Implementing Innovation: Smarter & Greener Actions

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R&I plays an important role in mitigating the impact of ‘crisis’ situations, contributing to economic growth, and delivering green and digital transitions. Cohesion Policy, especially the Smart Specialisation approach, provides a key instrument for delivering place-based innovation that reflects the strengths and assets of the regions, and addressing the innovation divide in Europe. While innovative actions have been a key priority under Cohesion Policy in the past, the 2021-27 programme period represents a higher level of ambition with a focus on: (1) market-orientation of R&I activities to produce higher value added and futureoriented activities; (2) applied research and the uptake of new technologies, particularly in relation to societal challenges; and, (3) diffusion of knowledge, technologies and innovation, with a specific focus on the development of skills. The Policy Objectives (POs), especially PO1 and PO2, and their respective Specific Objectives (SOs) provide a common framework of possible innovative actions for all Member States and regions. However, the choice of investment types varies depending on the level of regional prosperity and maturity of innovation. The Smart Specialisation approach has informed how R&I has been supported under Cohesion Policy since the 2014-20 programme period. The Smart Specialisation approach to strategy development implies an inclusive process of stakeholder engagement to drive a prioritisation process based on territorial strengths and competitive advantage. While IQ-Net programmes are implemented in a range of different contexts and hence adopt varied approaches, they have identified several key lessons from 2014-20, especially around the need for: sound governance models to ensure embeddedness; the challenges of ensuring broad stakeholder representation, the need for effective prioritisation; the importance of collaboration and cooperation; capacity issues and the importance of monitoring and results dissemination. In terms of delivering Smart Specialisation and innovation in the IQ-Net programmes, there is a large degree of continuity from 2014-20. At the same time, the approaches have been evolving and maturing, taking into account lessons learned. Novel elements include new and strengthened initiatives around clusters and cooperation.
Original languageEnglish
Place of Publication[Delft]
Number of pages69
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022


  • innovation
  • smart
  • green
  • smart specialisation
  • regional development
  • structural funds


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