Smart specialisation is an innovative policy concept which emphasizes the principle of prioritisation in a vertical logic (to favour some technologies, fields, population of firms) and defines a method to identify such desirable areas for innovation policy intervention. Its rationale involves both the fact that, even in the information age, the logic of specialisation is intact, particularly for small entities such as regional economies in Europe and the argument that the task of identification (of what should be prioritised) is very difficult and therefore needs a sophisticated policy design.
Smart specialisation is not a planning doctrine that requires a region to specialise in a particular set of industries. Instead, it seeks robust and transparent means for nominating those new activities, at regional level, that aim at exploring and discovering new technological and market opportunities and at opening thereby new domains for constructing regional competitive advantages. Thus, rather than offering a method for determining if a hypothetical region has a “strength” in a particular set of activities, e.g., tourism and fisheries, the crucial question is whether that region would benefit from and should specialise in certain R&D and innovation projects in some lead activities such as tourism or fisheries.
With this policy brief, it is our aim to set out a coherent vision of the goals of the policy approach that is evoked by the term smart specialisation. A second policy brief will be soon published and will explore the requirements and implications of operationalising that conceptualisation.