Analysis of context icon

Phase 2 – Analysis of context

Analysis of context is about gathering evidence of the regional strengths and opportunities to provide the basis for RIS3.

This phase aims to produce background knowledge for the strategy planning process. The aim is to gain contextual knowledge of the region itself and then of its positioning compared to other regions. Furthermore, the region should also self-assess the current institutional setting.

Thus, the region should assess its regional assets, linkages with other regions and the dynamics of the entrepreneurial environment.

What kind of technological infrastructure is there? 

What are the regional strengths and weaknesses? 

What are the key challenges for the economy and society? Are there bottlenecks for innovation?

Regional assets

Gaining the knowledge of the region’s assets is crucial in this phase. Smart Specialisation has to be based on the region’s conditions and reflect the existing opportunities. This phase should yield thorough knowledge about the region’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, in this phase, the region should identify any innovation bottlenecks and challenges for the society and economy.

Our three online mapping tools (Regional assets mapping, Research infrastructure mapping and Clusters, incubators and innovation ecosystem mapping) and Regional scientific production profile tool are useful in gaining thorough understanding about the regional assets.

Are there many new experiments and innovative new ideas? Entrepreneurial discoveries?

Or should entrepreneurial activities be supported more?

Dynamics of entrepreneurial environment

The entrepreneurial environment here doesn’t only describe the context of regional companies, rather it includes the overall entrepreneurially acting individuals and organisations that have entrepreneurial knowledge in the region. Entrepreneurial activities and knowledge are seen as recognising or creating opportunities and taking action to realise innovative outcomes.

In effect, the region should understand if the entrepreneurial environment there is lively, if it creates new innovations, experiments, discoveries or if there is a need for supporting actions.

To gain knowledge on the entrepreneurial environment, it’s important to engage entrepreneurial actors in the RIS3 process. This means that the Governance step should aim to include regionally relevant entrepreneurial actors in the process and foster their sense of responsibility or ownership. As result, they will be naturally more willing to give valuable input in this phase.

What are the competitive advantages compared to other regions?

Are there international examples that the region could learn from?

Are there integration patterns with partner regions? Are others doing same things as we are?

Linkages with other regions

To form a robust Smart Specialisation strategy, it’s necessary to look beyond the region itself and recognise what others are doing. To specialise in something, it’s vital to know how the region’s strengths and priorities relate to those of others. While it might be unfeasible to do exactly the same thing that others are concentrating on, there might be opportunities to collaborate and build synergies with other regions as well.

Thus, it’s important to position oneself by analysing other regions and identifying the region’s key competitive advantages through systematic comparisons. Benchmarking and endeavours to find differences with similar regions could be beneficial.

The region should also attempt to learn from other regions. Maybe there are international examples of how others have cultivated their similar strengths or solved similar challenges?

Lastly, it’s essential to know what kind of linkages the region has with others:

  • Are there specific spots in the international value chain where the regional businesses contribute to?
  • What are the flows of goods (import and export), knowledge and services like between the region and others?
  • Does the region educate significantly people from other regions?
  • What is the import and export structure like?


What does this analysis tell?

The aim of this phase is to gain relevant information about the region, other related regions and the connections the region has internationally. This information is crucial in the next RIS3 phases, especially in Strategy formulation.

The knowledge about above factors will tell if the region

  • is a cluster region regarding specific subjects
  • has potential to succeed in a specific field
  • could incorporate some sort of partnerships
  • should transform its concentration areas

A good analysis of context will also yield understanding about how the region should be transformed for it to better support priorities set in Priority setting.

Overall, this step is crucial in defining what the RIS3 process is working on and what opportunities there are.

Online S3 Analysis of context tools

Our online tools for Analysis of context help regions to identify their regional assets, linkages with others and understand their entrepreneurial situation.

2.1 Regional assets mapping

Regional assets mapping integrates a variety of relevant resources into one tool, which enables RIS3 facilitators to better understand the regional assets. Thus, this tool can be used beneficially in regional profiling.

2.2 Research infrastructure mapping

Research infrastructure mapping supports understanding of the locations and qualities of regional research infrastructure. The analysis allows planning for better use of existing research infrastructure and future creation of new ones. It also gives information that can be used to avoid duplications and redundancies.

2.3 Clusters, incubators and innovation ecosystem mapping

This tool facilitates a better understanding of the niches that regions have a competitive advantage in. The tool also allows an improved understanding of local business needs. Hence, the tool helps RIS3 facilitators to gain crucial background information for selecting regional Smart Specialisation priorities.

2.4 Benchmarking

Benchmarking is among the most popular analysis methods used in the RIS3 processes. This tool enables the creation of sophisticated benchmarking analyses and benchmarking reports based on imported data.

2.5 Science and technology profile and performance

Science and technology profile and performance tool produces scientific profiles for regions based on publications data. This bibliometric analysis allows comparisons between regions and understanding the scientific performance of the region.

2.6 Specialisation indexes

This method produces technological and economic specialisation indexes using an interactive dashboard. It produces indicators such as the Activity Index (AI) for scientific activities, the Revealed Technological Advantage (RTA), and the Revealed Comparative Advantage (RCA) for economic activities.

2.7 SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis is one of the most common methods used by regions in understanding their relative position and opportunities. Analysis of regional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a key starting point for applying more elaborate methods. It’s also a useful tool for communicating the regional situation to internal and external stakeholders.