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This review presents a description and analysis of literature regarding Smart Specialisation (S3) in Europe, as well as making observations about its application in other parts of the world, including Australia. It is one of the ‘foundation’ documents prepared to inform the commencement of the S3 process in Gippsland, Victoria.

As the world struggles to recover from the global financial crisis, there is intense interest in innovation which, it is assumed, will drive stronger economic growth, thus also increasing employment opportunities. In Europe, ‘smart specialisation’ (referred to within the discussion as S3) has become the principal focus of efforts to promote place-based innovation.

The rhetoric around S3 and its role in innovation has its origins in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research, and their concern to strengthen investment in research and innovation. Through collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and academic scholars, the new policy framework focuses on processes, within regions, for increasing research and development activity, reducing fragmented initiatives, and promoting the ongoing development and robustness of regional innovation systems. This in turn is seen as a key EU investment in promoting economic growth and jobs.

Providing an overview of the ‘state of the art’ in S3 and associated strategy and policy formulation is a challenging task, partly because of its scale and partly because it is so dynamic. There are over 160 regions that have prepared S3 strategies, and there are new dimensions in the policy and process emerging on an ongoing basis. However, this deliverable provides: an overview of the innovation context, the policy framework and its importance in promoting regional innovation systems; some case studies of particular regions’ experiences; an indication of the ways in which experimentation is part of the S3 culture; a brief review of some new policy developments; and some discussion of how S3 adds value to regional development in Australia.

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