Thematic Smart Specialisation Platforms (S3 Platforms) Steering Committee meeting

Thematic Smart Specialisation Platforms (S3 Platforms) Steering Committee meeting

1-2 July 2021The S3 Platforms Steering Committee meeting brought together the EU Commission, European regions, and the industry of the S3 Partnerships community to share relevant EU policy updates and upcoming initiatives, renew commitments, and exchange interregional experiences for the identification of new possible synergies and future collaborations under the S3 Platform.


In 2015, the European Commission launched three thematic smart specialisation (S3) platforms to encourage EU regions and their innovation actors to build strategic S3 partnerships, promoting business investments and complimentary use of regional funding for innovation in specific smart specialisation areas. Since then, an increasing number of S3 partnerships have been established, creating a transnational and interregional collaborative network of place-based innovation ecosystems between regions and countries with similar or complementary S3 priorities.


The thematic platforms offer a structure to exploit synergies across partnerships and across sectors, mobilise the potential of European Structural and Investment Funds and offer the possibility to build strategic interregional public-private investments. Building on a bottom-up approach, the ambition is to mobilise the regional innovation and investment potential along with EU strategic priorities. ECRN supports the Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation and is the lead of the Chemicals Thematic Partnership, by bringing its expertise on smart specialisation, partnership building, and stakeholder involvement.


The Steering Committee started with a policy session providing an overview of the EU strategic priorities and opportunities for cooperation and interaction with different EU initiatives (such as HE partnerships, European Cluster Collaboration Platform community, etc.). The first part of the meeting was dedicated to current S3 Platform projects and initiatives and to the future of the Platform. The S3 Platforms have the potential to create and advance modern and competitive European value chains and to deliver the EU Green Deal. Two new strategic partnerships were presented: Go 4 COSMETICS partnership and S3P SPACE – Sustainable Access to Space, and an update was provided on the pilot action on interregional innovation – COVID-19 response and recovery partnerships. ReConfirm, the Regional Co-operation Networks for Industrial Modernisation Initiative and the Technical Assistance Facility of the European Commission shared their contribution to support EU region initiatives and projects, as well as an overview of the final self-assessment toolbox for S3platform projects was provided.


The second part of the policy session focused on new EU policy initiatives and new approaches for the next programming period. The European Commission services presented the policies priorities of the coming years starting with the new EU energy policies and climate commitments and DG MARE’s priorities for 2021-27 and the S3 Platform engagement to support the blue economy. An overview of the updated Industrial strategy was provided by DG GROW and it was followed by a presentation of the Horizon Europe Partnerships and the connections with the S3 Partnerships. Finally,  DG AGRI presented its priorities for 2021-27 and the Farm toFork Strategy.


The second day and the following days were dedicated to the bilateral thematic sessions between the S3 Partnerships and the European Commission services. The sessions brought together partnerships under the same platform to exchange experiences, explore potential linkages with Horizon Europe Partnerships, raise awareness on S3 partnership among EU clusters in order to enhance cooperation with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform.


Monika Banka, ECRN Network Coordinator, provided an overview on the Chemicals Thematic Partnership, led by the ECRN Network, promoting new high value-added value chains and their integration across regional borders and across sectors. Ms. Banka presented the priorities and the five projects elaborated by the network:


  • Alternative feedstock Valorisation of agro-food biomass (by Assolombarda, Lombardy) Electric cracking technology (by Brightlands Chemelot Campus, Limburg)
  • Polymers Plastics recycling (by Brightlands Materials Center, Limburg)
  • Chemical recycling Chemical Recycling (pyrolysis) (by Unipetrol Centre for Research and Education (UniCRE), Usti)
  • Sustainable process technology Flow Chemistry (by Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ))
Last year ECRN celebrated two important achievements under the Chemical Partnership: a dedicated webinar on the Chemical Regions S3P Partnership was organised by the European Alliance Against Coronavirus on 7th of July 2020; the project Bi-rex – Biomass Recovery Recycling and extraction, developed by the Politecnico di Milano and Nowal Chimica, aiming to provide a second life to agri-food waste will receive the support from the Technical Assistance Facility of the European Commission. Among the bottlenecks identified there is the availability of concrete support funding instruments, the lack of continuous support and coordination, the need for greater industrial ownership, and, of course, the corona crisis. For the future of the partnership, ECRN envision the organization of an event to relaunch the Partnership and possible new synergies with other EU-funded programmes, such as the Interregional Innovation investment (I3) initiative under ERDF, Interreg Europe and Horizon Europe. The network also aims to increase its collaboration with the European Clusters Collaboration Platform.


Ilaria Re – Consorzio Italbiotec and Lombardy Green Chemistry Association, presented the work of the Bioeconomy Partnership, co-lead by the Lombardy region and creating synergies in new biobased value chains across regions based on their smart specialisations. Its goal is to develop new integral Biobased value chains and new connections between sectors as chemistry, agro, wood & paper, cosmetics and energy, leading to new interregional business opportunities and co-investment through interregional cooperation and partnerships, exchange of information and ideas.


The final recommendations of this bilateral session identify the need to focus the S3 partnerships on a limited number of areas of work, the importance of identifying the partnership’s regional contact person and technical experts who will coordinate the development of the projects, and the value of matchmaking events to exchange experiences and create new synergies. The engagement of new partners and regional networks, such as the Enterprise European Network or circularity hubs was also particularly encouraged. Overall, the S3Platform could indeed create interregional collaborations and advance modern and competitive European value chains but European regions will need clear EU policy objectives and easier access to EU funds and tools in order to fully implement the smarts specialisation policy and create sustainable and competitive EU value chains.