The first dissemination event of the Online S3 project was held on March 23rd, 2017 in Brussels and gathered more than 40 participants from regional administrations, EU institutions, research organisations, consultancies and other relevant stakeholder groups. The aim of the workshop was to showcase the findings of the EU wide mapping of methods used by regional and national partnerships to develop Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3). In addition, we captured the stakeholder needs for online tools that support RIS3 cycle from strategy design, through implementation, to effective investment in transformative innovation that boosts regional development.
To recap, the ambitions of the Online S3 project are to: (1) Provide advanced strategic planning methods for the design of Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3); (2) Provide rich datasets guiding the design, implementation, and assessment of RIS3; (3) Standardise the RIS3 design and implementation based on the state-of-the-art methodologies; and (4) Make available and Online S3 platform with multiple software applications that are open and accessible to all EU regions.
The panel discussion convened four experts representing their personal perspectives enriched through experience from three different European Commission Directorates (DG Regional Policy, DG Joint Research Centre, and DG Research and Innovation), and one EU Region (Helsinki-Uusimaa, Finland). The panel discussion was moderated by Mr. Richard Tuffs from the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN). The aim of the panel discussion was to gather different viewpoints on what are the needs for S3 partnerships to enhance the RIS3 process. Also, the panel members were asked to critically reflect on the project consortium’s ideas for online tools able to support the ongoing entrepreneurial discovery process in EU regions.
Mr. Jan Larosse, seconded national expert at DG REGIO, stressed the new EC Smart Specialisation Communication in preparation and the importance of the community of practice that has been established in the EU around the S3 concept. He mentioned that it is very important to capitalise on the existing knowledge and link the Online S3 endeavours with other existing initiatives, including those from: (1) the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission; (2) the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME); (3) the European Cluster Observatory; and (4) the KETs Observatory. He also highlighted the importance to find the best complementarities for all intelligence platforms that are currently available.
Mr. Larosse also provide the consortium with an extremely important suggestion to consider: to understand who will be the users of the Online S3 platform in order to clearly identify their specific needs. He stressed that the focus should be on the diversity of users of the S3 community of practice. In addition, he suggested it is important that the tools facilitate decision making among stakeholders. In his view, one of the key questions for the project should be how the designed web-based functionalities can contribute to this process.
After the presentation of all proposed tools for the Online S3 platform, Mr. Larosse said that strategic decision makers will not necessarily go through all the proposed tools, and hence Online S3 will only be a part of the process. Data, tools and methods are part of a governance process and it will never be aside of it. Online S3 should therefore find a way to connect its tools with the governance of regions.
In relation to specific tools, Mr. Larosse underlined that specific investment indicators as well as value chain indicators would be very useful for regions and policymakers. Finally, he suggested that value chain analyses should not only look at competitors, but also at collaborators.
Jens Sorvik, researcher at the EC Joint Research Centre, commented that the results of the project on the mapping of methods are very interesting and useful. He expressed some concerns in relation to the data sources used for the development of the Online S3 applications, and suggested to have a reduced amount of data on the Online S3 Platform, and rather provide links to the existing sources.
Mr. Sorvik also suggested: (1) the project should make use of regional cohesion data from DG REGIO, which is a very good source for benchmarking purposes; and (2) data is important in supporting the development of Smart Specialisation Strategies, but what really matters is the people involved in the design and implementation process of such strategies. He was unsure whether it is possible to involve all regional stakeholders in the process, and hence it is a priority to understand who should be involved and how.
Mr. Dimitri Corpakis, the former Head of Unit at DG Research and Innovation, started his intervention by saying that Online S3 is a very interesting project, but he pointed out that sometimes quantitative methods can be misleading. Therefore, he does not find surprising that EU regions have been using the simplest tools to developer their RIS3. He also questioned what would be the value of the research and which are the limits to the models proposed.
Mr. Corpakis stressed that it is very important to think about the sustainability of the Online S3 Platform. Streamlining some of the components presented for the tools is also necessary. In his view, participatory platforms and forums will continue to drive the RIS3 design process.
Ms. Krista Taipale, the Head of the EU office of Helsinki region, particularly liked the approach that Online S3 has deployed to have a large stakeholder involvement. She also highlighted the importance of citizens involvement in S3 implementation processes and asked to remember that how the inhabitants of the regions are benefiting from S3 is fundamental, as well as to increase the possibilities of dialogue among all relevant stakeholders. Then, in relation to the digital tools presented, she concluded by mentioning the need for professional training, in order for regional governments to acquire the knowledge they need to properly use the tools.
Moderated Q&As with the audience
Following the panel discussion, questions were taken from the audience. Several participants were keen to understand whether RIS3 2.0 will be a reality for the next programming period after 2020. Even though EC representatives were not able to answer this question with an official position, the panel of experts agreed that there is a strong feeling that the RIS3 approach will remain very relevant in the years to come.
Mr. Jan Larosse mentioned that regions are still very important and the impetus on RIS3 will most likely continue. Industrial policy is also likely to remain central in the agenda. RIS3 is indisputably considered as a good approach for regional innovation policy. And the panel of experts also agreed that ONLINE S3 has a lot of potential to support the RIS3 2.0 process.
Originally written by Luca Mora.
You can find more about the Online-S3 project here.