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From smart specialisation to smart specialisation policy

Dominique Foray (Chair of Economics and Management of Innovation, College of Management, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to focus on the distinction between smart specialisation and smart specialisation policy and it studies under what conditions a smart specialisation policy is necessary.


A conceptual framework is built based on historical evidence of successful dynamics of structural changes at regional level qualified as “smart specialisation”. The identification of market and coordination failures that are likely to impede the occurrence of spontaneous process of smart specialisation makes a good case for a smart specialisation policy.


The paper highlights important design principles for the policy process that should help to minimise potential risks of policy failures and policy capture.

Research limitations/implications

The paper does assess the effect of smart specialisation on innovation and growth at regional level because it is too early to observe and measure effects. The paper confines itself to conjectures about the effects of such a policy.

Practical implications

The paper makes recommendations and explains some of the practicalities about the implementation of the policy at regional level.


The paper is one of the first dealing with the topic of smart specialisation policy.



The author gratefully thanks the coordinators of this special issue Christos Kalandaris, Nicos Komninos and Mikel Landabaso for their encouragement and guidance as well as two anonymous referees for their very useful comments and suggestions. The author is very grateful to all of them.


Foray, D. (2014), "From smart specialisation to smart specialisation policy", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 492-507.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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