52nd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regions in Motion - Breaking the Path", 21-25 August 2012, Bratislava, Slovakia
This paper presents conceptual and empirical reasons for moving from a thematically-regionally neutral innovation policy to a thematically and regionally focused innovation policy, in line with the smart specialization approach of the new cohesion policy framework. The paper starts by claiming that the pathways towards innovation and modernization are differentiated among regions according to local specificities. In fact, territorial innovation patterns exist, that differ one another in terms of the different modes of combining knowledge and innovation, due to different territorial (context) conditions that support the creation / diffusion of knowledge and innovation. A single overall strategy is likely to be unfit to provide the right stimuli and incentives instead on these different territorial innovation patterns that thematically/regionally focused, ad-hoc, innovation policies have to be built. Two main kinds of policies can be foreseen; policies for the reinforcement of territorial innovation patterns, devoted to the enhancement of the virtuous aspects that characterise a pattern, with the aim to reinforce its efficiency, and evolutionary policies, devoted instead to stimulate the most dynamic regions belonging to a pattern to move to a new and more efficient one. The paper goes in depth in suggesting which policies should be developed.