Smart Transitions

The challenge

There is a clear need for regions within Europe to make the transition from high carbon emitting primary and secondary industries – especially those industries classified as ‘sunset’ industries in long term economic decline – into more sustainable, low carbon industry alternatives.  However, energy- and carbon-intensive industries are often concentrated in regions whose economic growth and prosperity strongly depend on preserving energy- and carbon-intensive industries. Furthermore, these regions are often characterised by strong path-dependencies and carbon lock-ins such as technical infrastructures and know-how being aligned towards carbon-intensive, incumbent industry operations.

Transforming the economic structure of energy- and carbon-intensive industry regions implies high risk of negative economic and social impacts. Therefore, processes of structural change are highly challenging and require a common and long-term effort of politics, business and civil society. The European Union offers immense funds for strengthening economically vulnerable regions in its member-states and has developed a so-called “Smart Specialisation Platform”. It supports member-states and regions to identify their unique selling points based on existing competences and infrastructures and helps to translate them into innovation strategies. However, these measures and support schemes do not explicitly induce or reward innovation strategies which facilitate the transformation of high-carbon regions towards low carbon regions.

The ‘Smart Transitions’ pathfinder project aims to identify, adapt and apply existing and recently modified smart specialization tools to inform the decarbonization strategies in selected regions and through their key authorities and agencies.

What we want to achieve

The Online S3 Platform ( was developed to provide stakeholders with a series of tools to utilise in the development of regional and national smart specialisation strategies. The objective of the Smart Transitions project is to review the tools to identify a subset that are most relevant to adapt to specifically support regions seeking to decarbonise their economy.


Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, European Future Innovation System Centre, Institute for Structural Research (Instytut Badań Strukturalnych)