2020 SMARTER Conference

Conference on Smart Specialisation and Territorial Development: Connecting grand societal challenges with local goals in place-based innovation policy

09 December 2020

Date and time

09 December 2020
11 December 2020


Co-organised by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and RSA Europe

Increasingly, innovation policies are framed around grand societal challenges and sustainable transformation. More traditional objectives of productivity enhancement, job creation and international competitiveness are accompanied by the search for solutions to environmental and social needs in line with the European Green Deal priority and the accomplishments of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, to be achieved through the mobilisation of science, technology and innovation. This transformation is also gaining momentum in local and regional policy making, raising a number of issues in relation to the capacity of place-based industrial innovation policies to meet these goals. What are the implications of this shift for place-based policy and instruments? What does the alignment of solutions to social and environmental problems with more traditional growth objectives imply? How can potential contradictions between different goals and dimensions (social, environmental and economic) be resolved?  Can we expect territorial policies to deliver on broad societal challenges, by providing solutions to those needs that are locally relevant?

At the time of writing, a terrible pandemic is sweeping the planet causing dramatic health, social and economic consequences. We need coordinated policy initiatives at international, national and regional level to mitigate the COVID-19 economic crisis and promote a swift recovery. How can place-based policies play a role in tackling the severe socio-economic impacts of COVID-19? How can they help territories discover new opportunities for more sustainable and inclusive economies?

This conference is a forum for debating those issues.

Smart Specialisation provides a unique entry point for such debate. Smart Specialisation is a place-based EU policy promoting economic transformation by designing targeted investment in research and innovation. Building on a growing interest in this policy, the main principles and mechanisms of Smart Specialisation are travelling fast, attracting attention outside the European Union. At the same time, the Smart Specialisation approach is evolving, incorporating evidence on what worked what did not, embracing a larger policy scope than research and innovation and enriching its policy toolbox.

The conference will provide a comprehensive picture of the Smart Specialisation policy experience, including an evaluation of its results and an account of its recent developments both conceptually and empirically. Particular attention will be given to the intervention logic, implementation challenges and ways to address them, as well as methodologies for monitoring and evaluation.

The conference also offers an opportunity to discuss and compare different territorial development approaches, exploring how they engage with the European Commission's priorities for 2019-2014 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We welcome contributions on the local dimension of grand societal challenges.

The conference offers to a limited number of participants from academia, territorial authorities and institutions a unique opportunity to discuss and define the scope and main avenues for future research and policy making, and to address the challenges confronting policy makers and practitioners. In addition to academic submissions, papers by practitioners or co-authored by academics and practitioners are welcome.

Submission of complete special session proposals
We invite proposals for complete special sessions on specific themes/areas within the scope of the conference. Proposals including the list of 3-4 speakers with their affiliations and their abstracts should be submitted by the prospective organizer(s) who will commit to promoting the paper submission process of their special session and chair or co-chair the session during the conference. Proposals will be considered by the Conference Programming Committee against the criteria of originality, interest and subject balance. The papers submitted to special sessions will be also individually reviewed by the Conference Committee.

Prospective organizers of special sessions should submit proposals indicating:

  • Title of the session.
  • Name(s) of organizer(s).
  • Affiliation of the organizer(s).
  • Email of main contact person.
  • Description of the Special Session (in the form of a 500-1000 word outline highlighting the motivation and relevance to smart specialisation).
  • Potential participants (name, affiliation, title of the contributions and abstracts when available).
  • Abstracts of each proposed paper (500 words, text only, no pictures, graphs or tables, structured in the following sections: Motivation/objectives; Main research question(s); Methodology; Results; Implications and discussion; Resources/references).

Please email your proposals to Lesa Reynolds: lesa.reynolds@regionalstudies.org

General Submission of papers
Please submit proposals for papers in the form of a long abstract (500 words, text only, no pictures, graphs or tables) structured in the following sections:

  • Motivation/objectives;
  • Main research question(s);
  • Methodology;
  • Results;
  • Implications and discussion;
  • Resources/references.

Paper proposals will be reviewed and selected by the Conference Programming Committee against the criteria of originality, interest and subject balance.

Important details
Paper proposals should be sent through the Regional Studies Association online portal at https://members.regionalstudies.org/lounge/Meetings/Meeting?ID=271 by Friday 17th July 2020. You will be notified of acceptance by Wednesday 30th September 2020.

Participant numbers for this "free to attend" conference are limited, travel & accommodation must be covered by the Participant).

Only one author per selected abstract will be invited to attend this conference. Please do not book your travel and accommodation until you have received an invitation. Only invited participants will be able to attend the conference.

Key Dates

17 July 2020
Abstract submission deadline
30 September 2020
Notification of Abstract Acceptance
01 October 2020
Registration Opens for Invited Participants


Smart Specialisation: evidence, lessons, challenges and opportunities
Smart Specialisation on the move: the evolution of a policy approach
Science, technology and innovation policy for Sustainable Development Goals
Smart Specialisation and Cohesion Policy: Aligning Policy for ‘left behind’ places
Innovation policy and Inclusive growth
Tools and methodologies for territorial analyses in support of development policies
Evaluation of territorial innovation policies
Global value chains, innovation and local development
Urban challenges and strategies for innovation-led development
Models of regional and multi-level governance and stakeholder involvement
The actors of territorial development: research organisations, businesses, public actors, civil society groups
Regional Governance, capacities and resources for place-based policy
The COVID-19 crisis: socio-economic impacts and the role of territorial policies for recovery
Innovation policy for sustainable and inclusive growth


  • CaixaForum Sevilla
  • Camino de los Descubrimientos & Calle Jerónimo de Aguilar
  • Seville, 41092
  • Spain


Lesa Reynolds
Event organiser (for RSA Europe)

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