Expert: The term of "smart specialization" cannot be technologized

31 october 2019

Deputy Head of the Analytical Center Mikhail Pryadilnikov told at the Strategists Forum in St. Petersburg whether regions can find their smart specialization niches among the criteria when making management decisions and what are the main risks of such approach.

The very idea of smart specialization of regions is embedded in the Spatial Development Strategy and implies a combination of existing and new competencies in the production and research-engineering spheres. This approach has been used in the European Union for almost 15 years. The Ministry of Economic Development is preparing a methodology for determining smart specializations for Russian regions. In fact, each region will have to make a wide list of spheres claiming to be smart specializations, discuss the list with business representatives, select and turn remaining proposals into projects. It is important to select industries that are growing, efficient and significant for the region and the country. 

Mr. Pryadilnikov believes that the smart specialization may be taken into account when making management decisions, and two criteria can make it successful: quality of data (statistics) and integration into a management chain. This approach can be used in the medium term with the support of industrial and innovative territorial clusters, technological valleys, scientific and educational centers, special economic zones, etc. "Smart specialization approaches can also be applied at the subfederal level, in particular, in the development of the next generation of macroregion strategies", Mr. Pryadilnikov said. 

The expert went into details on the risks that can be associated with the smart specialization approaches in government decision-making. "The implementation of the smart specialization as a criterion for government decision-making is possible if the approaches of innovative, sectoral and regional policies are harmonized. And we see the main risk in the situation when their harmonization is not achieved", he noted.

Another risk is the incorrect determination of promising sectors of smart specialization for particular regions. "This is a methodological risk associated with the way of determining the smart specialization areas and with the correctness and sufficiency of data", the expert explained. "It is obvious that, in order to determine the smart specialization, it is necessary to improve the state statistics system, since it is almost impossible to identify signs of a new specialization by the current tools of state statistics".

In his opinion, the transformation of the state statistics system may be aimed to develop tools for monitoring of promising industries and sectors, as well as to improve the system of statistical measurement of industries and sectors of the economy as a whole. "In the future, we also may start the work on obtaining and processing of big data, which relate to the activities and development of promising sectors of the economy. To this effect, the work with data, their receipt and processing within digitalization of state governance must be cardinally improved", Mr. Pryadilnikov said.

Another problem may be the "assignment" of promising smart specialization sectors "by higher-ups", at the federal level, and this risk is associated with the choice of promising smart specializations for regions that do not correspond to global trends. "We believe that it is more productive to move "from the grass roots", based on the competitive advantages and prerequisites that exist in the regions", Mr. Pryadilnikov suggested. "We believe that the development of smart specializations, combining innovation with specific strengths of the regional economy, give a much better chance of success".

Risks such as the lack of coordination and the duplication of support measures at the federal and regional levels, as well as the narrow understanding of innovation, should not be underestimated. "Social, organizational, market and service innovations or practical innovations are as important in the formation of innovative development strategies of regions as technological innovations based on scientific research", the expert said, emphasizing that this is especially important for regions with a relatively weak technological and scientific base. 

The expert believes that the smart specialization is not a limitation, but a uniqueness. Each region needs to be approached with a list of potential niches and support measures that include technological and regulatory innovations. Mikhail Pryadilnikov emphasized that the term of "smart specialization" cannot be technologized.