Connecting Smart and Sustainable Growth Through Smart Specialization: A Practical Guide for Managing ERDF Managing Authorities
The Europe 2020 strategy is built on the three objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth to be implemented as ‘three mutually reinforcing priorities’. In order to deliver on these goals and provide a response to the economic and financial crisis, it is of utmost importance that all involved actors connect these areas of action, involving all relevant stakeholders, developing synergies and boosting the added-value of public investments. To promote a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy it is clear that the way ahead has to include significant innovation: sustainable growth needs to go hand in hand with smart growth in order for the EU and its citizens to reap the full benefits of a switch to the green economy. The Technopolis group has developed a practical guide for the Regional Managing Authorities which will assist them in making optimal use of the EU Structural Funds to address issues of sustainable energy, eco-innovation and eco-system service development as well as incorporate green growth into the Regional Research and Innovation Strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3).
To achieve socio-economic development and create jobs, it is essential to connect sustainable and smart growth, in particular, through the research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3). It is also important to find practical solutions to de-coupling economic growth from environmental degradation. Innovation is at the core of the efforts to shift Europe’s economy and society towards a resource efficient and low-carbon future. The promotion of innovation for sustainable growth requires an holistic approach and a long-term perspective across the policy cycle.
National and regional policy-makers are encouraged to lead the development of an ambitious long-term vision of smart and sustainable growth under the research and innovation strategies for smart specialization. the focus on transformative innovation requires the engagement of key stakeholders in all phases from policy design to monitoring and evaluation.
Regional and local perspectives have become more important than ever in fostering sustainable growth. Firstly, regions hold the knowledge about the local innovation systems and have the capacity to mobilize economic actors towards a shared goal. Secondly, they are well positioned to develop a thorough understanding of local natural assets and environmental challenges. There is
no ‘one-size-fits-all’ recipe for the development and implementation of strategies that connect sustainable and smart growth: each region needs to seize its own opportunity within the support for investments that are provided by the EU’s regional policy.
Managing authorities are encouraged to place sustainable growth at the core of their RIS3. they should assess the regional innovation potential and consider investing in the areas of eco-innovation, ecosystem services and sustainable energy, taking into account their specific strengths and weaknesses.
Many of the sustainability challenges are beyond the scope of local, regional or national action. For example, climate change or reconfiguration of resource value chains cannot be tackled within confined boundaries and require collaboration between many stakeholders acting at different levels.
In promoting sustainable growth objectives under the RIS3, regions and member States should:
– Actively seek synergies with existing national and European initiatives; and
– Actively exploit the opportunities for cross-regional and international cooperation.
Eco-innovation can be introduced across economic sectors and has significant potential to drive strategic, cross-sectoral
collaboration. Eco-innovation comes in many forms including novel or improved products, technologies, services, management, organizational structures, institutional arrangements and lifestyle or behavioural changes. The pervasive character of eco-innovation exposes it to many different barriers and challenging policy targets.
Rather than focusing on individual one-off support measures, regions and member States should develop a comprehensive
policy mix to support both the demand and supply of eco-innovation.
Ecosystems are fundamental to all economies and societies and to human wellbeing. Ecosystems provide habitats and natural resources and play a key role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The innovative use of natural assets is a basis for new sustainable economic activities that contribute to smart specialization and the development of a bio-economy. This approach requires innovative ideas and solutions, which are often based on research and development.
In integrating ecosystem services into RIS3, it is important to take account of sustainable solutions, innovative methods and entrepreneurial ideas that rely on renewable, rather than exhaustible, resources that are available in local ecosystems.
Regions and members States should make the best use of bio-economy principles in promoting local sustainable growth.
Research and innovation in sustainable energy is the key to achieving the EU climate and energy target for 2020 known as the ‘20-20-20’ target, and also the target for 2050 of a 85% – 90% reduction in carbon emissions. The ability to tap into sustainable energy technology developments varies across the EU because of the differences in natural endowments and economic conditions, as well as in the technological capacities of each EU Member State and region. Many Member States and regions have considerable opportunities to benefit from the integration of sustainable energy into their RIS3, which also entails a range of opportunities for economic development through expansion of business and research activities in sustainable energy and thus the creation of new jobs. During the next funding period, according to the Commission’s proposal, all regions will have to invest a significant amount of ERDF funding in sustainable energy. However, not all regions might have the potential to specifically invest ERdF funding in research and innovation for sustainable energy through the RIS3 process. Nevertheless, each Member State and region should aim to capitalize on the funding opportunities in a smart way and invest in advancing its local research, development, innovation and technological capabilities. The Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan, as the technology pillar of the EU energy policy, provides the framework for Member States to accelerate the development and roll-out to the market of cost-competitive and sustainable energy technologies.
This report recommends that the member States and regions introduce an efficient policy mix of supply and demand measures to stimulate research and innovation in sustainable energy, and also ensure favourable framework conditions and efficient
governance in this area. Innovative activities can range from state-of-the-art R &D to innovative ideas in construction, mobility, design, energy management and business models.