Fostering smart specialisation: the emergence of guided self-organisation at the regional level

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Smart specialisation is an ambitious innovation policy of the European Union that encourages European regions to develop areas of specialisation and increase sustainability, innovation and growth. Regions are responsible for implementing complex guided policy priorities, but processes, methods of implementation and areas of emphasis vary. The study investigates how regional project actors self-organise into complex adaptive systems (CAS), the factors of which enable and restricts guided self-organisation and what is the outcome of emergence. Data for this study were gathered from interviews with actors in a smart specialisation implementation project in the Lapland region of Finland and were analysed through content analysis using CAS concept principles. This study demonstrates that actors have self-organised in CAS based on multiple roles and narrowed participation of companies. However, public institutions also have restrictive guidance of self-organisation because of the ability with autonomy for change and the current situation of simultaneous changes in organisations. Political guidance diversified international and regional development. EU-level development as well as regional development was successful and multidimensional, despite the gap between the guidance of international and regional development. As an outcome of emergence, multi-level network activities have increased, but challenges in realisation of actions and diverse goals have also appeared.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-130
Number of pages20
JournalUrban, planning and transport research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • smart specialisation
  • regional development
  • complex adaptive system
  • guided self-organisation
  • emergence
  • innovation

Field of science

  • Administrative science


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