With smart specialisation having its roots in the European Union (EU), it was highly beneficial for a group of Gippsland-based stakeholders involved in the development of the region’s Smart Specialisation approach to travel to the Netherlands and Germany to experience the place-based approach firsthand.
A 2019 study mission provided Gippsland industry and community partners an opportunity to hear the lessons gained from European colleagues through their on-going engagement with regional innovation systems. Each of the regions visited was selected based on their experience in sectors that relate back to Gippsland. These areas included Groningen (New Energy), Gelderland (Food Valley), Zuid Holland (Westland) and Limburg (Freshpark and Greenport Venlo; Brightlands Campus) in the Netherlands. In Germany, the region of Weser-Ems was chosen for its relatable energy transition experience.
The aim of the study mission was to understand how the GS3 approach is applied in practice through the collaboration occurring between governments, industry, the education and research sector and civil society to develop regional innovation systems.
Dr Jessie Horton, an LVA project officer at the time, shared some of her insights from the visit, including that the application of the Smart Specialisation approach in the Netherlands was “focused on securing the future of its people in the long term”.
“Smart Specialisation Strategies cover a seven-year-period and are collaboratively designed up to three years prior to implementation. This co-design results in a long-term shared vision, and funding cycle, that has strong political and societal ownership making it more resilient to the impact of short-term political cycles.”
Dr Horton adds that, “economic complexity enables sustainable growth in place, and the principle of relatedness is important when considering the competitive advantage of a region”.
At the risk of revealing our cynical side, phrases like ‘co-design’, ‘strong political and societal ownership’ and ‘resilience’ aren’t as frequently raised in Australian policy development as they maybe should be. But they’re terminology that gets bandied around in startup pitches for disruptive ideas or inclusive community design concepts.
At the end of the mission the two groups, focused on Food and Fibre and New Energy, shared their experiences, insights and takeaways for the ongoing work in Gippsland connecting government, industry, the education, training and research sector and civil society to further the creation of Gippsland’s regional innovation system.