As catalysts for innovation policy and growth, Smart Specialisation Strategies will be an important factor in the success of EU's cohesion policy in the next budget period. The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) calls on the European Commission to take this approach one step beyond by initiating a phase 2.0 of smart specialisation, based on developing a "regional discovery process" in which regions pool their strategies involving the interregional triple helices.
"Future smart specialisation strategies should be based on interregional strategic cooperation, with the double objective of generating synergies between regional innovation and development policies, and financial instruments, and, secondly, of avoiding duplication", explains rapporteur Mikel Irujo (ES/EA), Head of the Navarre Government Delegation in Brussels and member of ERRIN Management Board. His opinion was adopted unanimously at the CoR plenary session on Wednesday 16 May.
The concept of regional discovery should be "based on a bottom-up process where regional authorities share their development objectives with other EU regions, draw up lists of the main actors involved in development in their regions, make a joint assessment of their regions' shortcomings and challenges and analyse the support instruments available". With the lead of the European Commission, this exercise should contribute to the combination of funds at all levels (local, regional, national and EU) to support interregional projects.
"Despite considerable efforts of the European Commission, in particular through the S3 Platform , regulatory barriers and the absence of a financial framework continue to limit the development of a genuine interregional cooperation ecosystem", rapporteur Irujo regrets.
His opinion urges to eliminate the complexity of fund management to allow synergies between regional and European funding and to put in place attractive financial tools to facilitate interregional cooperation, meeting the needs detected in already existing experiences as Vanguard Initiative . These would include appropriate and flexible ad-hoc instruments combining loan financing with public and private funding to support experimental pilot projects in different phases of development. The opinion also calls for more flexible use of Interreg to support the creation of industrial value chains and suggests extending the Digital Innovation Hubs approach to other industrial and technological areas.
The proposals were backed by MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij (NL/EPP) who took the floor at the CoR plenary session. He pointed out the added value of European cooperation for more effective implementation and roll-out of new products and services and urged to better incorporate the concept of smart specialisation in EU's next R&I framework programme.
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