RECONSIDERING SMART SPECIALIZATION POLICY IN EU
Prof. Ron Boschma , Utrecht University
Smart Specialization (S3) has become a hallmark of the EU’s Cohesion Policy (Barca, 2009; Foray et al., 2009; 2011; McCann and Ortega-Argilés, 2015). The goal of S3 is not to make the economic structure of regions more specialized, but instead to leverage existing strengths, to identify hidden opportunities, and to generate novel platforms upon which regions can build competitive advantage in high value-added activities. S3 emanated from the idea that regions across the EU have different economic and institutional structures that shape possibilities for their future development. The result was a clear denunciation of the top-down ‘one size fits all’ policy. S3 aims on building competitive advantage in research domains and activities where regions possess strengths and leveraging those capabilities through diversification into related activities (Foray et al. 2012). However, the operationalization of S3 has been criticized, as a 'perfect example of policy running ahead of theory' (Foray et al., 2011), lacking ‘evidence base’ (Morgan 2015; Unterlass et al., 2015), and building on ‘anecdotal evidence rather than the application of theoretically grounded methodologies’ (Iacobucci and Guzzini, 2016; Santoalha, 2016). To tackle the weak theoretical and empirical underpinning of S3 policy, we propose a policy framework that builds on recent insights derived from the empirical literature on regional diversification. It will address, among other things, the following questions: can we identify opportunities for regions to move into new, promising and more complex activities, and if so how, under what circumstances should policy aim for related or unrelated diversification, how can S3 policy account for the role of extra-regional linkages that can be used by regions to identify regional strategic partnerships, given the capabilities in other regions, and what types of institutions at different spatial scales are needed to enable effective S3 policy?
About the speaker
Ron Boschma is Full Professor in Regional Economics at the Department of Human Geography and Planning of Utrecht University. He is also Professor in Innovation Studies at UiS Business School of Stavanger University in Norway, and holds the Bernard Maris Chair in Economics at the University of Toulouse in France. He is also member of the Board of the International Regional Studies Association. Boschma, with other scholars, has laid the foundations of Evolutionary Economic Geography, a new influential stream in Economic Geography. He has published in international journals on regional diversification, Smart Specialization policy, geography of innovation, regional resilience, spatial evolution of industries, structure and evolution of spatial networks, and on the relationship between agglomeration externalities and regional growth.
Date: 10 October 2019
Time: 12:00 - 13:00