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Smart Specialization Strategies: Contemporary Challenges of its Design and Implementation

The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia
Contemporary Challenges of its Design and Implementation


The global financial crisis was a trigger that had an influence on the economic policy on a national level all over the globe. EU sent a unique message to national economies emphasizing the strengthening of the industry. Smart Specialization Strategy (S3), as a new industrial and innovation policy approach, tries to boost innovation performance and systems so that they are better equipped to respond to competitive pressures or societal challenges. This message is especially important for EU and neighboring countries, such as the South Eastern European countries, where a weak manufacturing sector exists, mainly outside the European production and technology networks, which are only partly integrated into the global economy through buyer-driven value chains.


The conference will be partly based on knowledge accumulated during the SmartEIZ project Strengthening scientific and research capacity of the Institute of Economics, Zagreb as a cornerstone for Croatian socioeconomic growth through the implementation of Smart Specialization Strategy. What is certain from this project is that the success of S3 depends on the recognition of the relevance of the context of a national economy where S3 is implemented, as it also depends on the strength of institutional frameworks in these economies, which are able to properly analyze its implications.

The objective

The aim of the SmartEIZ conference is to address contemporary challenges of designing and implementing the Smart Specialization Strategy across Europe. Even though S3 is a promising approach, which in the EU is supported by the Structural Funds, there is not a lot of evidence on neither how S3 is being implemented nor on its effects. In addition, the issue of adequacy of priorities, chosen by different countries, may in itself lead them to suboptimal outcomes. The conference will explore the influence of an institutional framework on the implementation of S3, the influence of S3 on the development of industry 4.0., as well as the influence on future industry. What does an analysis of the implementation of programs within the S3 framework in Europe tell us? Even more, the conference will explore topics that emerge from the S3 framework and which are important in the context of functioning of industrial policy and innovation policy in national economies. These are: the importance of innovation and technological change and its influence on the general level of well-being and distribution of income; how does the innovation system work in terms of interactions between different categories of actors, and how does globalization and international interactions affect the working of the innovation system?


By bringing together distinguished academics together with senior policy makers and young researchers from the partner institutions on SmartEIZ project―University Bocconi, UNU MERIT and UCL―the conference will explore contributions which emerged during the implementation of this project. Also, conference planning will bring contributions which reflect new findings related to the Smart Specialization Strategy, as well as findings relevant for future industrial and innovation policy.   

List of topics


1. Design and implementation of the Smart Specialization Strategy

  • Assessing R&D/innovation programs in the Smart Specialization Strategy
  • Governing in the Smart Specialization Strategy and its effects
  • Fostering strategic alliances for the Research and Innovation Strategy
  • Smart skills.

2. Topics relevant for the Smart Specialization Strategy

  • Technology, growth and productivity, including KET
  • Skills and technological change: Policy issue
  • Technology, skills, and employment
  • Companies' innovation and productivity
  • Pattern of deindustrialization and its effects on national/regional competitiveness.

3. Innovation system and its interaction with different categories of actors

  • Clusters and their interaction with the national/regional innovation system
  • Science-industry link 
  • Facilitating key enabling technology in the national/regional innovation system
  • Entrepreneurship and knowledge-based economy
  • Evaluation of individual R&D, innovation policy instruments.

4. Globalization, internationalization, and innovation systems

  • Global Value Chains (GVCs)
  • Various aspects of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI)
  • Public policies in the attraction of FDI
  • Global industry 4.0.
  • Internationalization of innovation/industrial policy.

Keynote speakers:

  • Bart Verspagen - UNU MERIT, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Alasdair Reid - European Future Innovation System Centre, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Important dates:

  • Extended abstracts of the papers should be submitted by July 15, 2018, whereas the final version of the paper should be submitted by October 15, 2018.
  • Please submit your abstracts to

Submission fee:

  • No

Publication opportunities:

  • Bart Verspagen, Franco Malerba and Slavo Radošević will be guest editors of the journal Croatian Economic Survey, where the best papers from the SmartEIZ conference will be published. Papers published in Croatian Economic Survey are listed in SCOPUS and Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI WoS).

SmartEIZ scientific committee members:

  • Slavo Radošević - University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), UK
  • Franco Malerba - Bocconi University, Milan, Italy
  • Nicolleta Corrocher - Bocconi University, Milan, Italy
  • Bart Verspagen - UNU MERIT, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Andrea Morrison - Bocconi University, Milan; Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Ivana Rašić Bakarić - The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia 
  • Irena Đokić - The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Ivan-Damir Anić - The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Marina Tkalec - The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Dubravka Jurlina Alibegović - The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Alasdair Reid - European Future Innovation System Centre, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • Micheline Goedhuys - UNU MERIT, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Roberto Mavilia - Bocconi University, Milan, Italy
  • Maria Luisa Mancusi - Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy
  • Nebojša Stojčić - University of Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Marina Dabić - Faculty of Economics, Zagreb; Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
  • Dragana Radičić - Lincoln International Business School, University of Lincoln, UK
  • Edvard Orlić - Bournemouth University Executive Business Centre, Bournemouth, UK
  • Lorenzo Zirulia - Bocconi University, Milan; University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.