What to learn from Smart Specialisation Strategies: A case study from Italy

RIS3 Umbria at a Glance RIS3 identifies five main directions for change: i) research results valorisation; ii) innovative start-ups and knowledge intensive entrepreneurship; iii) openness towards international markets; iv) diversification of regional enterprises; v) quality of life and attractiveness of the region. RIS3 also selects green chemistry, agro-food and aerospace as areas for regional specialisation. RIS3 concentrates resources from all the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) for a total of almost €300m. The planned policy interventions will promote clustering of firms to bring product to the markets while opening up to participants from outside the region and access to services (including ones related to creativity and design). Possibility to activate demand side initiatives (Pre-commercial Public Procurement) is also envisaged for the first time in a regional policy mix defined in the RIS3. Relevance for NEXT – Learning opportunities Focus on downstream activities in the research to market value chain The fragmentation of the production structure, a specialisation in low and medium-low technology sectors, the weakness of endogenous R&D at international level has suggested to concentrate interventions in facilitating access to R&D results wherever they are made available and to support knowledge intensive start-up creation (which was not present in the previous programming period) and demonstration activities. Being this focus a novelty and the knowledge intensive sector weak if not absent, there is a potential risk of some inertia, especially from the regional R&D actors to keep focusing on R&D carried out in co-operation with local SMEs rather than taking an opportunity to exploit possibility of market applications in Umbria and outside. Connecting demand for innovative solutions to entrepreneurial talents The need to diversify the regional economic structure moving towards more added value areas and access innovative solutions by endogenous SMEs and public institutions has led to the choice of investing the ESIF resources in company creation leveraging on the talents living in the region or willing to return back to Umbria. The detailed design of interventions connecting innovation demand (coming from citizens, institutions and existing SMES) with new solutions available on the market and entrepreneurial talents is going to be a key task for regional policy makers together with the integration of private service providers into the regional ecosystem. The proper implementation of the demand-side actions (pre-commercial public procurement) will also be crucial for the success of the intervention. Strategic projects to cluster SMEs in areas of specialisation Regione Umbria will finance few selected “strategic projects” bringing together big industries, SMEs and R&D actors with the two-fold objective of reinforcing competitiveness and excellence in the selected specialisation areas and boosting innovation at urban level. The strategic projects are supposed to be identified and defined with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders using the “programmazione negoziata” (negotiated planning) bottom-up approach. This, if, on the side, will ensure a true application of the “entrepreneurial process of discovery”, on the other may induce delays in the implementation of the measure with the risk of not achieving the planned results.

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Andrea Di Anselmo

Andrea Di Anselmo has more than 25 years experience in innovation support and company creation gained participating to international assignments and influencing strategic addresses as member of the BoD of intermediary organizations, research institutes, Business Angels Networks and SMEs. He is the Vice President of Meta Group, an international company active in the field of entrepreneurship and knowledge valorization. He is in the Board of Directors of ZMV, the management company operating the Ingenium seed funds in Italy, Slovenia and Poland. He is the President of INSME, the International Association of SMEs. He is one of the CEI-AMI list experts for Smart Specialisation.

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