Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 156–180 | Cite as

Research Driven Clusters at the Heart of (Trans-)Regional Learning and Priority-Setting Processes

The Case of a Smart Specialisation Strategy of a German “Spitzen” Cluster
  • Günter Clar
  • Björn Sautter


Smart Specialisation has become the catchword for innovation policy approaches to optimally leverage regional dynamism in knowledge creation and application, and thus achieving comparative advantages in a globalised knowledge economy. It can support innovation policies putting the grand societal challenges of the twenty-first century high on the political agenda by intelligently investing the available resources in harnessing unique regional assets (as well as their inter-regional combinations), which were identified and capitalised on by ‘entrepreneurial discovery’ processes. This paper argues that research driven clusters as local nodes of global knowledge flows and as ‘microcosms’ in a complex world of cross-cutting regional and sector innovation systems, provide promising ‘targets’ for strategic policy support fostering smart specialisation. By being integrated in global value chains, and at the same time embedded in their regional innovation systems, higher-order learning and priority-setting processes of (quadruple helix) cluster stakeholders can lead to increased return on public and private investments within and across regions: they enable the application of technological know-how for innovative solutions to address global challenges, and thus help optimise the application of ‘localised’ knowledge capabilities for regional prosperity. Our case study—MicroTEC Südwest, a German “Spitzen” cluster in the top-ranking, ‘associational’ innovation system of Baden-Württemberg—spans an area of more than five million inhabitants, comparable in size with some countries in Europe. With this, we can exemplify elements of promising Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) outlining the participatory processes implemented to develop better-informed outward-looking (across sectors, borders, etc.), and more forward-looking strategies for evidence-based priority-setting and focusing investments.


Smart specialisation Regional learning Innovation system Strategic policy intelligence Research driven clusters Multi-level governance Baden-Württemberg Microsystems technologies 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Regional Strategies and InnovationSteinbeis-Europa-Zentrum, der Steinbeis Innovation gGmbHStuttgartGermany

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