Priorities for country specialization

As in 2013, the process of preparing the new European Cohesion Policy programming period (2021-2027) attaches great importance to smart specialization strategies (S3)

As in 2013, the process of preparing the new European Cohesion Policy programming period (2021-2027) places great emphasis on smart specialization strategies (S3). These strategies are at an advanced stage of preparation in the country, both in regional and national terms. The objective of S3 is to stimulate the concentration of knowledge and innovation resources in a limited number of domains (existing and new) in order to improve the territorial capacities that fuel innovation and economic development.

The European Commission recently organized a national conference on the theme “Strategies for Smart Specialization in Portugal”, in which an attempt was made to take stock of the experience associated with the 2014-20 programming period, currently in the final phase of implementation. One of the strength ideas highlighted was the “large number of broad domains” that characterize the current S3 in the country, which is a fact and, at the same time, a paradox. As a small country that we are, we should instead be meager and incisive in the bets to be made.


“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs” - Michael Porter
In defining S3, the reality of departure from territories is essential, but the choice of “targets” is no less important. The reason is simple: economic activities are not all the same and it is not indifferent to bet on one and not on others. We should therefore devote a lot of attention to potential targets, looking carefully at the more developed world, regardless of the entrepreneurial discovery processes (installed) in the country. This may not be a smart specialization strategy, but it is certainly strategic specialization to consider.

Following past bets, it is also important to look at what is happening on the ground. In other words, it is important to evaluate the results of the bets made, even if they have been used for everything (given the “large number of wide domains” that characterizes the S3 being implemented in the country).


“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” - Winston Churchill
The results are revealing. It is in the mobility industries, in the ICT, in the product industries and in the process industries where the R & D + I effort seems to be being taken most by companies. The economy of the sea, health, forest and energy, instead, then among the activities where the valuation gap is most relevant.

The truth is that, regardless of S3 and public bets, there are bold business bets on national ground, which in some cases are making the European and even worldwide technological frontier.


"Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art." - Peter Drucker
This means that the current S3 strategies of “a large number of broad domains” have at least not stopped the affirmation of some important national processes of entrepreneurial discovery. It would be good if in the future it would be possible to affirm others where the valuation gap is greater, especially those associated with activities with a future and high added value.

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