Ostrobothnia – A learning curve into setting the agenda
When we first heard about Smart Specialisation our first reaction was - what is new about this? Innovations were since long-time back a part of the development rhetoric and Finland had pursued a decentralised university system with the very purpose of stimulating the regions. Our region had access to both regional, national and EU policy instruments all with funds set aside for innovations.
Thinking on the issue we were in fact surrounded with development ideas and instruments. However, instead of providing a return on investment we experienced that they, at the implementing level, caused fragmentation, duplication of development efforts and in some case even rivalry.
The S3 process started by creating a model that would correspond to our realities. The economy of Ostrobothnia is outward oriented with a high export propensity and the innovation system is driven by large business. This is of course a great asset but also a challenge for the public sector in search of its role. By mapping the most urgent gaps in triple-helix connectivity and discussing the underlying reasons we were able to identify the most urgent challenges facing the innovation system, as a base for intervention. By repeating the dialogue annually we are learning, together with our helix partners, on our interventions.
The outcome of this process is shaping the agenda for issues that we need to work on like diversification of the export base, lock-in and new path creation. The process is gradually gaining more momentum in our region and we are also seeking to deepen our smart specialisation with European partners facing similar challenges.
It would be incorrect to say that Smart Specialisation has removed the challenges faced above but it has provided us with a “tool-box” consisting of core principles and a European partnership when addressing development challenges. Focusing on issues driving innovation, have also brought us closer to the partners within the business-life and research institutions.
The desired road to economic growth goes through innovations. At the end of day it is very difficult or even impossible to foresee the process that leads to an innovation or to coordinate it. This is neither our intention but with our work we want set the “spectacles” on different developers through which we see the world. This will provide a reference for the discussion on innovations making it possible for somebody to tell us what we did not think on. Yet again we have learned something new to be set on the agenda.