Public engagement for S3 in Gabrovo
Why public engagement?
The cornerstone of a successful regional development strategy is a broad consensus among all the economic actors of the territory and, as such, the Municipality of Gabrovo has been very excited to gathering quadruple helix representatives together in discussion. The entrepreneurial discovery process of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) provides inclusiveness but requires leadership. The Municipality of Gabrovo is used to running a local administration engaged with companies and civil society and already has experience in S3 from developing a municipal development plan for the municipality for 2014-2020, fully aligned with the national Bulgarian Smart Specialisation Strategy and recognising the industrial potential of the 3 200 local companies and the technical university in the fields of mechatronic and pure technologies.
Co-design process completed
Despite the challenges brought on by this year’s sudden stop in activity, Gabrovo Municipality has been able to continue with the co-creation phase of its Transformative Experiment. The municipality organised four co-creation activities in the period from April to June. The first of these was with young people using an online survey with high participation. Their involvement was crucial for talent preservation for future city planning. In the case of Gabrovo, human capital retention is based on close cooperation with the local university. The second bilateral meeting was focused on companies, to include them in the S3. Finally, the third bilateral meeting was a physical meeting with representatives from municipalities and local authorities. The Municipality of Gabrovo organised a final summit to present all the information gathered during the surveys connected with the three bilateral meetings and the conclusions of the socio-economic analysis were conveyed to the community.
Developing a shared vision
The next step in the process of designing a regional S3 is to assemble an overall vision for the future of the region. The vision aligns all the stakeholders and pinpoints paths for the smart transformation of the region. For the next programming period Gabrovo’s vision will be Green, Smart and Innovative. The key actions of S3 will relate to human capital (its retention and attraction), the establishment of joint innovation projects, and the development of industrial zones.
The Municipality is creating a focus group on economy, innovations and human capital through the involvement of the key stakeholders from the Quadruple Helix: industry, academia, government, and civil society. This focus group has an important role in effective public engagement as it will review the work carried out so far on the socio-economic analysis, validate sectorial SWOT, and discuss the shared vision and main goals formulated before.
The next months will see the opening of a public discussion on the vision formulated and its main goals in order to ensure the general public have been engaged and given their own input to the Transformative Experiment in Gabrovo. Using this system, the specific work of the focus group will be validated by broader society. After a general discussion that will provide conclusions, then the focus group will identify specific ideas for the development and projects. All these results will be presented at the beginning of 2021 and will be connected by a strong communication campaign for the public that will facilitate the development of Gabrovo’s S3.
 See pag. 22 of the RIS3 Guide (2012). JRC. European Commission.