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Pedro Marques, Kevin Morgan


The financial crisis of 2008, and the economic crisis that ensued, have exposed even further the persistent pattern of uneven development which has plagued the European Union (EU) for decades, despite decades of Cohesion Policy funding and many national and subnational initiatives. In the current funding cycle (2014–2020), the EU hopes to address this pattern through a fine tuned regional policy, which places greater emphasis on innovation and competitiveness, rather than investments in infrastructure. This policy is guided by the concept of smart specialisation strategies (S3). However, despite its ambition and potential benefits, S3 is likely to be hindered by low institutional capacity precisely in those regions that need the most help. Consequently, this chapter argues that the policy is stymied by several implicit ‘heroic assumptions’ which will limit its effectiveness and impact in reducing regional disparities. The chapter will also draw on some practical examples to discuss the realities of policy-making in the peripheral regions of Europe.

Year of publication 2018