9 July 2019

Economic geographers are to set up up a Smart Specialisation training programme

Economic geographers Andrea Morrison and Ron Boschma have received a Horizon2020 grant to set up an Innovative Training Network (ITN) on Smart Specialisation. The training network is funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, the Research Fellowship Programme of the European Commission. The network will provide innovative doctoral training to 14 PhD students from 8 EU universities, allowing them to develop into state-of-the-art experts on this important European theme.

Credits: iStock/Orbon Alija

Smart Specialisation

In today’s globalized world, it has become increasingly pressing for cities and regions to identify and develop their strengths and competitive advantages. Economic prosperity and the availability of jobs strongly depend on a region’s ability to invest in the right types of innovative actions that fit their profile. To help regions and national governments achieve this, the European Commission has developed several policies, including Smart Specialisation. Over the years, Smart Specialisation has become a cornerstone of the European cohesion policy, absorbing a considerable part of the EU budget. That is why it is important that these funds are spent effectively and generate a wide share of opportunities for EU citizens. 

What does Smart Specialisation entail? Summarised, it revolves around the development of partnerships and bottom-up approaches in which local authorities, academia, businesses and civil society cooperate. Together, these partners identify strategic areas for action based on strengths and potential of the region’s economy. This process of creating partnerships and working together is a complex task that involves a wide set of actors and interests.

The Innovative Training Network that Morrison and Boschma are setting up will provide theoretical and practical guidance on how to make the design, implementation and evaluation of Smart Specialisation policies more effective. The state-of-the-art PhD programme allows a new and pioneering generation of experts in Smart Specialisation to be trained.

POLISS: Policies for Smart Specialisation

The Training Network has been coined ‘POLISS: Policies for Smart Specialisation’. Throughout the 4-year programme, 14 PhD students from 8 leading universities in Europe will be trained to become Smart Specialisation professionals. The PhD students will be hired in 8 leading universities in Europe, including Utrecht, Bocconi/Milan, Stavanger, Valencia, London School of Economics, Vienna, Pecs and Lausanne.

The Training Network will also involve 14 non-academic partners, including local governments, development agencies, international organization, research institutes and private companies. Rabobank and Utrecht Economic Board represent the Dutch contribution to the network. Having a broad range of stakeholders on board should allow the network to adopt a multidisciplinary approach in which insights and knowledge from academia, the public sector and the private sector are combined into innovative insights in Smart Specialisation.

The Innovative Training Network on Smart Specialisation will start in December 2019 and last 4 years.