Chapter 25 Regional competitiveness policy in an era of smart specialization strategies
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The development of regional competitiveness as a powerful policy discourse has been built on the co-evolution of academic literature and policy practice around a series of influential place-based concepts. It also coincides with evolving theory and practice in policymaking, by which policy is increasingly seen as an outcome of dialogue and decision-making processes among networks of place-based agents, breaking down the traditional public_private divide. The confluence of these trends is very clearly evident in debates on territorial strategy, which in Europe have taken shape around the notion of regional innovation strategies for smart specialization. The aim of this chapter is to discuss regional competitiveness policy in today’s era of smart specialization. The emergence and evolution of regional competitiveness policies is traced, with two of the most influential place-based competitiveness concepts _ regional innovation systems and clusters _ highlighted. Sources of policy complexity are identified in the interactions between distinct policy rationales, the multiple policy domains and difficult processes of instrument choice, and the presence of multiple actors at multiple scales. Governance and learning processes around policymaking are increasingly important, an aspect that is prevalent in debates around smart specialization. The chapter then addresses the concept of smart specialization, making links with previously analysed features of regional competitiveness policies. This leads to a series of concluding reflections that disentangle the novelty of smart specialization strategies from other policy approaches and highlight some implications for the way in which governments operate around regional competitiveness policies.

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