(Source: European Committee of Regions)
The EU’s pilot initiative “Smart Specialisation Strategies for Sustainability” (S4) was launched in Seville today by the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Apostolos Tzitzikostas, and the Director for Growth and Innovation of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), Mikel Landabaso. The initiative represents a voluntary update to the Smart Specialisation Strategies, with a stronger focus on sustainability. The JRC and CoR will cooperate on the piloting of S4 methodology in more than ten regions in Europe.
The CoR President’s visit to the Joint Research Centre’s premises in Seville this morning underlined the excellent collaboration between the two bodies, following the signature of a Joint Action Plan in November 2020. Key topics discussed included implementing Smart Specialisation Strategies for Sustainability as a key vehicle for the recovery, supporting cities and regions in the localisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and extending the so-called Sevilla Process – a co-creation approach developed by the JRC in the field of environmental norms for industry – to support the decarbonisation of European industry.
Speaking from Seville, President Tzitzikostas also intervened in today’s Knowledge Exchange Platform seminar focusing on the role of regions and cities in the European Research Area (ERA) and the opportunities arising from Horizon Europe. The event was organised in the context of the European Research and Innovation Days.
“The Joint Research Centre is the EU hub for excellence in science and innovation, our cooperation is already very effective and we will strengthen it in the future. Improved synergies between smart specialisation, cohesion policy and other EU programmes such as Horizon are needed to reinforce recovery, sustainable growth, digitalisation and job creation in regions and cities. Strong political leadership and a bottom-up and place-based approach are needed to ensure ownership in order deliver results on the ground. Co-funding from EU programmes such as Horizon has given a boost to regional research & innovation activities, bringing growth and jobs to regions and cities across Europe and solutions to our societal challenges. The Knowledge Exchange Platform is an important tool to improve access to excellence to all regions and a central initiative of our Joint Action Plan with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel’s services”, President Tzitzikostas said.
In a video message, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “Regions and cities have an important role to play in the construction of a renewed and reinforced European Research Area. We also need their active engagement in Horizon Europe to tackle our global challenges together. The first event of the relaunched Knowledge Exchange Platform today will give us the opportunity to discuss how to contribute jointly to a green and sustainable Europe.”
The JRC Smart Specialisation platform is one of the main policy tools for achieving Priority A. “No one left behind, evidence-based policymaking in the Regions” in the Joint Action Plan CoR – JRC. S4 builds on the Smart Specialisation framework prepared with regions in 2012. As emphasised in a joint workshop JRC – CoR held in April this year, Smart Specialisation will have a major role over the programming period 2021-2027, as a tool supporting research and innovation of all regions in Europe, and it will serve as a pivotal vehicle for recovery towards the new green and digital economy.
The JRC and the CoR discussed how cities and local authorities can be better supported in their quest towards recovery and sustainability, including the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. They agreed to cooperate in providing local governments with knowledge and tangible methods to achieve the global goals, and in embedding local ownership of sustainability challenges and solutions. Another topic on the table was the Sevilla Process, which has contributed to the reduction of emissions and increased resource efficiency from over 52.000 large industrial installations across Europe. Made up of fact-based discussions in long and intense stakeholders meetings with Member States, industry, and environmental NGOs, the JRC is now discussing the possible use of this co-creation approach to assess the most promising breakthrough technologies for decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries.
In November 2020, the CoR signed a Joint Action Plan with Commissioner Gabriel’s services (DG EAC, DG RTD and JRC). It aims to provide regions and cities with the latest data and knowledge and to help them tackle innovation divide and brain drain, address educational inequalities and deliver EU’s political priorities, such as the Green Deal. Aligning the Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) initiative with the priorities of the European Research Area (ERA) is key part of the Action Plan. The KEP 2.0 aims to assist cities and regions to become active drivers of change and innovation leaders, to valorise new knowledge created through Horizon Europe and to multiply the outreach of the ERA and bring its main concepts and messages closer to citizens. The CoR will participate in the mapping of knowledge ecosystems across the EU to form the ERA Hubs – structures bringing together regional stakeholders.