ROCK partner TASO has just completed a pioneering and systematic exploration aimed at best positioning cultural heritage at the now-mainstream place-based innovation policies in Europe – Regional Strategies for Research and Innovation for Smart Specialisation (RIS3/S3).
The analysis has evidenced that only a few of the RIS3/S3s underway have expressly considered cultural heritage – in this respect, the Italian regions of Lazio and Emilia-Romagna worth a mention. Others regions prioritize tourism or culture-related domains, but mostly with an imprecise content, where the contribution of heritage to an innovation-led growth is not properly examined. Certainly, digitisation represents a main avenue in this regard, but it is so overarching that ultimately is not instrumental enough to best place heritage within S3 frameworks, or catch proper attention of innovation policymakers on the innovative potential linked to modern heritage management.
Instead, a type of purpose-oriented categorisation of heritage-applied innovations and technologies could work better to that aim - Heritage Digital Storage & Preservation, Heritage Experience, Smart Heritage, Heritage Care, Heritage Resilience and Lighting and visual experiences. According to Grupo TASO, these main innovation trajectories could be addressed as dashboards to organize “entrepreneurial discovery” dynamics, with the aim to pave innovation-led pathways for cultural heritage. Needless to say, these categories could perfectly work as pipelines for research, start-up development and investment attraction & funding.
In this attempt, the empowerment of cities as S3 key actors would be rather helpful, since local governments are playing an important role in the heritage field, in terms of policymaking and management, regulation and procurement capacity. However, it is a fact that smart specialisation still means little for many city officers. Hence, both challenges will mutually reinforce: filling the “city gap” with regard to smart specialisation strategies and connecting properly cultural heritage to S3.
Promoting a better link between the heritage field and the smart specialisation strategies will be rather helpful to realise the full innovation potential of both heritage valorisation and heritage-led urban regeneration. Moreover, it will greatly expand the funding opportunities for this kind of projects. The ROCK report has benefited from detailed reviews by Cristina Garzillo (ICLEI) and Antonella Fresa (Confindustria), as well as from other valuable comments of experts and practitioners from inside and beyond the ROCK consortium.