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Smart specialization policy in the European Union: relatedness, knowledge complexity and regional diversification


  • Pierre-Alexandre Balland

    (Department of Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht - Utrecht University [Utrecht])

  • Ron Boschma

    () (Faculty of GoSciences, Department of Economic Geography - Utrecht University [Utrecht], Utrecht University [Utrecht])

  • Joan Crespo

    (LEREPS - Laboratoire d'Etude et de Recherche sur l'Economie, les Politiques et les Systèmes Sociaux - UT1 - Université Toulouse 1 Capitole - UT2J - Université Toulouse - Jean Jaurès - Institut d'Études Politiques [IEP] - Toulouse - ENSFEA - École Nationale Supérieure de Formation de l'Enseignement Agricole de Toulouse-Auzeville)

  • David Rigby

    (UCLA - University of California [Los Angeles] - University of California)


The operationalization of smart specialization policy has been rather limited because a coherent set of analytical tools to guide the policy directives remains elusive. We propose a policy framework around the concepts of relatedness and knowledge complexity. We show that diversifying into more complex technologies is attractive but difficult for European Union regions to accomplish. Regions can overcome this diversification dilemma by developing new complex technologies that build on local related capabilities. We use these findings to construct a policy framework for smart specialization that highlights the potential risks and rewards for regions of adopting competing diversification strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Ron Boschma & Joan Crespo & David Rigby, 2018. "Smart specialization policy in the European Union: relatedness, knowledge complexity and regional diversification," Post-Print hal-01794372, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-01794372
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:wdevel:v:117:y:2019:i:c:p:48-60 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Artur Santoalha & Ron Boschma, 2019. "Diversifying in green technologies in European regions: does political support matter?," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1922, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jun 2019.
    3. Dany Bahar & Samuel Rosenow & Ernesto Stein & Rodrigo Wagner, 2018. "Export Take-Offs and Acceleration: Unpacking Cross-Sector Linkages in the Evolution of Comparative Advantage," CESifo Working Paper Series 7436, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Ron Boschma & Julien Ravet, 2019. "Network dynamics in collaborative research in the EU, 2003-2017," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1911, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Apr 2019.
    5. repec:spr:eurasi:v:9:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s40821-019-00121-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ludovic Dibiaggio & Benjamin Montmartin & Lionel Nesta, 2018. "Regional alignement and productivity growth," Sciences Po publications 25, Sciences Po.
    7. Fulvio Castellacci & Davide Consoli & Artur Santoalha, 2018. "Technological Diversification in European Regions: The Role of E-skills," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20181009, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    8. Antonelli, Cristiano & Feder, Christophe & Quatraro, Francesco, 2018. "Directed Technological Change and Technological Congruence: A New Framework for the Smart Specialization Strategy," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201805, University of Turin.
    9. repec:bla:jecsur:v:33:y:2019:i:5:p:1359-1388 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Mathieu Steijn & Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Ron Boschma & David Rigby, 2019. "Technological Diversification of U.S. Cities during the Great Historical Crises," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1901, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jan 2019.
    11. Steven Bond‐Smith, 2019. "The Decades‐Long Dispute Over Scale Effects In The Theory Of Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(5), pages 1359-1388, December.
    12. Sebastian Bustos & Muhammed A. Yildirim, 2019. "Production Ability and Economic Growth," CID Working Papers 110a, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    13. repec:pal:palcom:v:4:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-018-0136-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Pietro Moncada-Paterno-Castello & Sara Amoroso & Dimitris Pontikakis & Emanuele Pugliese & Alexander Tuebke, 2019. "Industrial Innovation for Transformation: 7th European Conference on Corporate R&D and Innovation CONCORDi 2019. Background Note," JRC Working Papers JRC117787, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    15. Hartmann, Dominik & Bezerra, Mayra & Lodolo, Beatrice & Pinheiro, Flávio L., 2019. "International trade, development traps, and the core-periphery structure of income inequality," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 01-2019, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.
    16. Davies, Benjamin & Maré, David C., 2019. "Relatedness, Complexity and Local Growth," IZA Discussion Papers 12223, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Ron Boschma, 2018. "The geographical dimension of structural change," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1839, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Nov 2018.
    18. Luciana Lazzeretti & Stefania Oliva & Niccolò Innocenti, 2019. "Exploring the role of industrial structure for regional economic resilience," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1917, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised May 2019.


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