Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness
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Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness

Contemporary Theories and Perspectives on Economic Development

Edited by Robert Huggins and Piers Thompson

The aim of this Handbook is to take stock of regional competitiveness and complementary concepts as a means of presenting a state-of-the-art discussion of the contemporary theories, perspectives and empirical explanations that help make sense of the determinants of uneven development across regions. Drawing on an international field of leading scholars, the book is assembled and organized so that readers can first learn about the theoretical underpinnings of regional competitiveness and development theory, before moving on to deeper discussions of key factors and principal elements, the emergence of allied concepts, empirical applications, and the policy context.
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Chapter 25: Regional competitiveness policy in an era of smart specialization strategies

Mari José Aranguren, Edurne Magro and James R. Wilson


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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