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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 8 November 2013

Mobilising innovation potential for growth: Commissioner Hahn calls on EU regions to act

Improving the competitiveness of the EU's regions through EU investments and targeted planning is underlined today by Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy. Speaking today at the conference "Regions as motors of new growth through smart specialisation", in Brussels, Commissioner Hahn urges regions to identify their key assets and focus resources on them to enhance their competitive advantage. The high-level event, organised by the Commission's Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy and the Region of Flanders, takes stock of how these so called "smart specialisation" strategies are progressing across Europe's countries and regions. These are a core element in the new EU Cohesion Policy as well as a pre-condition for the use of investments under the European Regional Development Fund.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Commissioner Hahn said: "European regions urgently need to move upwards on the innovation ladder. Identifying, building on and exploiting regional strengths are necessary to lead to smarter and more targeted investments, with more added value and greater impact. This will allow us to do more with less, and to activate the innovation potential of every region in Europe."

He added: "Smart specialisation strategies should be developed alongside the private sector, researchers and the innovation community. Only then can we meet the needs of the real economy, of the businesses and people that drive it. Existing strategies, such as the focus on blue growth in the Canary Islands, the health care innovation strategy in Flanders, or the modernisation of the Italian shoe industry in the Marche Region in Italy, are successful examples of regions joining up with different stakeholders to drive common growth and innovation goals."

Kris Peeters, Minister-President of the Government of Flanders, said: "Through cooperation and smart use of our complementary assets, we have to maximize our industrial growth potential. That ambition should be shared by the political leaders of all regions with a desire to keep and to reinforce their industry. That is why I firmly believe in the great added value of the ‘Vanguard Initiative for growth by smart specialization’ that was launched today by 10 leading European industrial regions. With this initiative, we emphasize that regions have to take up responsibility in shaping and strengthening European policy."

The debate comes at a crucial time, as the proposals for the new Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 are at a final phase. Key to the new reformed policy is the introduction of conditions that should be met before funds can be spent. One of those is the development of a clear and carefully designed "smart specialisation strategy" for research and innovation. This should guide how investments are used over the next 7 years and ensure clear aims are delivered on the ground.

European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy will give the keynote speech at the event. Alongside Commissioner Hahn, Danuta Hübner, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Regional Development and Kris Peeters, Minister-President of Flanders are also addressing the conference. Targeted mainly at policy-makers, researchers, and the industry sector in the fields of research, innovation and regional development the idea of the gathering is to explore cross border cooperation and synergies between existing strategies.

The Commission is also stressing the complementarity of Cohesion Policy funding and EU research funding in boosting innovation in the regions. The new research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, will support twinning of emerging and advanced institutions, teaming to create Centres of Excellence, staff exchanges and expert advice and assistance, as well as new 'ERA-Chairs' to attract excellent scientists.


Smart specialisation strategies aim to help regions to fully tap their innovation potential by focusing resources on a limited number of smart growth priorities with competitive advantages. The obligation to develop a smart specialisation strategy was announced in 2010 as part of the Innovation Union flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Growth Agenda. The Commission established a Smart Specialisation Platform in 2011 to give support to Member States and regions who develop their smart specialisation strategy (RIS3). It currently counts 140 registered regions from 13 Member States.

Key aspects of a smart specialisation strategy:

  1. elaborated through a process of "entrepreneurial discovery", actively involving business, research, education, the innovation community and relevant public actors in a structured way

  2. leverages EU, national, regional and local public funds and private sector investments

  3. enables all regions to position themselves in the global knowledge economy

  4. is outward looking and encourages internationalisation

  5. builds synergies between different policies and funding instruments, esp. Horizon 2020

Videos examples of smart specialisation strategies:

  1. Flaris - the creation of innovative aircraft in Lower Silesia in Poland

  2. Health care innovations in the region of Flanders in Belgium

  3. Use of advanced manufacturing to modernise the Italian shoe industry in the Marche Region in Italy

  4. Plocan - focus on blue growth in the Canary Islands

More information

Conference Programme

Smart Specialisation Platform

Videos examples of smart specialisation strategies

Twitter @EU_Regional @JHahnEU

Contacts :

Shirin Wheeler (+32 2 296 65 65), Mob (+32 4607 66565)

Annemarie Huber (+32 2 299 33 10), Mob (+32 4607 93310)

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