides that a Member State may receive EU funds to strengthen research, development and innovation (RDI), as well as the development of information and communication technologies only if that country has a smart specialisation strategy and it is ensured that the national grants will be in accordance with the objectives set out in the S3 document. So, the preparation of the S3 documents is a requirement, a precondition to supporting research, development and innovation in all Member States.

 

How to implement it?


Every Member States prepare their own S3 document(s) in accordance with the rigorous methodological framework predefined by the EU.

In the course of the planning process, local stakeholders – which are the most important from the point of view of S3 – have taken consensus-based decisions on future innovative areas, industries, technologies which have the potential to bring long-term development to the region. This happens on the basis of the continued and systematic detection and analysis of the economy and the society of the region through the eyes of the entrepreneurs and along the interactions of other groups as well (governmental institutions, research organizations and innovation consumers), yet avoiding the dominance of enterprises. This is known as the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP). This is the only manner the national smart specialisation strategy can become qualified to encourage the society to adopt a common vision of development and modernisation, and also provide a strategic framework for the efficient and effective use of resources.

Therefore, the S3 governance structure should be primarily connected to the EU institutional system, which allocates the resources, also taking into account the resources outside the Structural Funds, the sources of which can either be European or national, public or private. Several sources of financing have been always present in the funding of innovation processes and innovation activities. Accordingly, the governance system shall be well prepared for the challenging tasks of coordination and prioritisation among specific development projects and organizations.

 

Step in the RIS process


While setting up an S3 governance structure, it is highly important to develop a stable network which can be an efficient management body in the scientific and RDI system of a country. A key task of the S3 management system is to strengthen the social dissemination and recognition of knowledge, technology and innovation, which can be based on the research and development expenditures involved in the reforms.

The national S3 is intended to provide a point of origin and a framework for the planning processes and implementation related to the RDI activities. But a smart specialization strategy also aims to further develop existing innovation activities, strengthen the specific regional conditions in order to develop a specialised RDI system that will be competitive internationally through its efficient resource absorption and resource utilisation ability. These focuses require the cautious and precise adjustment of an S3 governance structure.

All steps are important.

 

What can be expected?


Smart specialization is a new type of approach of the European Union, which facilitates the targeted support of the RDI directions and processes, thereby promoting the knowledge-based economic development of the regions, while observing the local needs and opportunities. The S3 process is designed to enable the individual Member States and regions to further stimulate their innovation systems by 2020, so that they could significantly improve the competitiveness of their economies (and thus the European Union) and develop a sustainable knowledge-based economy.

Another comprehensive task of the national S3 is to foster stakeholders, namely the public administration, the economy and the civil society, to jointly manage their adaptation in the rapidly changing world of technology and markets, which results the increased responsiveness of national STI policies. The effects of modernization appear in macro and micro levels as well, social harmony is established and trends allow for social equilibrium come to the fore. As a result, a strong STI ecosystem and an internationally competitive specialization–learning–alignment process which works on the long term can be implemented and achieved.

 

A quote


"The quantity of scientific people is the real power of the nation.” from István Széchenyi (Credit, 1830)

 

References


 

Acknowledgements


The author express his thanks to Mr. Máté Pecze, Mr. Gergely Bozsó and Mr. András Hlács for their highly valuable comments and suggestions and the critical reading and editing of the manuscript.

 

Mr Áron Szenes


Áron Szenes holds a Ph.D. in Biology, Structural Biology and Bioinformatics. Also has a Biology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry MSc degree and a teaching MA degree. His current position is Consultant in the Department of Strategy of National Innovation Office (Hungary). He has been highly involved in the design of the Hungarian National Smart Specialisation Strategy as a member of S3 Management Team. He is a member of OECD’s Working Party on Biotechnology and OECD’s Working Party on Nanotechnology. He is a National Contact Point of “Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing” programme of Horizon 2020.

 

Expert's comments


The principal value of this paper is to give a clear summary of how policy-making at the national level should take place under RIS3. The European Union is a very complex organisation, and the Commission needs to be very clear about how its policies are to be implemented, especially when all Member States with all their contrasting sizes and circumstances are expected to contribute to the realisation of the strategic objectives set by the Council of Ministers. The theoretical framework for achieving this must be clear. One of the criticisms of the Lisbon Agenda was that it was light in this area and for Europe 2020 there was a much more explicit attempt to timetable the objectives of the programme and to involve Member States in the feedback on progress.

So far, so good.

However, it is important for economic developers to remember that they are working in the real world and to adjust what they do, and their expectations accordingly. The sure way for economic development agencies to become marginalised and irrelevant is for their leaders to fall for the rhetoric which always accompanies grand strategies. The main article rightly states that the objective of RIS3 is “to enable the individual Member States and regions to further stimulate their innovation systems by 2020, so that they could significantly improve the competitiveness of their economies (and thus the European Union) and develop a sustainable knowledge-based economy”. The problem is that in the real world, the policies of austerity designed to protect the euro are causing the economies of many countries and regions to contract, so that instead of cohesion being the outcome of public policy, it is increased divergence.  The political pressures on both national and regional policy making in these circumstances are likely to differ markedly in their priorities to those of long standing EU programmes. Simply saying that smart specialisation strategies have more force because they have been incorporated in EU law will not change the political imperative.

The challenge for economic developers is to find a way of continuing with policies to boost innovation whilst dealing positively with the impact of the negative pressure imposed upon them in the much more complex real world. 

 

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.

davidwalburn@europe.com

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