What does the Corona crisis mean for European regions and their innovation strategies? How can smart specialisation help overcome the economic crisis? How can cities and regions tap the full potential of smart specialisation through targeted cluster policies?

In recent years, smart specialisation has become a guiding concept to make Europe more cohesive and, at the same time, to foster the regions’ competitiveness. However, while Europe was close to make the next step towards more smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Corona crisis now represents a serious challenge for its present and future.

At our online conference on 18 June 2020, we discussed with renowned international experts how European cities and regions can achieve economic transformation through smart specialisation with a particular focus on the chances for Ruhr Metropolis.


Rasmus C. Beck, CEO Business Metropole Ruhr GmbH (BMR)

Rasmus C. Beck welcomes all participants and gives a brief introductory note. He highlights the role smart specialisation currently plays in Europe and underlines Ruhr Metropolis’ objective to develop a unique smart specialisation strategy as Germany’s biggest city.

Dr. Ulla Engelmann, Head of “Advanced Technologies, Clusters and Social Economy” Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW)

Dr. Ulla Engelmann stresses the importance of industrial clusters in delivering smart specialisation investments. According to her, clusters enable entrepreneurial discovery processes and play a central role in the recovery of the ecosystems disrupted by the current crisis.

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Merete Daniel Nielsen, President of TCI Global Practitioners Network for Competitiveness, Clusters and Innovation (TCI)

Merete Daniel Nielsen claims that smart specialisation strategies can set a direction in the present time. In this context, she emphasises the importance of stakeholder management and engagement as well as the need for a constant development and evaluation of new cluster initiatives.

Dr. James Wilson, Research Director of Orkestra - Basque Institute of Competitiveness

Dr. James Wilson shares the experiences of smart specialisation in the Basque Country. In his view, new smart specialisation opportunities post-Covid could arise in the areas of the energy-environment transition, the technological-digital transition, as well as the demographic-social transition. 

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Dr. Christian Ketels, Visiting Executive, Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, Harvard Business School

Dr. Christian Ketels talks about the territorial impacts of Covid-19. He underlines the need for smart specialisation strategies to adjust to the current economic challenges and points out the opportunities that might arise from the crisis.

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Prof. Dr. Matthias Kiese, Chair of Urban and Regional Economics, Ruhr University Bochum

Prof. Dr. Matthias Kiese investigates the evolution from cluster policy towards smart specialisation. He states that the biggest challenge for smart specialisation strategies remains their implementation.

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Dr. Judith Terstriep, Head of Research Department Innovation, Space & Culture, Institute for Work and Technology (IAT)

Dr. Judith Terstriep talks about the changing role of lead markets. She gives an outlook on how lead markets might contribute to regional development in the Ruhr Area and other places.

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Prof. Dr. Willem van Winden, Professor of Urban Economic Innovation, Amsterdam University of Applied Services / European Institute for Comparative Urban Research (Euricur)

Prof. Dr. Willem van Winden talks about smart specialisation in regions with a strong industrial core. For Ruhr Metropolis, he sees smart specialisation as an opportunity to bundle its existing potential and identify new strengths.

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Rasmus C. Beck, CEO Business Metropole Ruhr GmbH (BMR)

Rasmus C. Beck gives an outlook on smart specialisation from the perspective of Ruhr Metropolis. He underlines the importance for Ruhr Metropolis to position itself on the map of smart specialisation and to highlight its individual strengths.

Dr. Frank Dudda, Mayor of the city of Herne

Dr. Frank Dudda talks about Ruhr Metropolis’ potential in the area of smart city with a particular focus on energy and mobility and announces the city of Herne’s plans to expand its excellence in this field.

Dr. Stefan Gärtner, Director Institute for Work and Technology (Institut für Arbeit und Technik, IAT)

Dr. Stephan Gärtner explains that both sectoral and regional focussing are central tasks for the development of a smart specialisation strategy for Ruhr Metropolis. At the same time, he reminds that maintaining inter-municipal cohesion remains important.

Jürgen Köder, CEO Regional Development Agency of Ennepe-Ruhr (EN-Agentur)

Jürgen Köder talks about cutting-edge technologies in the Ruhr Metropolis and emphasises the need for the region to collaboratively coordinate the process of developing and implementing a smart specialisation strategy.

Ralf Meyer, CEO Regional Development Agency of Bochum (WirtschaftsEntwicklungsGesellschaft Bochum mbH)

Ralf Meyer highlights the city of Bochum’s relevance as a strong scientific and research location within Germany and its particular strengths in IT security and the health sector.