In the past, Catalonia has guided its research and innovation policies in strategic plans and agreements such as: The Catalan Research and Innovation Plan (PRI 2005-2008), the Catalan Agreement on Research and Innovation (PNRI 2008) or the Second Catalan Research and Innovation Plan (PRI 2008-2013). In 2013, Catalonia has worked on designing its own smart specialisation strategy (RIS3 CAT) based on its specific strengths and with a focus on activities with high levels of innovation and added value. RIS3 CAT has four strategic objectives:
- Modernise the business fabric by improving the efficiency of production processes, internationalisation and the reorientation of consolidated sectors towards activities with greater added value;
- Promote new emerging economic activities through research and innovation to create and develop new market niches;
- Consolidate Catalonia as a European knowledge hub and link technological and creative capacities to existing and emerging sectors in the territory; and
- Improve the overall Catalan innovation system, increasing the competitiveness of companies and steering public policies towards promotion of innovation, internationalisation and entrepreneurship.
The document also highlights goals on internationalisation. In order to achieve these objectives, the RIS3CAT has seven priority sectors:
- Energy and resources;
- Industrial systems;
- Design-based industries;
- Industries based on sustainable mobility;
- Health industries; and
- Cultural and experience-based industries.
The RIS3CAT 2015-2020 Action Plan, which is currently updated annually, contains the instruments to support research and innovation co-financed by the ERDF Operational Programme of Catalonia 2014-2020. At the European level, the Europe 2020 strategy is the main policy vehicle that drives the RIS3CAT in achieving its objectives. The Europe 2020 Strategy places industry and innovation at the heart of the new growth model thus seen to closely correlate with RIS3CAT. The Innovation Union framework, one of the seven flagship initiatives in the Europe 2020 Strategy, will be the main driver behind the RIS3CAT economic transformation of the production fabric, leading to the establishment of a competitive and sustainable model that will promote employment and social cohesion. Open innovation and cooperation amongst the quadruple helix stakeholders (universities, industry, governments and innovation users) is key to generating new opportunities, creating wealth and employment and providing a response to the major social challenges. Catalonia has adopted Europe 2020 priorities through the Catalonia 2020 Strategy (ECAT 2020), which is the roadmap of the Government of Catalonia for relaunching the economy and reorienting the production sector towards a smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive economic model. The ECAT 2020 could support the achievement of RIS3CAT objectives since it focuses particularly on measures that have a direct and quantifiable impact on priority areas: employment and training, social cohesion, innovation and knowledge, entrepreneurism, internationalisation and the green economy. Other main policy driver foreseen in RIS3CAT is H2020, which takes a broad approach to innovation, encompassing processes and systems, and recognises Europe’s potential in such spheres as innovation in design, social innovation and innovation in services. Moreover, ESIF has planned to invest €3.4bn for the Catalonia region. Innovation policy is also a key pillar of the National Agreement on Industry, which has been approved in 2017. It is the roadmap for the industrial transformation of Catalonia and it has been agreed between the Government, trade unions, employer’s association, universities, professional official associations, technology centres, political parties and local entities associations. It encompasses the following pillars:
- Competitiveness and industrial work;
- Business dimension and funding;
- Industry 4.0 and digitalization;
- Infrastructure and energy;
- Sustainability and circular economy.
The total investment allocated in the National Agreement on Industry for the period 2017–2020 is €1.8bn. It is expected that these funds will generate €3.1bn investment from the private sector and other public administrations.