Regional structural heterogeneity: evidence and policy implications for RIS3 in macro-regional strategies

In the future of European Union (EU) Cohesion Policy, a critical feature is how to capitalize on the current Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), introduced in the 2014–20 programming period as an ex-ante conditionality for accessing European Structural Investment Funds. As a contribution to the current debate, this paper frames the socioeconomic comparative analysis of EU regions, considering subnational structural similarities, and referring to population, labour market and the sectoral composition of the economy. Principal component analysis and cluster analysis are performed on 31 input variables, returning 19 different types of EU regions. With an application to the EU macro-regions, the paper supports policy planning in macro-regions as a meso-level of interventions for the future Cohesion Policy.