First Joint EUA - JRC expert meeting to discuss the role of universities in Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation
March 07, 2013
On 21 and 22 February 2013 at the premises of the European Commission – Joint Research Centre (IPTS) in Sevilla (Spain) a group of experts on regional-university cooperation in research and innovation debated the potential roles that universities could further develop to enhance their contribution in developing their national/regional “Smart Specialisation Strategy” (S3) for maximising the use of the EU regional funds for research and innovation activities.
Within the new Cohesion Policy framework, smart specialisation has been proposed as 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 planned innovation measures, particularly in relation to strengthening research, technological development and innovation.
For EUA this initiative is also part of the implementation actions of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the European Commission and EUA in 2012. This first meeting on regional cooperation in R&I gathered experts from 12 European countries, across both EU 15 and EU 12 member states, and included 12 university rectors and vice rectors, and 17 high-level representatives from regional bodies responsible for developing and implementing R&I strategies. Participants were drawn-up jointly by EUA and EC-JRC in Sevilla. EUA nominated the university experts through the National Rectors' Conferences and were asked to advise on good practices and guidelines for the new Smart Specialisation Strategy.
As a preliminary outcome from the meeting, it was observed that there was general agreement on the essential need to frame a set of core issues in order to develop the right responses to the main opportunities, challenges and barriers to be faced in achieving greater synergy between EU competitive and cohesion/structural funding. These were seen in summary as follows:
alignment of university-based R&D portfolios with regional/national innovation strategy plans;
alignment of timelines for the different stakeholders (universities, regional authorities, and other external actors);
developing appropriate instruments for synergy opportunities in competitive/structural funding with respect to: R&D capacity-building in infrastructure but also crucially in human resources and multi-disciplinary approaches; maximising use of generated knowledge through university-business dialogue and deployment of knowledge in technological and social innovation;
developing incentives for: academic research careers; R & D careers outside academia including valorisation of the contribution of doctorate holders; investment in high-risk spin-offs and venture capital;
recognition of the role of universities as a key partner in taking forward successfully Smart Specialisation Strategies in partnership with other stakeholders in the region;
developing measures for the sustainability of Smart Specialisation Strategies beyond the ERDF & ESF funding.
This joint initiative was seen as the “first step” in a process of partnership building between universities and regions in implementing the “Smart Specialisation Strategy” and the monitoring of its future success. EUA and EC-JRC in Sevilla will now take forward the outcomes of this event and will work towards developing a set of guidelines for regional-university cooperation in RIS3 with the objective to inform future policy development and raise the awareness of how best to take advantage of the synergies between the competitive funds through Horizon 2020 and the Structural and Cohesion Funds.
Further background information on universities and regional development and Smart Specialisation Strategies are available in these two EC publications: "Connecting Universities to Regional Growth: A Practical Guide" and a "Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation".