Northern Connections

Preliminary findings regarding RIS3

Monday, June 18, 2018 - Published by Christina Knudsen
An analysis during the project’s application phase showed a gap between the regional innovation strategies (RIS3) and their fairly weak or undefined approach to transnational cooperation. Furthermore, RIS and cluster strategies are concentrated on the region’s own strengths, they are mostly not thinking over administrative borders and therefore, are not taking into account the strengths and potential synergies of neighbouring regions.

At our Transnational Working Days in Scotland, Andreas Obersteg from HCU Hamburg presented WP3’s findings on RIS3 (Regional Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation), cluster structure, cluster activities and future topics. The first survey, which was conducted, has now been analysed and a report has been handed over to the WP5 team to function as a crucial starting point for them. The second survey, which involves the clusters’ activities and focuses on SME support, is soon to be reported, and the findings will subsequently provide a basis for the upcoming work in WP4.


Andreas Obersteg elaborated on his findings: “In the past regional innovation strategies were mostly focussing on internal strengths to foster growth. In parallel the main objective or task of cluster organisations was to involve regional actors especially enterprises. Now both cities / regions and cluster organisations see the need for more internationalisation to support innovation and sustainable growth. As the regional strategies will be updated soon, this gives Northern Connection the chance to deliver input with a stronger emphasis on internationalisation in the future strategies.”


The findings on RIS3 showed that all regions have Smart Specialisation strategies, but not always binding for the clusters and additional, political strategies (national, regional, local) are influencing the work of clusters. In terms of innovation and internationalization, RIS3 are often used as a regional development strategy, but without a concrete focus on innovation support. Cluster strategies and the cluster organisations often had a predominant regional perspective. Today, the need for a more international focus is becoming more apparent, and clusters are looking to cities and regions to lead the way.


The clusters have stated some challenges: 

  • Lack of funding opportunities that limits the ability of clusters to test innovative solutions.
  • Generally low level of internationalization in strategies/policies
  • Low level of information, awareness and lack of best practices, among clusters and administrations.
  • Lack of an interregional innovation vision for the North Sea region. 


RIS3 have a chance to change, since all regions the Smart Specialisation strategies are currently being redeveloped.This gives Northern Connections a window of opportunity to bring in more internationalization and innovation aspects into the new strategy.


The findings showed a correlation between funding structures and decision-making processes within the clusters, since the clusters have different funding structures and the funding structure influences the decision-making within the clusters. In terms of the sectors, the survey showed that all-in-all the clusters in the report managed to cover all sub-sectors of renewable energies. The strong subsectors include wind, solar, biomass, biogases, energy storage solutions, whereas the weak subsectors include aerothermal, geothermal, hydrothermal and ocean energy, hydropower and landfill gas.


The survey showed within involvement of SMEs that SMEs are the biggest group regarding cluster members and participation in clusters’ activities. Furthermore, SMEs are the biggest group of enterprises using the offers / services of the clusters and subsequently, there are almost no tools or activities specifically for SMEs. The findings also gives strong indications on which tools that have the best potential for transnational collaboration. These where activities such as: technology scouting dedicated events, cluster stair cases, meet the buyer events, matchmaking- and business-to-business events, research & development construction and lastly as well as consumer-to-consumer visits.

Lastly, there were some future topics stated by clusters as generating crossovers between energy sector and; transport sector, marine and automotive sector, food industry etc. While other were strengthening the cooperation between business, knowledge institutions, education and government, increasing the involvement of citizens or a better use of the possibilities of big data and IT.

You can find the presentation, which Andreas Obersteg presented at TWD right here.