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Green Technologies and Smart Specialisation Strategies: A European Patent-Based Analysis of the Intertwining of Technological Relatedness and Key-Enabling-Technologies

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This paper investigates the move of regions towards sustainable growth through their specialisation in new green technologies. In particular, we analyse the role that smart specialisation strategies (S3) can have in this respect by addressing two research questions. First of all, we investigate whether the environmental diversification of regional technologies is, according to the S3 logic, driven by their “relatedness” to existing knowledge of green and non-green nature. Second, we analyse the role of the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) that S3 policies recommend regions to prioritise, not only in fostering the adoption of environmental technologies, but also in affecting its dependence on the pre-existing knowledge-base. Combining regional patent and economic data for a 34-year panel (1980-2013) of 180 European regions, we find that the relatedness to the existing technological-base of the region actually makes the acquisition of a new green-tech specialisation more probable. This holds true with respect to both the green and non-green extant knowledge, pointing to a regional diversification that also benefits from the “hybridisation” of non-environmental technologies. The latter however requires a higher degree of relatedness than a “pure” green branching process. Regional KETs also help the transition towards sustainable technologies. What is more, they negatively moderate the green impact of the relatedness to pre-existing technologies, of both green and non-green nature, and thus attenuate the boundaries the latter could pose to regions in their environmental specialisation. These results confirm that S3 policies can actually boost the intertwining of a smart and sustainable kind of growth, and that the KETs inclusion within S3 can amplify the virtuous interaction between these two objectives.

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  1. Artur Santoalha & Ron Boschma, 2021. "Diversifying in green technologies in European regions: does political support matter?," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(2), pages 182-195, February.
  2. Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Ron Boschma, 2019. "Mapping the potential of EU regions to contribute to Industry 4.0," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1925, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Sep 2019.
  3. Eva Coll-Martinez & Malia Kedjar & Patricia Renou-Maissant, 2020. "Location Determinants Of Ecoinnovative Firms In France," Working Papers 2020.02, International Network for Economic Research - INFER.
  4. Quatraro, Francesco & Scandura, Alessandra, 2019. "Academic Inventors and the Antecedents of Green Technologies. A Regional Analysis of Italian Patent Data," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 247-263.
  5. 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.

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