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WHAT is it and WHY is it called ‘Smart Specialisation’?


Smart specialisation is a platform for concentrating development investment on areas where Slovenia has the critical mass of knowledge, capacities and competences, and where there is innovation potential for placing Slovenia within global markets and enhancing its recognisability. Smart specialisation is a strategy aiming to: 

  1. strengthen the competitiveness of the economy by enhancing its innovation capacity 
  2. diversify existing industries and service activities 
  3. boost growth of new and fast-growing industries and enterprises 

Moreover, smart specialisation is a precondition for using EU structural funds in the field of research, development and innovation. Why is it important to the EU? The strategy helps our investments gain focus, effect and efficiency in the areas boasting highest value added at the level of regions and states, and the EU as a whole. ‘Specialisation’ facilitates building up and complementing capacity among different EU regions, which results in achieving critical mass in specific fields, and, in turn, enhances the potential for global competitiveness.


Slovenian Smart Specialisation Strategy - S4


S4 represents an implementing document of several previously adopted Slovenian strategic documents which integrates and translates the policies into concrete and tangible actions to achieve focused national actions in tune with the main development actors: INTEGRATION = CRITICAL MASS = BREAKTHROUGH.   


What are the S4 goals?


1.Increasing the value added per employee: measured at the level of individual areas of application;


2.Improving Slovenian competitiveness on global markets with increased share of knowledge and technology in Slovenian exports:

a) Increasing the share of high-tech-intensive products in exports from 22.3 % to the EU-15 average of 26.5 %;

b) Increasing the share of export of knowledge-intensive services in total exports from 21.4 % to 33 %, which means cutting in half the lag behind the EU average;


3.Increasing overall entrepreneurial activity from current 11 % to the EU average of 12.8 %.


S4 is strategically focused on SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES FOR A HEALTHY LIFE which will help turn Slovenia into a green, creative and smart region with outstanding conditions fostering creativity and innovation, focused on development of middle- and high-tech solutions in niche fields. S4 facilitates Slovenia’s transformation from a follower to a co-creator of global trends.


Presentation: About S4 – main points


HOW do we get there?


1. Based on priorities from S4, structured on several layers:


I. 3 priority pillars on 9 areas of application:


a. Digital:

i.  Smart cities and communities

ii. Smart buildings and homes, including wood chain


b. Circular:

iii. Networks for transition into circular economy

iv. Sustainable food production

v.  Sustainable tourism


c.   (S)Industry 4.0: 

vi.   Factories of the future

vii.  Health-medicine

viii. Mobility

ix.   Development of materials as products



II.    in this framework the areas of application are narrowed down to focus areas and technologies or even more specifically areas of joint development (see: Table of S4 priorities and corresponding focus areas and technologies).



2) By adopting a joint strategic approach, i.e. by bringing together the relevant actors
Long-term collaboration in all relevant areas of S4 application has been promoted through Strategic Research & Innovation Partnerships (SRIP). These partnerships are not newly established structures but enhanced existing structures which give a decisive role to the economy, and not the state.
Strategic Research and Innovation Partnerships (SRIP) in detail


3)By designing a comprehensive, consistent, sustainable and tailored (specialised) national development policy 

SRIPs stand for state’s partner and counterpart in discussion of matters relating to development policy, and the state is a partner to stakeholders in SRIPs. Development breakthrough can only be achieved through an integrated and holistic approach to addressing area-specific opportunities and challenges.


The package of S4 measures addresses key relevant areas through financial incentives, i.e. RRI, human resources development as well as promotion of entrepreneurship and internationalization. Equally important segment of the package are non-financial measures which include economic diplomacy, innovative and green public procurement, regulatory burden reduction, and in particular, a more direct dialogue with the SRIPs when it comes to all aspects of delivering development policy. The latter is particularly important from the point of view of formulating and providing the right development instruments that successfully meet the needs of S4 priority areas. 
The package of measures which comprises over 50 instruments (mainly calls for proposals, period 2016-autumn 2017), is much more compatible and consistent than before. This incentive programme provides a total of EUR 352 million, of which EUR 217 million or 62% is earmarked for RRI, EUR 75 million or 21% is allocated to human resources development, while EUR 60 million or 17% is ring-fenced for the promotion of entrepreneurship and internationalization.   
The approval of action plans in 2017 takes Slovenian development policy to the next level in terms of 
a) Calls for proposals, e.g. the call for proposals ‘’Incentives for R&D projects 2’’ which provides EUR 74.2 million in funding and was published by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology in June 2017, cover a multi-year period, which means that economic entities and knowledge institutions are acquainted with clearly defined boundary conditions of co-financing at the very start, including the opening dates (in this particular case by 2019). As a result, Slovenia joins other developed countries which provide a predictable and secure supportive environment – the latter plays a decisive role in economic entities’ investment decisions.


b) At the same time, these calls for proposals no longer relate only to the Strategy, but to the developed SRIP action plans. This ensures a consistent, yet dynamic support to entities, encouraging them not only to interconnect and collaborate, but also to further concentrate their activity (as the action plans will be upgraded), which is necessary to achieve the critical mass both in human and financial terms. 
For example, in the area of sustainable food production the Working Group of State Secretaries for the Implementation of Slovenian Smart Specialisation Strategy (S4) identified priority areas of funding available for RDI and also decided that support in 2018 will only be given to areas where value chains exist. Hence, the scope and method of using priorities will be adjusted to concrete instruments (e.g. complementing the SME instrument, centralised EU programmes, early development stage – less extensive investment, closer to the market stage – more extensive investment), while allowing for adjustment to specific features and needs of individual areas, which will facilitate the achievement of set objectives.   


More on S4 actions.


4)By promoting rapid, deep andjoint development and marketing internationalisation 

Slovenia is a small state only by its size, not by the power of its ideas and capabilities. Focus on niche areas calls for international networking which needs to be improved along with increased visibility at international high-level forums discussing future and development. The large potential of our joint marketing internationalisation should be tapped as well. 


From priorities to an outstanding innovation ecosystem


S4 identifies three priority areas and the areas of application pursued as a priority by Slovenia’s development policy and the stakeholders. At the same time, S4 optimises the supportive business-innovation ecosystem which must be horizontal, and whose performance affects the competitiveness of priority areas (e.g. in promoting the establishment of new enterprises, spurring their development, introducing lean innovation, supporting the introduction of design thinking, promoting joint discussion on the long-term development of markets and the role of consumers within). 


Coordination and coherence at the national level


The state is fully aware of the importance of enhanced joint action in tackling diverse opportunities and challenges. Hence, the Government established and conferred powers on the Working Group of State Secretaries which acts as SRIP counterpart and as an authority supporting and monitoring the delivery of S4 at strategic level. The Working Group consists of state secretaries of the relevant ministries participating in S4 implementation as follows: Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Administration, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health. The Working Group is responsible for inter-ministerial coordination of S4-related development policy, as well as assessment and approval of corresponding action plans.



Slovenian approach to S4 has been RECOGNISED as SMART STORY!

(The European Commission included Slovenia in the Handbook as an example of good practice. The honour of being featured in the document was given to 20 excellent examples among 273 EU regions. 



Contact: s3.svrk(at)


Links to documents:


Slovenia’s Smart Specialisation Strategy

The assessment of industry growth potential

Implementing Smart specialisation strategies - a handbook

National/regional innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) - Cohesion policy 2014-2020

From Projects to Transformations: Why Do Only Some Countries and Regions Advance? The Case of the Slovenian S4