S3 and Interregional Innovation Investments in the new programming period


Valentina Pinna

Project & Programme Manager - Smart & Sustainable Growh unit DG REGIO

Valentina Pinna from the Smart and Sustainable Growth unit in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission, shares her view of the role of Smart Specialisation in the post-2020 programming period.

Europe is facing many challenges linked to the introduction of new technologies, digitalization, an evolving trade environment, and the need to move to a climate-neutral economy, while ensuring quality jobs, health and well-being for its citizens. Europe must lead the transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world by bringing people together and upgrading our economy to fit its ambitions.

Cohesion policy has a long experience in supporting Europe’s regions and cities. It is the main EU policy instrument to address structural changes and promote regional development.

Regional economies need to innovate, transform and adapt to an ever-changing and more competitive environment. In this context, the EU plays a key role by supporting all regions and Member States to activate their potential for innovation, competitiveness and sustainable jobs and growth through smart specialisation strategies.

The promotion of innovation has been strengthened in the post-2020 programming period, earmarking three quarters of resources for innovation, environmental and energy transition. Cohesion policy will support the digital transformation of our societies, of business and the public sector, in cities and in rural areas.

Smart specialisation strategies are at the centre of this approach. EU member states and regions have identified priorities to build on their strengths in business and research in order to move up value chains and improve the competitive advantage of their territories. This approach will be reinforced in the future by strengthening governance and ownership of the strategies, while focusing more explicitly on the quality of research and innovation systems, industrial transition, bottlenecks to innovation diffusion and international collaboration. This will require more tailor-made policies at regional level and new approaches to these issues.

In recent years, the Commission has developed new approaches in relation to international collaboration between smart specialisation partnerships. In order to benefit from the globalised economy, regions and cities need to create new value chains that allow them to scale up their good ideas in the EU single market. This means bringing together businesses, researchers, public authorities and people from across the EU who work on developing smart specialisation priority areas in their territories to match their competitive strengths and develop innovative projects. Building on the work of the thematic smart specialisation platforms, and the experience of a pilot action the Commission encourages regional partnerships to propose an interregional portfolio of innovative ideas. These should lead in the future, to identifying innovative investment projects. Traceability and Big Data is an area of cooperation in the Thematic Smart Specialisation Platforms and will be able to propose investment to be potentially supported by ERDF mobilised by participating regions.

In addition, in the post-2020 Cohesion Policy, the Commission has developed a new Interregional Innovation Investment framework. The I3 instrument, directly managed by the Commission, represents an additional opportunity for supporting interregional portfolios of companies’ investments bringing innovation to the market and boosting the competitiveness of EU value chains. Another opportunity is represented by the possibility to create synergies and complementarities with Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programme, combining different source of funding within the 2nd and 3rd pillar.

As highlighted by the Competiveness Council, in this way smart specialisation can become a place-based pillar of a European Industrial Policy Strategy.

S3 will support key European objectives in the next ten years – the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, harnessing the possibilities of digitalisation, technological change and globalisation, and contributing to strengthening European value chains and industrial capacity. Most importantly, it will do this by building on the diversity of European regions and cities, through policies that take account of their specific strengths.