Mari Jose Aranguren, Mikel Navarro, James, R. Wilson
English // smart specialisation strategies, regional innovation policy, path dependency, leadership
Regional innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) are currently receiving much attention in the face of the European Commission’s requirement that all regions develop smart specialisation strategies in order to receive structural funds linked to innovation. Yet the entrepreneurial discovery process that is at the core of the smart specialisation concept remains a black box. The paper looks inside this black box through an exploration of leadership requirements. A review of literature on place leadership and territorial strategy identifies three key considerations for leadership if RIS3 are to result in coherent and successful place based strategies for STI investment: a dualism in reference frame; a mix and rotation of leaderships; and the likely different sources of leaders. These are brought together with analysis of the distinct RIS3 processes in two neighbouring Spanish regions – the Basque Country and Navarre - to highlight a series of implications in terms of the context in which RIS3 develop, the required shift from plans to processes, and the required leadership mix.