How to form a RIS3?

A six-phase process

Smart specialisation strategies consist of six phases or steps and the overall process should be iterative rather than non-recurring. The six distinctive phases/steps are Governance, Analysis of context, Strategy formulation – Vision sharing, Priority setting, Policy mix – Action plan implementation and Monitoring and evaluation.

These phases are to be done in close collaboration between the public authorities, the academia, the business community and the innovation users (the quadruple helix approach). The role of private sector is to discover and produce information about new R&D and innovation activities, and the role of the public sector, policymaker, is to provide conditions for the search to happen, assess potential and empower those actors of most capable of realising the potentials.

The phases can be assessed consecutively, or parallel to each other. The fundamental idea is to form results for each of the phases rather than follow a strict action plan to execute them. Next, each phase is shortly presented, what are its key activities and outcomes.

Phase 1: Governance

The term “governance” refers both to government and stakeholder engagement. This phase should be placed at the start of RIS3, setting the framework for the entire process. It involves the definition of RIS3 project organisation and project governance system, as well as the identification of key stakeholders – representing the public authorities, the academia, the business community and the innovation users (the quadruple helix approach). The key activities consist of communicating the RIS3 vision to regional stakeholders and engaging them in the RIS3 process. The key outcome of governance phase is the development of bases for smart specialisation strategy process.

Phase 2: Analysis of context

“Analysis” refers to the collection of background information necessary for any strategic planning process. “Context” refers to regional/national specific conditions and existing institutional setting to be taken into account. The purpose of the second phase is to identify the available resources and existing regional specialities, the strengths and weaknesses of the region in the global competition and to assess the potential for transformative activities and the critical mass of priority areas in the regional economy. The key outcome of this phase is the collection of evidence regarding the current position of the region in global competition.

Phase 3: Strategy formulation – Shared vision

“Strategy” formulation instead of policy formulation denotes the character of RIS3 as strategy and project oriented intervention. “Shared vision” makes clear the participatory approach in defining the vision and setting objectives. While the second phase was about gathering the base of evidence regarding the region, this third phase consists of expert analyses, dialogue and interactions with regional stakeholders to assess future development paths for the region. The key outcome of this phase is the formation of shared vision and future scenarios for the region.

Phase 4: Priority setting

This phase is about defining the future direction of R&D in the region. The key activities are joint regional analyses based on the outcomes of phase 2 and phase 3. The selected priority areas should be such that the region is able to build critical mass on them and be competitive in the global scale. The key outcome of this phase is the identification of regional priority areas for smart specialisation.

Phase 5: Policy mix – Action plan implementation

This phase consists of activities to define an action plan for each priority area defined in the previous phase. The action plan should consist of the definition of projects, platforms and leaders to carry out the R&D efforts for each priority area. The key outcome of this phase is the action plan to implement the smart specialisation strategy.

Phase 6: Monitoring and evaluation

This phase refers to the data collection process to support and verify the implementation of the action plan. As the RIS3 process requires experimentation, there is no guarantee for success. The region should monitor the implementation of the action plan as well as the development of environmental conditions – political, economic, social and technological, and adjust the action plan when needed. Furthermore, the region could re-start RIS3 process at any time when needed. The key outcome of this phase is the set of indicators as well as target values for them to monitor and evaluate the performance of RIS3 implementation.