The Regional and Urban Policy of the European Union
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The Regional and Urban Policy of the European Union

Cohesion, Results-Orientation and Smart Specialisation

Philip McCann

The regional and urban development policy of the European Union, or more precisely, EU Cohesion Policy, is undergoing change. This development is driven by the enormous transformations in European regions and by shifts in thinking and analysis. The issues raised by the changes to regional and urban development policy in Europe span many academic disciplines and build on different research methodologies. A broad approach is required in order to address these issues and this book explicitly incorporates insights from a range of different disciplines. After examining the major regional and urban features of the European economy and discussing the analytical underpinnings of the current re-design to EU Cohesion Policy, the book also aims to provide a road map of the various EU regional and urban data-sources which are available to researchers and policy-makers. This book is aimed at all economists, geographers, regional scientists, spatial planners, transportation scientists, sociologists, urban studies researchers, environmental scholars, political scientists and policy-analysts who are interested in regional and urban issues.
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Chapter 6: Smart specialisation and European regions

Philip McCann


In the case of the EU Cohesion Policy programming period 2014–2020, the major regional innovation agenda is known as smart specialisation. As already discussed in the previous chapter, many of the insights into regional innovation policy actually emerged initially from outside of the arenas of regional economics, urban economics or economic geography, and this is also the case with the European regional innovation agenda. Smart specialisation as a concept originally emerged from the fields examining the economics of knowledge and technological change (Foray 2004; Swann 2009). However, this original non-spatial and largely theoretical concept has been slowly translated into an explicitly geographical and primarily pragmatic schema which is proving to be a powerful and workable policy tool. Interestingly, this process of translating a non-spatial and theoretical concept to an explicitly regional and pragmatic tool has involved the adoption of new knowledge and its adaptation to a specific context, exactly along the lines advocated by the concept itself. As such, in terms of innovation issues, the policy development process inherent in the reforms to EU Cohesion Policy itself largely mirrors the logic of the smart specialisation concept. The smart specialisation concept is now an important element in both the new ‘Innovation Union’ flagship programme of the European Commission and also the EU Cohesion Policy reforms.

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