What is Smart Specialisation?

The OECD describes Smart Specialisation as “a driving force that enables the exploitation of economies of scale and differentiation for the creation of economic value(1)”.  It is anticipated that, through focusing on a small number of identified specialisations, national and regional economies can promote new growth opportunities through innovation.  These specialisations are based on knowledge areas that are brought together through a process that the European Commission describes as one of 'entrepreneurial discovery'(2).  This involves businesses, universities, research institutions, governments and third sector bodies working together, often in autonomous ways.

To strengthen the smart specialisation process the European Commission has encouraged European Member States and regions to develop Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3).  These “are integrated, place-based economic transformation agendas”(3) that:

  • focus policy support and investments on key national/regional priorities, challenges and needs;
  • build on each country/region’s strengths, competitive advantages and potential for excellence;
  • support technological as well as practice-based innovation and aim to stimulate private sector investment;
  • fully involve stakeholders and encourage innovation and experimentation;
  • are evidence-based and include sound monitoring and evaluation systems.


  1. http://www.oecd.org/sti/inno/smartspecialisation.htm
  2. http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/informat/2014/smart_specialisation_en.pdf
  3. ibid

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement number 320131.