UNIR contributes to the Brussels conference on Smart Specialisation

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Over 300 representatives from universities, national and regional authorities, the EU institutions, and other research and innovation stakeholders, gathered in June, the 20th, for a high-level conference in Brussels. The motto was Mobilising Europe’s universities for Smart SpecialisationUNIR Research contributed to this the conference, which was dealing with the role of universities in Smart Specialisation by building partnerships with national and regional authorities.

Organized by the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC)  Smart Specialisation Platform (S3 Platform), DG REGIO and European University Association (EUA), the conference provided the opportunity to discuss and share the results of the work that has been carried out by the S3 Platform and EUA on the role of universities in the definition and implementation of Smart Specialisation Strategies.  It also provided a platform to share best practice and put forward ways to further enhance the role of universities in this area.

Under the new EU Cohesion Policy framework (2014-2020), Smart Specialisation is an ex-ante conditionality. This means that every member state and region will have to have such a strategy in place before they can receive EU financial support through the Structural Funds for their scheduled innovation measures, specifically in relation to strengthening research, technological development, and Innovation.

In the opening session, EUA President Professor Helena Nazaré underlined the crucial position of universities in their regions and stressed that Smart Specialisation was one of the core areas of EUA’s research and innovation policy work. She outlined some of the issues and recommendations that had resulted from the EUA/S3 workshop carried out last year and that were published in a summary report. While highlighting the commitment of European universities in this area, she also stressed the need for support and a framework from relevant public authorities.

Four case studies of university-regional partnerships for Smart Specialisation were presented afterwards, with contributions from Masaryk University (Czech Republic) and the Universities of Minho (Portugal) Siegen ( Germany) and Vaasa (Finland).

One panel combined the Directors General of the three European Commission Directorates covering Research, Regional Policy, and Education. Universities were encouraged, on this and other sessions, to seize the opportunities created through the Smart Specialisation agenda and through the possible synergies with research and innovation funding through the Horizon 2020 programme.

It was also indicated that the Commission  will shortly publish a guide on synergies between ESIF (European Structural and Investment Funds) and Horizon 2020. In her concluding remarks, Professor Nazaré stated that it was an important sign that three Directors General heard the voice of universities and encouraged universities to take up all opportunities available to engage in RIS3.

The S3 Platform assists EU countries and regions to develop, implement and review their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3). As reflection for debate about RIS3, the following key issues that can be raised:

  • How to address the risk of dependence of European Universities on the generation of benefits to local companies to the detriment of generating knowledge and developing critical mind?
  • How to prevent the university curriculums from the danger of excessive specialisation of regional economy, while multidisciplinarity should be promoted?

Presentations from the event and a summary published by the EUA/S3 Platform are now available on the S3 website.

Press release of EUA.