The Geography of Higher Education – Evaluation of the Academy for Smart Specialisation

The report ‘Evaluation of the Academy for Smart Specialisation’ is the first of ‘The geography of higher education’ OECD series, which aims to help fill the gap between academic research/teaching and business/society. The Academy for Smart Specialisation is a partnership between the regional government of Värmland and Karlstad University. The aim of the Academy is to generate academic research and skills in areas that are relevant for regional competitiveness, as identified by Värmland’s Smart Specialisation Strategy – and to generate advanced services that help enhance the region’s capacity in identifying emerging industries and key local assets.

This evaluation was performed by OECD in collaboration with Nordregio during spring 2020. Project leader from Nordregio was Jukka Teräs, Senior Research Fellow. Linnea Löfving, Research Fellow and Diana Huynh, Junior Research Fellow also worked on the team.

“The Academy for Smart Specialisation is a great example of how to link a regional Smart Specialisation Strategy to Higher Education Institutions, not only to promote research, innovation and collaboration but also to facilitate the long term need of skills and competence in the region. The partnership between Region Värmland and Karlstad University shows that the two parties have understood that together they can create added value both in terms of economic resources and in terms of a strengthened entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region,” says Linnea Löfving, Research Fellow at Nordregio.

Most of the programmes and projects implemented by the Academy have generated value for both the regional smart specialisation strategy as well as for Karlstad University. At the level of selected individual projects, however, the overall alignment between stated objectives and expected results varies significantly. Some projects have exceeded expectations regarding quality of research and/or cooperation with industry – others have not. But overall, the management, coordination, and implementation of the Academy for the first years of operation have been quite successful.

The current COVID-19 pandemic, with its economic and social consequences, represents a stress test for the Academy, which has to provide information and intelligence to its regional community. In particular to firms of different sizes and years of operation on how to weather the crisis and bounce back once the pandemic is over or under control.

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