This OECD report bridges the gap between theory and implementation through case studies that illustrate the conditions in which the concept of smart specialisation can be used to design better public policies for boosting innovation driven growth in OECD regions. It emphasises the need for robust framework conditions, which allow market-driven allocation of innovation, capital and labour – only competitive and open markets are amenable to innovation. But smart specialisation also establishes the need for government to listen to market signals when allocating budgets for investment in knowledge and innovation across different fields and sectors.
In November 2009, the European Commission published the report “Knowledge for Growth”, the results of an expert advisory group to the EU. Tasked with finding an alternative to public policies that were seen to spread public investments in knowledge and innovation – research, education, public support to business R&D, etc – thinly across technology research fields such as biotechnology, ICTs, and nanotechnology, the expert group proposed that national and, especially, regional governments should encourage investment in domains that would “complement the country’s other productive assets to create future domestic capability and interregional comparative advantage”. This strategic proposal was coined “smart specialisation” and it spread quickly and was adopted in the EU 2020 Agenda with its objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Indeed, Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) are proposed as an ex -ante conditionality for future EU Structural Fund Programmes 1 with a view to concentrate resources on research and innovation to maximize the impacts of the structural funds. However, the issues raised by smart specialisation go far beyond the discussion in the EU context. A number of countries, within OECD or not, are now taking interest in Smart Specialisation as one way to lead their economies out of the crisis by leveraging regional dynamism in innovation led/knowledge - intensive economic development.