Urenio Watch Watch: Smart Growth

Report: Smart Specialisation at City Level

infocus1URBACT, the European Programme focused on cities, presents in this report the results of the IN Focus transnational exercise. This act constitutes a pioneering initiative, trying to explore the urban agenda on economic development in terms of smart specialisation.

The rationale for IN FOCUS, as drafted in this baseline report, is an attempt to complement both the smart specialisation concept and the RIS3 method as they have been assumed by the EC so far. It is not at all a call to reproduce the RIS3 method down to the local level, which would lead to more fragmentation. It is just a look at both, from the city perspective and pursuing a double aim. First, re-invigorating the urban agenda on business led economic development by means of smart specialization as overarching approach. That is, testing how the concept of smart specialisation may foster and refine the work cities and their stakeholders are doing (or can do) in four key areas, namely: cluster development, entrepreneurship, workspace provision and investment attraction.

Secondly and at the same time, making a bridge with the existing RIS3 at regional level, since it is commonly recognized the role of core and main cities in the processes that have led to the different RIS3 formulations across the EU, has been rather superficial, roughly speaking. Now, at the time of implementation, those core and main cities feel they have much to contribute in moving RIS3 ´s visions and roadmaps forward. It is not only a matter of alignment, it is also about the need to rise the status of some innovative main cities in industrial and innovation policy-making.

After presenting a thorough state-of-the-art regarding smart specialisation at the regional level of analysis, some initial attempts to fill the gap between regions and cities. Moreover, a total number of 10 cities are included in this report, for which a comprehensive description referring to their economic development profiles is also illustrated.


City-region articulation on smart specialisation should be much more than matchmaking between sectoral priorities defined at RIS3 level and those identified at local level. The city, in particular main and core urban areas, has much wider potential to contribute actively for moving forward in the direction set by regional RIS3. Of course, matchmaking between priority clusters and technology domains at both regional and local level must be a line of work, but not the only one.

You can download the full baseline report here.