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Intermediating Smart Specialisation and Entrepreneurial Discovery: The Cases of Estonia and Helsinki-Uusimaa


During the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014–2020, smart specialisation and entrepreneurial discovery as the key tools for drafting the smart specialisation strategies have been at the centre of the European Union’s regional and innovation policy. This article analyses the differences in how the smart specialisation and entrepreneurial discovery process have been organised in two regions with different well-being levels and innovation capacities: Estonia and Helsinki-Uusimaa region in Finland. We show that both regions have formally adopted rather generic smart specialisation strategies and specialisations. While the Estonian approach to smart specialisation has remained formalistic and technocratic, Helsinki-Uusimaa has developed a more systemic approach where other national and regional strategies define more clearly the direction for economic development and the role of smart specialisation strategy is to provide complementary leverage via access to EU regional funds. In this paper, we argue that one of the crucial reasons for the differences stems from the organisation of innovation systems and the role of intermediary organisations. In Helsinki-Uusimaa, different intermediary organisations play a more active role in RDI policy by bringing together a variety of stakeholders and helping to co-shape a common understanding of the direction of development and launching different cooperation initiatives. While different intermediary organisations also exist in Estonia, they are not focussing on building networks and establishing a common understanding of the direction of economic development. The article emphasises the importance of clear strategic directionality for RIS3 and the role of intermediary organisations that help to maintain a common understanding among different stakeholders about the chosen direction for development through creating the dynamics of interaction between them.

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  1. According to Statistics Finland

  2. Statistics about the population and GDP per capita PPS of Helsinki-Uusimaa region and Estonia was extracted from Eurostat.

  3. Regulation (EC) No 1059/2003

  4. Local Government Organisation Act (RT I 1993, 37, 558) §6


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The author would like to thank Dr. Erkki Karo and Dr. Chris Giotitsas for their valuable comments.


The research for this study was partially supported by the European Regional Development Fund, Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme [project no. #R044] and by the European Commission through the H2020 project Finest Twins (grant No. 856602).

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Appendix. List of interviews

Appendix. List of interviews

Interview 1—Official, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council

Interview 2—Senior manager, Forum Virium Helsinki

Interview 3—Senior manager, Helsinki Business Hub

Interview 4—Senior consultant, Demos Helsinki think-tank

Interview 5—Senior official, Helsinki Economic Development Department

Interview 6—Official, traffic engineer, Helsinki Urban Environment Division; Project Manager working with mobility solutions, FVH

Interview 7—Official working with smart and clean solutions, Helsinki Economic Development Department

Interview 8—Official working with digitalisation issues, Helsinki Economic Development Department

Interview 9—Senior official, Tallinn Enterprise Department; Official working with smart city initiatives, Tallinn Enterprise Department

Interview 10—Official, Tallinn Strategic Planning Division

Interview 11—Specialist and one of the authors of Tartu and South Estonia RIS3 Strategy, Tartu Business Advisory Service

Interview 12—Official and one of the authors of Tartu and South Estonia RIS3 Strategy, Tartu City Department of Business Development

Interview 13—Entrepreneur and business consultant, previously a senior manager in the Estonian Development Fund who was involved with the analysis of RIS3 growth areas in Estonia

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Müür, J. Intermediating Smart Specialisation and Entrepreneurial Discovery: The Cases of Estonia and Helsinki-Uusimaa. J Knowl Econ 13, 541–573 (2022).

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  • Economic development
  • Innovation
  • Regional economies
  • Technological change
  • Industrial relations