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Smart Specialisation at work: Analysis of the calls launched under ERDF Operational Programmes


The goal of this paper is to assess how and to what extent resources under Thematic Objective 1 (TO1) of national and regional Operational Programmes for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) were allocated to operations falling within the innovation and research priorities set in the respective national and regional smart specialisation strategies (S3) during the first phase of the 2014-2020 programming period. The analysis is based on information drawn from calls for proposals launched under 46 Operational Programmes in Italy, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia and published by 31 December 2016.
In particular, the study assesses the coherence of calls with S3 priorities; it also looks at the concentration of resources on priorities by calculating the share of ERDF-TO1 funding made available to S3-related projects through calls. Moreover, the analysis explores the range of S3 priorities tackled by individual calls for projects, identifies the policy instruments utilised and the types of beneficiaries targeted by those instruments.
The examination reveals that the S3 approach is being translated into practice from a formal point of view. In most of the examined calls, S3 alignment is a binding eligibility condition for funding. Nearly the total amount of the ERDF-TO1 resources made available through calls supports project proposals falling exclusively within S3 priority areas. This could be interpreted as positive evidence of improved prioritisation and more strategic spending patterns, yet results should be taken with caution given the relatively short time-span of the analysis.