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JIIS Bulletin - December 2011
Specializing – smartly
The JIIS Economics Unit is thinking ahead. Having recently completed the first phase of its project, TARGET, designed to help policymakers form a strategic "road map" for R&D policy-setting, the team is now considering how to apply their findings to the field of "smart specialization." A new concept for innovation policy, smart specialization promotes efficiency in use of public investments and navigates human and financial resources in ways that can boost economic growth. 

The world now talks in terms of business or technological "clusters," explains Dr. Dan Kaufmann, head of the Economics Unit. A given area of a country may be identified as being suited to a particular cluster – say, winemaking or biotechnology – and that cluster is then encouraged by the authorities and industry to grow. The main task then, however, is to develop proper mechanisms that will allow promising clusters to be selected while avoiding duplication and negative competition among regions.   
The first phase of TARGET saw Israel (JIIS in collaboration with the Ministry of Science) and five EU countries create a model to help decision makers target their R&D investments effectively. "The project focused on biotechnology investments as this sector is seen as one of the most important future growth engines," says Kaufmann, while stressing that the concepts can be applied to other fields as well. The end-product of the project was a toolkit designed to "help policymakers come up with tailored, content-specific strategies based on realistic assessments of their country or region’s resources and capacities."   

The Economics Unit now hopes to apply the knowledge gained in TARGET to smart specialization. Kaufmann: "TARGET can help policy planners identify conditions, advantages and disadvantages, of promoting a technological or business cluster in a certain place. Together with teams in Spain, France, Scotland and Lithuania, we are now planning empirical research that will ensure that different clusters complement rather than compete with each other. 

"The toolkit, which was the end product of the first phase of TARGET, can now be used as a basic resource, an analytical tool, for future stages. Combined with smart specialization, it can help boost the added value of technological clusters, and prevent overlap between them." 


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