Smart specialisation is a policy concept that has enjoyed a short but very exciting life! Elaborated by a group of academic “experts” in 2008, it very quickly made a significant impact on the policy audience, particularly in Europe. Such a success story in such a short period of time is a perfect example of “policy running ahead of theory”: while smart specialisation seems to be already a policy hit and policy makers show some frenetic engagements towards smart specialisation, the concept is not tight in particular as an academic concept. Many statements and arguments about smart specialisation have not been yet based on a sound base of empirical work so that the plea in favor of smart specialisation and the tools and instruments to support a smart specialisation strategy are made of more wishes and hopes than of empirical (stylized) facts. There is therefore a growing gap between the policy practice and the theory. In this paper, we expose and explain the minimal set of arguments and statements that have created this situation of smart specialisation having “political salience” which makes policy makers eager to “do it” in spite of a modest theoretical framework to guide its application or an adequate evidence base to help regulate its implementation. Then we will define a research agenda that addresses issues of fundamental understanding, empirical observations and measures and operationalization of the assessment of potential for smart specialisation and of the tools to realize the potential of the concept.