Innovative Place-Based Triple Helix Approaches for Regional Development through Smart Specialisation Strategies


The first Jean Monet workshop on ’Boosting the European Integration Process in a Time of Crisis Through the Triple Helix’ took place on the 27-28-29 June 2019 at St Mary’s University in London, UK.  The magnificent Waldegrave Drawing Rooms at St Mary’s University hosted over eighty participants from twelve countries gathered to discuss Innovative place-based approaches for regional development through Smart Specialisation Strategies.

Among the keynote speakers were: Professor Slavo Radosevic (UCL); Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK’s President and CEO, IASP President; Will Lord, Senior Policy Advisor in the Cities and Local Growth Unit, a Joint Team Between BEIS and MHCLG; David J Hardman MBE – Honorary Chairman of UKSPA, MD Innovation Birmingham and Professor Dr Jorge Luis Nicolas Audy, President of TECNOPUC Science and Technological Park in Brazil.

Among the contributors to the high level discussion were members of the Welsh Government, UK Government, managers of Science Parks and Incubators in the UK, Portugal, Estonia and Kosovo, as well as former European Commission policy advisors and Senior Officials Dr Dimitri Corpakis and Jan Larosse.  Academia was represented by Senior Researchers and PhD students from Birkbeck College, University of London, University College London, University of Brighton, St Mary’s University, University of Lincoln, University of Bath and Oxford Sustainable Development Enterprise.

The first keynote address by Professor Slavo Radosevic (UCL) provoked the audience with critical statements on the challenges for S3 (Smart Specialisation Strategies) as one of the new industrial/innovation policy approaches in Europe.  The comparison of different impacts that the New European Industrial Innovation Policy is having across the core and the periphery member states confirmed the preliminary statement, that place-based and place-tailored policy solutions are necessary, but not sufficient pre-conditions for economic growth.

The panel that followed from Slavo Radosevic’s presentation brought to the stage the role of other Research and Innovation Players on regional economic growth, and in particular – regional authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships in the UK, and the role of public sector research organisations which are often disconnected from the University system, extending the Triple Helix model for the role of Academia and broadening the scope of public sector innovation.  Dr Felicia Fai (University of Bath) presented highlights from the IPP Policy Brief on Place-Based Perspectives on the UK Industrial Strategy, delivering hard evidence on the role of clear administrative regional boundaries, regional authorities and their engagement with local stakeholders, while Dr Federica Rossi (Birkbeck, University of London) raised the question of interactions (or limited engagement) between public research actors and local industry players.

The second panel on Entrepreneurial Universities as Drivers for Smart Specialisation added new dimensions to the debate on the difference between Entrepreneurial and Civic universities, and their impact on sustainability, prosperity and growth.  Both speakers addressed the questions of who orchestrates for social responsibility of the academia – the innovation players, the funding bodies, or society and industry, and who manages the entangled processes of co-creation of value, co-identification and co-exploitation of opportunities (Dr Muthu De Silva, Birkbeck, University of London), discussion that social responsibility is largely missing in entrepreneurial universities (Dr Yuzhuo Cai, Tampere University, Finland) provoked numerous reactions from the audience.

The panel on the Experience of UK Catapults and the keynote speech by Paul Krutko (IASP and Ann Arbour SPARK’s President and CEO) compared Science Parks and Catapults at different levels.  A vibrant discussion took place on different business models for incubation of innovation, for governance and financing of incubation facilities and practices, and the role of the Triple Helix actors – engaged in highly coordinated actions across the innovation, technology, commercialisation and financing spaces.  Different forms of hybrid organisations were described in relation to Science Parks and Catapults, and questions of value creation vs value capture and transferability of knowledge and value across different actors and domains were discussed.  There was an emergent consensus in the audience that sustainability comes from the implementation of a bottom-up approach.

Another provocative presentation was around the UK Science Parks and the futuristic trend towards the concentration of innovations in the City and abandoning rural areas.  Although David Hardman (Honorary Chairman UKSPA, and MD Innovation Birmingham) defended well the position that in today’s connected world, the role of place is diminishing, this left a bitter taste with the audience in terms of inevitability of changes that affect all Triple Helix actors, and their interactions.  His recommendation that innovation ecology interventions need to be: sustainable, additive, responsive and holistic, confirmed the need for strategic co-alignments between the triple helix actors.  Knowledge cities and connected knowledge communities, however, do not answer the questions of inequalities in the city, or the lack of drivers for regional economic growth.  The presentations on the UK catapults confirmed the national and global scale of impact of advanced technologies and the continuous tension between industry and academia in terms of translating knowledge across different stages of commercialisation of innovation.

The UK-led panel on Local Economic Development, Local Industrial Strategies and Triple Helix picked up the question of industry-led vs services-led growth, including the distinctive challenges towards local growth and productivity policy solutions.  A heated discussion took place on the Trailblazers in the UK – Greater Manchester, West Midlands, and Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc, and their contrast to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).  The Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership and their intense engagement with the University of Lincoln was demonstrated as a case – how to address the challenges of regional imbalances in the UK, and the duality of a ‘Place’ in terms of endowments and needs for employment, services and opportunities.  The ambitions strategy for specialisation at regional level in Greater Lincolnshire highlighted the benefits of Triple Helix leadership through individuals that sit in all three helices, enabling strategic co-alignment and integration of solutions.

The panel on Multilevel Governance and Smart Specialisation addressed questions of actors, capabilities and system level coordination and control.  Different multi-stakeholder approaches and principles were compared and the concepts of multifaceted and smart governance were introduced to the debate.  Emanuela Todeva (St Mary’s University, UK) compared four distinctive governance practices in the smart specialisation policy framework, such as: planning, programming, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation.  Phil Tomlinson (University of Bath, UK) reviewed extra-regional collaborative approaches to RIS3 aiming to enhance innovative capabilities in peripheral regions and presented evidence of the impact of technological diversification and relatedness, technological upgrading, and entrepreneurial discovery on collaborative performance.  The conclusion that formal international collaborative networks (e.g. H2020/Interreg) are essential for lagging regions once again confirms that new models of collaborative governance are at the heart of successful S3 implementation.  Jan Larosse discussed with more detail principles of multi-level governance and decentralised coordination across policy levels – as one of the challenges of European integration.

The panel on Triple Helix Best Practices introduced the new THA publication of the series of cases that demonstrate successful multi-stakeholder engagement and collaborative practices.  More details were presented on the published Triple Helix sector cases on open innovation, crowdsourcing, and industry research collaborations – all of which demonstrate that business-led Triple Helix constellations are not only a theoretical possibility, but an emerging practice (Jose Linares, University of Brighton, UK).

The final keynote presentation on the strategic development of the TECNOPUC Science and Technological Park in Brazil brought another dimension to the debate on models of investment and integration across incubation and commercialisation of innovation.  Professor Jose Audi from Brazil presented the evolutionary map of institutionalisation of place-based Triple Helix coalitions and the leadership role of Science Parks.

The final panel on Deepening Smart Specialisation: Towards a New Approach attempted to synthesis across the numerous discussions during the two-day workshop, with insights on collaborative models, removing barriers for technology transfer and enhancing knowledge transfer practices, of soft-landing practices and internationalisation across Science Parks activities in different locations, and the need for a broader outreach of innovation and S3 policies, for a cross-regional orchestration of Value Chains (Dr Dimitri Corpakis), and the need for connected intelligence that brings together the Triple Helix actors and domains (Professor Nicos Komninos).

The discussions that took place in these very rich and sometimes controversial sessions, demonstrated the ambiguity that still covers several facets on operationalisation of Smart Specialisation in the EU context.  Brought very quickly inside the EU formal regulatory framework for regional development (Cohesion Policy, European Structural and Investment Funds, ESIF) in order to catch up the formal emerging programming period (2014-20), the academic concept of S3 did not land comfortably in the planning agendas of national and regional authorities in the EU.  In several cases confusion over conduct and delivery of its foundational process the EDP (Entrepreneurial Discovery process) led either to misled strategies or simple administrative plans with little follow-up.  Yet, as the discussions demonstrated, the EDP can be much better orchestrated and operationalised in an efficient and well-functioning Triple Helix context, where governments, knowledge institutions and businesses hold an honest and well organised exchange.  The EDP dimensions that could be improved through the TH approach cover all its stages (setting-up, stakeholders mobilisation, vision setting, analytical stage, contradictory debates and choice-making, planning and budgeting, task allocation, delivery on the ground and evaluation and monitoring), ensuring also feedback loops.  In addition the TH model could help mainstreaming S3 strategies, even beyond regional planning and touching on a really new industrial strategy where people and places would be seriously re-considered.

All presentations and video recordings of the sessions are now published on the workshop website (

Additional reflections from participants in the workshop are shared in interviews with speakers and can be viewed at our YouTube channel – OQOfHniTKWsTeUFLi31HrWu_5ro


Webinar on Place-Based Triple Helix Approaches for Regional Development

Additional contributions on the topic of Innovative Place-Based Triple Helix Approaches for Regional Development through Smart Specialisation Strategies were made during the recorded webinar on the same topic ( which took place on 4 June 2019.  A full video recording from the presentations can be viewed on the THA YouTube channel (

The two presenters were Jan Larosse, former policy adviser of the Flemish Government for innovation and industrial policies, and Richard Tuffs, former Director of the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) network.

Jan Larosse (a former advisor to the Flemish Government and the European Commission, Directorates General for Regional Policy and Research and Innovation) briefly explained that S3 can be seen as an instrument on the way policymakers and policy shapers can make a contribution to future growth perspectives.  He explained the key success criteria concerning Smart Specialization (e.g. policy entrepreneurship, the role of civil servants, requirements for success, instruments and the opportunities for learning and adapting) for the successful practical application of the concept from a leadership and engagement points of view.  He stated that the usability of Smart Specialisation as a transformation strategy greatly depends on translating this policy approach into the European context and unlocking challenges for creating values.  Cities as living labs play a key role in the implementation of innovative place-based solutions addressed by Smart Specialisation.  He emphasized that quadruple-helix engagement of key actors (as well as city networks that go beyond the mutual learning and co-operation taking shape in strategic decisions) are needed for making changes as well as to make complementarities (by joint road-mapping through indicators, instruments) and opportunities (creating political capacity) understood by all the actors involved.

The second speaker was Richard Tuffs, former director of the ERRIN network ( that brings together European regional innovation. Similar to Mr Larosse, he briefly explained the actors involved in Smart Specialisation as well as barriers and opportunities for the concept. Mr Tuffs placed the concept of Smart Specialisation into the European context, explaining the links between the idea and other fields like grand challenges, industrial policy, cohesion policy as well as global agencies.  Mr Tuffs pointed out that he took a different perspective of Smart Specialisation by discussing the concept of systemic innovation and place-based innovation value-chains.  According to Richard, the key challenge for policymakers is a choice between the concept of systemic innovation and mission-oriented policies.  He mentioned the good practice of East England’s wiring approach on defining scientific strengths and innovation capabilities.  He referred to the communication published by the European Commission in 2010 defining the role policymakers should play in the delivery of Smart Specialisation from creating a critical mass in R&D and innovation resources, as well as combining regional policy with other policies to exploit multi-level governance for integrated innovation policies with the aim of helping regions in identifying their own regional priorities.  He mentioned the important relationship between the entrepreneurial discovery process (economic approach), university dimension (societal challenges), and the regional strategies (territorial dimension).  He claimed that regional strategies representing the territorial dimension need a lot more work.  Public procurement seems to be among the main barriers to effective S3 implementation as well as the exploitation of opportunities still not tapped by universities.  Based on this reasoning, he explained the role universities could play in Smart Specialisation introducing the concept of civic and non-civic universities.  According to the classic understanding of universities, universities focus mainly on their education and research tasks and care less for their regional setting (they are ‘from’ the region, but not ‘for’ the region), cultivating a clear barrier between them and the regional development process.  By contrast, the civic university concept cultivates a different approach with a softer barrier between it and the region.  Thus the civic university will engage actively with the region delivering transformative, responsive and demand-led actions. Regarding the innovation ecosystem, Mr Tuffs referred to the understanding presented by JRC1 and referred to Mr Lacrosse’s previous presentation on the role of cities.

As a conclusion, success factors entail committed public institutions, a harmonious business sector, a risk-taking entrepreneurial culture and society and, last but not least, community and branding building.  New coordination roles are emerging, that should be taken into account when revitalizing regions.  Barriers include S3 focus on policy design instead of policy implementation only, lack of appropriate political follow-up and inconsistencies regarding governance (regional vs multi-level).

Consequently, a number of recommendations were discussed, namely how to improve regional innovation ecosystems, an alternative approach to apply Smart Specialisation as a governance mechanism, roles and responsibilities that lead to successful Smart Specialisation.  In particular emphasis was given to the role that can be played by the so-called ‘boundary spanners’, people that are able to ‘wire’ together and connect different stakeholder communities for optimising the place-based approach to an economic transformation.

Questions from the audience pointed that the focus of S3 is on cities and networks of cities, but what does S3 have to offer rural/peripheral regions and areas in terms of having little ‘choice’ about which opportunities to ‘strategically’ follow.

Among the recommendations were that the objectives should be identified by focusing crucially on modernization, rationalisation, and future productivity.  In addition, new objectives for transforming the local economies could be potentially identified.   Furthermore, the concept of functional regions (with a larger capture on the ground) could offer new (but realistic) perspectives on Smart Specialization Strategies.

The workshop and the accompanying webinar marked an important point of new policy thinking, bringing TH and S3 approaches together and signalling readiness for a multistakeholder approach to policy formulation and implementation.  The workshop demonstrated the high level of policy integration conceptually of regional, S3-like strategic approaches in the UK industrial policy.

The keynote presentations on the Science Parks in the USA, UK, and Brazil, revealed the gap that exists between the factual activities and the rhetoric of new approaches in business clusters and S&T Parks.  Innovative practices of institutionalisation of Triple Helix interactions under hybrid organisational forms are often misunderstood and underestimated, and they require substantial new research beyond the current trend for performance measurement, or soft monitoring and evaluation.

One of the main policy recommendations to support the new and broader TH approach is that the incentive systems need to be adapted to move from a science and technology driven to a challenge and solution driven governance of these new TH-based hybrid organisations.  In particular, the promotion system in the universities (predominantly publication driven) that keeps narrowing the scope of the universities in the TH, requires a revisit – both from a policy point of view, and in terms of social and community impact and sustainability.  Universities can play a lead role in the transformation / transition of their regions because of their potential and their capacity as knowledge institutions for strategic action.

The workshop and the webinar contributed to the Triple / Quadruple Helix Concept underpinning the introduction and development of S3 with recent theoretical conceptualisations and up-to-date practical evidence of the advantages of Multistakeholder engagement across government, academia and industry.  Deepening the discussion of the linkages between S3 and the Triple / Quadruple Helix was evident in all presentations.

In addition to the intense and fruitful discussion, the participants in the workshop were able to visit the world-famous Strawberry Hill House and to take part in the launch of the Triple Helix Scenario Planning interactive game.

1 Joint Research Centre, the Research Centre of the European Commission (see

Triple Helix Scenario Planning

Interactive Game

This new Innovation and Strategy Game for Executive Training is based on the Triple Helix model and combines a Scenario Planning technique with our knowledge of the Triple Helix actors.  The aim of the game is to create an innovative solution adopting the Triple Helix multi-stakeholder approach of university-industry-government interactions.  It orchestrates the collective efforts of creating out-of-the-box solutions to complex challenges, using one of the most popular creative thinking methods – the six thinking hats of DeBono.

The objective of this game is to create a set of innovative solutions to a complex problem through adopting a multi-stakeholder approach and a well-defined university-industry-government interactions.

Each team is asked to select / formulate a problem, to analyse the factors or driving forces that influence the actors and the actions of stakeholders, to propose a consensus model that mobilises all relevant stakeholders.

Under such a consensus platform, specific Triple Helix actors are associated with specific knowledge and resources, actions and behaviour, which are displayed using the knowledge, innovation, and consensus cards in the game.  The creative solution to a complex problem emerges from the descriptions of self-contained scenarios of actors, connectivity and multi-stakeholder engagement, resources and expected outcomes and the selection of a best scenario, which is developed into an action plan involving all pre-selected stakeholders.

The most successful teams are expected to develop an implementation plan by looking at the key resources required, and comparing alternative scenarios, shaped by leading actors and driving forces.

Additional points are given to teams that are able to make explicit their assumptions, able to compare and contrast alternative scenarios, and propose an action plan that involves game cards as well as innovative ideas, captured during the deliberation.

The board of the game positions spaces for the playing cards, and common integrative space for the linkages, interactions and proposed activities.  Essential aspects of the game are the use of blank cards – as AHA! cards, capturing innovative ideas that emerge during the team discussion.  The reflections on Assumptions enable each team to translate hypothetical ideas into proposed real actions.


The playing cards are designed to reflect common sense knowledge on the triple helix actors, insights from science and innovation theory, and conceptual prescriptions from the strategy literature on future scenarios and strategy implementation.

Although the game has been designed as a competitive exercise, during implementation it was suggested that the main feedback on the teams is not whether their proposals are winning, but obtain a formative feedback – how their solutions relate to other collective solutions.

The concept was tested during the workshop at St Mary’s University in the UK – “Innovative Place-Based Triple Helix Approaches for Regional Development through Smart Specialisation Strategies (27-29 June 2019).  Participants in the interactive game addressed the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and explored alternative scenarios – how to solve the challenges of specific SDGs and to propose innovative solutions based on multi-stakeholder consensus.  Participants were divided into three groups and were encouraged to change roles during the game – utilising the six thinking hats of DeBono.




Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515


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