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31.05.14| Smart Specialisation Strategies and efficient governance: Interview with Prof. Rafael Rodriguez

Rafael RodriguezProf. Rafael Rodriguez talks about Smart Specialisation Strategies and explains how Regions can translate them into policy mix for efficient governance. He outlines the key factors for a successful link between Smart Specialisation Strategies and knowledge-based growth and how Innovation Strategies foster regional development.

How should regions translate Smart Specialization Strategies into policy mix for efficient governance?

This is not an easy question, as each MS has to submit an Association Agreement before being able to make provisions for the implementation of the Operational Programs, where the RIS3 must be considered and coordinated with the national policies.

If a region has done a good RIS3, and I mean by that a participative exercise giving room to the opinions of productive and academic sector, it will not be difficult to set a strategy of infrastructures development (funded by the ERDF), support to SME with prospect of opening new or improved markets, or support to Starts-Ups coming from development of the academia and research centers (funded by ERDF, ESF or, even, H2020 or Regional programs).

The basic idea is that if the objectives and priorities of RIS3 are clear, there must be an open dialogue with the State, the EC and the local stakeholder to construct a road map where the mix of policies can be used to finance complementary objectives avoiding duplication of efforts. Certainly, and last but not least, a sounded monitoring system must be in place to avoid deviation of the objectives agreed between the political and productive forces of each region.

What are the key factors for a successful link between Smart Specialisation Strategies and knowledge-based growth?

A fruitful mutual acknowledgement between the academic and industrial sectors based on previous collaboration programs and projects and the existence in the companies of research or development laboratories including qualified people. Otherwise, there will be a communication gap and severe difficulties for the absorption of knowledge by the companies.

What does it mean for a convergence region to build and implement an Innovation Strategy?

In most of the cases a convergence region has benefit from the Structural Funds in the creation and building of basic infrastructures, such as roads, trains and campuses. However, in many cases, their industrial base is traditional and with little room for international competitiveness. The RIS3 is an opportunity to foster development on a totally different frame: making intensive use of the knowledge capacity and the entrepreneurial impulse (entrepreneurial process of discovery), as an alternative to mature sectors unable to create new jobs (the higher rate of unemployment is in the convergence regions that have benefits for substantial support from the Structural Funds).

Given that you were the organizer of the first WIRE, what do you think about the evolution of the institution up until today and how can we make it better in the future? 

The WIRE Conferences have been good opportunities to propose new measures. In fact the WIRE 2010 Conference proposed, precisely, to move toward what we know at this moment as the RIS3, as an alternative to the traditional regional development. In my opinion, the WIRE Conferences are Platforms to analyze and discuss the Regional Policies of the EU and extract lessons from the experiences in different parts of Europe.

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