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EU promotes smart specialization strategies in Latin America and the Caribbean

In May 2019, during the visit of the delegation from Valencia (Spain) to Paraná (Brazil), Valencia, among other aspects, shared experiences and lessons learned with its partners in the state of Paraná. The latter is currently adopting strong governance to further advance the design of its RIS3.

Nona Deprez is Head of the Partnership Instrument Unit in the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI – European Commission). At the FPI, she previously worked on the Electoral Observation Mission and the Instrument that contributes to Stability and Peace after having served in two EU Delegations in Indonesia and Benin. She holds a Master’s of Science in European Studies from the London School of Economics, after a first master’s degree in Business Engineering from the Solvay Business School (ULB). In this editorial, the relations between the Foreign Policy Instruments and smart specialization are presented, focusing on the EU-LAC region-region pairs.

The Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) activities promote “Intelligent Specialization Strategies” in pairs from region to region between Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the EU. An event, to end this round of pairings from region to region EU-LAC, will take place during the European Week of Regions and Cities 2019, on 8 and 9 October, in Brussels.

The Partnership Instrument (PI) promotes the interests of the EU and reinforces its strategic involvement in areas of common interest. This instrument is managed by the Foreign Policy Instruments Service, under the responsibility of Vice President Mogherini. The PI works in close cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the sectoral General Directorates (DG) in the preparation of actions to be financed. It is an instrument to support policies that strengthens the EU, promoting its interests, values ​​and visibility externally, supporting multilateralism, contributing to a global order based on rules.

Under the Partnership Instrument, the EU’s International Urban Cooperation Program (IUC) is being implemented with an approximate budget of € 30 million for the 2016-2020 period. The IUC program aims to lead and develop international urban cooperation in the main countries and regions of Asia and the Americas and contributes to the fulfillment of international commitments articulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda adopted in Quito in October 2016 and the Paris COP-21 Agreement 2015. In addition, under the guidance of DG REGIO, the program also aims to strengthen EU-LAC cooperation between regions in innovation for local and regional development.

To date, under the IUC-LAC Program, twenty LAC regions have been selected in cooperation with relevant national authorities in six countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. They were paired with twenty EU regions through a personalized competition process geared to the needs and requirements of LAC. Finally, EU regions selected to pair with specific LAC regions were expected to advance in the design or implementation of a regional / national innovation strategy for smart specialization (RIS3) and develop a joint agreement or pilot project that would lead new joint business opportunities.

Currently, 31 out of 40 missions between EU-LAC regions have already been carried out. The remaining nine will take place by the end of October 2019. Overall, joint EU-LAC interests are being framed around four major themes:

  1. Sustainability and Innovation in the Exploration of Natural Resources, including Agri-Food and Tourism
  2. Renewable energy
  3. Industry modernization, industry 4.0 and innovation
  4. Advanced industries and international cooperation

The EU’s approach to “Smart Specialization Strategies” is critical and functions as a backbone of developing EU and LAC partnerships, which is facilitated in a three-step process:

  1. Build a common vision linked to the deep territorial diagnosis, in order to define achievable aspirations and prioritize areas / themes / sectors for further development and investment due to its excellence and critical mass (specialized diversification) and based on an Entrepreneurial Discovery Process;
  2. Joint agreement between five-fold propellers of actors on collective and individual priorities, responsibilities and transformative activities to be developed based on SMART objectives and financial resources (specific, measurable, achievable, responsible / realistic and temporally definable) and necessary financial resources – Action Plan;
  3. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms needed to enable continuous learning and adaptation of RIS3, as well as the partnership to advance and become sustainable over time.

The event, to close this round of pairings between EU-LAC regions, will take place during the European Week of Regions and Cities 2019, on 8 and 9 October, in Brussels. They will be focused on the action plans developed thanks to these partnerships, the proposed pilot projects and the actions under implementation that will lead to joint business. Funding opportunities and ways in which peers in the regions seek to sustain their partnership in the future will be discussed. Peers are also expected to present lessons learned and essential inputs for other regions and national LAC policies or strategies for regional development and innovation. In addition, the event foresees an interactive session on Intelligent Specialization as a fundamental approach to interregional cooperation in innovation for local and regional development emphasized in the IUC-LAC Project. Based on European experience and its contribution to Europe’s cohesion policy, as well as to the competitiveness of the region, country and EU, this session will provide practical training for Latin American national and regional policy makers interested in apply and develop Smart Specialization in their respective countries. To that end, the session will be based on lessons learned in the EU, success stories related to Smart Specialization and experiences in Latin America. Finally, participants will explore how to capitalize on the outcome of EU-LAC regional peers to further advance the implementation of Intelligent Specialization, taking into account local standards and territorial specificities.

Policy makers and interested professionals are welcome to join us in Brussels on the 8th and 9th of October!

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