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Smart Specialisation for Regional Innovation (SmartSpec)

Smart Specialisation or RIS3 (Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation) is central to the European Union’s support for economic development through research and innovation.

Introduced in 2014, the preparation of RIS3 by national or regional authorities is a requirement for the receipt of funds through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The concept has been rapidly introduced and many are critical of its implementation, and of its aspirations.

Financed by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, the aim of SmartSpec (Smart Specialisation for Regional Innovation) was to provide substance, guidance and practical support to operationalise the concept of smart specialisation. It did so through a mix of academic and more practice-orientated activities guided by an ethos of developing results that will be useful to actors in different regional contexts. It did this by strengthening the analytical underpinnings of the smart specialisation concept, providing methodological guidance for practice and generating strategic intelligence for policy-makers.

Key themes

An international team of researchers, led by Cardiff University, addressed the following key themes:

  • the identification of institutional and systemic bottlenecks for smart specialisation and the possible need for reforms in a comparative perspective
  • the role of organisations and their interaction for the development and implementation of smart specialisation strategies
  • an assessment of the challenge for Member States and regions with less-developed research and innovation systems to design and maximise the impact of their smart specialisation strategies
  • the link between smart specialisation and social innovation: the role of social innovation in smart specialisation: social innovation as public service innovation, involvement of users and citizens in processes of design and decision
  • supporting the production of better metrics, evaluation and monitoring of smart specialisation strategies and the design of an asset-based multi-sectoral policy mix
  • development of processes of peer review assessment of strategies.


The findings of the project have been reported through thematic seminars, conferences and in a series of publications, briefing papers and newsletters.

The project team

Project leads

Professor Kevin Morgan

Professor Kevin Morgan

Professor of Governance and Development

Dr Adrian Healy

Principal Research Fellow