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StressTesting of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3)

StressTesting of regional approaches for the implementation of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) through clusters is a transnational benchmarking-based learning approach. This approach determines how and where clusters can be effective in supporting industrial transformation, new value chain formations and employment generation in an integrated, coordinated and sustained manner. The overall aim is to find ways of designing and implementing modern cluster-based regional economic development policies. It also serves to draw maximum advantage of the regional cluster portfolio while shaping new industrial value chains and sectors. It is intended for regional implementation organisations, policy makers and business development entities that are interested in drawing comparisons with European frontrunner regions.

StressTesting addresses policymaking and implementation processes.  This includes the role of clusters in the design of the S3 along with regional support schemes for cluster initiatives, coordination and alignment of S3 at the regional and national level. StressTesting also highlights the role of clusters in e implementation of S3. Benchmarking explores the role of a regional cluster portfolio in providing inputs for development and in testing innovation models initiated by cluster organisations.

The overall objective of the StressTest is to better understand the role that cluster initiatives can play in implementing S3 and how to improve the framework conditions for innovation induced by clusters and their SMEs. The underlying problem in the implementation of S3 has been detected at two fundamental levels: a lack of experience among regions on how to use clusters in the implementation of S3 and a lack of alignment between and knowledge about other regions’ strategies.

The interplay between S3 and clusters implies a two-way relationship between the two concepts. An initial way to view the interdependency is to look at how S3 can be used to foster innovation processes and spark entrepreneurship within clusters (“S3 -> Clusters”). Turning the relationship on its head, existing clusters can also be used as a tool in the implementation of S3 (“Clusters -> S3”). That is where the StressTest can come into play.

The StressTest will mainly focus on the question of how and when clusters and cluster initiatives are used as a tool in S3.  By including questions about the ability of clusters to implement new innovation models, the StressTest will also pave the way for considerations how S3 can contribute to the process of defining new innovation models in further detail. It thus fully considers the two-way interplay between clusters and S3.

The approach provides regions with a unique opportunity to reflect on their past successes from a policy perspective and guide regions in their efforts related to the policy discovery process. It is very practical. In a time of ever-accelerating speed of change, Stress Testing provides policy makers and clusters with the opportunity to build the capabilities needed to support businesses and move them in the direction where opportunities are opening up. It provides high added value for frontrunner regions (to compare with others) as well as for less advanced regions to learn from more advance regions.

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