First Sounding Board on Smart Specialisation Strategies in the Baltic Sea Region

date 21.09.2017

BSR Stars S3 has created a Sounding Board on Smart Specialisation Strategies in the Baltic Sea Region. The first Sounding Board was held on the 14th of September 2017 in Stockholm. The event was arranged in collaboration between the Nordic Council of Ministers and Nordregio.

The setup of the Sounding Board

The idea behind the Sounding Board was to create a platform where ideas and cases could be tried out on a group of experts as a means of evaluation. Furthermore, the objective of the Sounding Board was to facilitate knowledge transfer across regions, and possibly increase the uptake of findings beyond the individual project partner regions. The core idea behind the Sounding Board (“How does this sound to you?”) is simply to present ideas and cases to experts to get feedback, benchmarking,  and additional ideas to further develop the ideas and caes.

BSR Stars S3 invited the projects EmpInno and Smart Blue Regions to take part in the Sounding Board, due to the fact that these projects have a focus on Smart Specialisation Strategies and by that likely to have synergies between each other.

Furthermore, BSR Stars S3 invited a group of Smart Specialisation experts to serve as the actual Sounding Board:

  • Claire Nauwelaers, Policy Analysist – specialised in innovation policy
  • Magnus Jörgel, Senior Strategists at Region Skåne
  • Jens Sörvik, Researcher at Joint Research Centre in Seville
  • Petri Räsänen, Director at Innovation and Foresight in Tampere Region

Each project was asked to present 2 – 3 transnational pilots / activities with the potential to be rolled out to a wider part of the Baltic Sea Region. The Sounding Board evaluated the cases presented by the projects in terms of the design to reach a positive impact and wider geographical uptake.

The Sounding Board was asked to provide reflections with the objective to:

  • Improve knowledge transfer between regions
  • Facilitate linkages between regions
  • Identify synergies between ideas/studies/solutions/challenges
  • Identify complementarity of ideas/studies/solutions/challenges
  • Avoid overlap of ideas/studies/solutions
  • Improve the ideas/studies/solutions for wider uptake across BSR

 Reflections and conclusions from Sounding Board discussions

The Sounding Board could from all cases discussed draw a few main conclusions on what is needed to fully realise the Smart Specialisation potential:

  • Additional funding is needed 1) in order to equip regions with appropriate level of expert resources to make smart specialisation an instrument for growth, at all organisational levels, 2) to make necessary investments in identified place based opportunities and 3) to build transnational value chains.
  • Flexible use of funds; European funding is only part of the potential funding opportunities available. Alignment of funding and flexible use of funds is essential to ensure an efficient implementation of smart specialisation strategies.
  • Insufficient expertise and knowledge in multiple organisations (and levels) for S3 development and use; from political level – through Smart Specialisation Strategists level – to intermediary body level.
  • New ”smart” appropriate monitoring system is needed to identify the impact of the smart specialisation strategies. Ensure that smart specialisation strategies are responding to opportunities and that they are constantly fine-tuned and improved on the basis of sophisticated (automatic) monitoring input.

A reflection; There is a divergence when (EU) funding programmes are often designed for 7-year implementation, and smart specialisation strategies have to respond to new opportunities and challenges, which occurs more and more frequent.

Future Sounding Boards

BSR Stars S3 received a very positive response by the participants at this first Sounding Board, both from invited projects as well as from regions that took part. The immediate positive response has convinced BSR Stars S3 to conduct a second Sounding Board in autumn 2018. This will be further developed and improved on the basis of the evaluation results from this first Sounding Board.


Niclas Forsling                                                              Jukka Teräs

Programme Manager                                                       Senior Research Fellow

Nordic Council of Ministers Secretariat                             Nordregio