Author Archives: Margaret Pesuit

The State of Implementation and Impact Assessment of the EIT Strategic Agenda

– prepared by Marzenna Anna Weresa, WERI-SGH

To what degree has the Innovation Union’s commitment to set out the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) strategic agenda fulfilled its objectives? What role has this commitment played in achieving the stated policy targets in terms of stimulating innovation in Europe? These are some of the questions that I3U – Investigating the Innovation Union seeks to address.

With regard to the first question, we may conclude that this commitment (Commitment 9 of the Innovation Union) has been implemented at least 83 per cent of the time (5 out of 6 components of the commitment have been completed successfully and in a timely manner). The adopted SIA refers to the EIT Foundation in a very limited manner. In the main part of the SIA (the part focusing on the long-term development of the EIT), no single reference is made to the EIT Foundation, so it is difficult to conclude that this is what the EIT SIA is built on. With regard to the second task, it can be concluded that the implementation of the SIA and the subsequent taking up of various KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Communities) actions led to expected policy results in terms of stimulating innovation in Europe. Qualitatively, KIC actions facilitated the creation and growth of SMEs; brought an increase in European innovation and research taken up by business firms and universities; enhanced the competitiveness of key industrial sectors (economic impact); brought positive changes in European educational systems; increased social cooperation (social impact); and allowed for efficiency gains in managing energy, resources and waste (environmental impact). One aspect especially worth mentioning is that KIC actions have been almost perfectly executed in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added-value evaluation criteria. The most prominent impact channels seem to be the embeddedness level and the resource allocation level. At the governance level, there are some obstacles to its smooth operation. KICs may be too heterogeneous in terms of governance modes, entailing a waste of resources when negotiating with potential KIC partners. At the institutional environment level, it may seem that the SIA is important to its stakeholders, but “bottom up” industry knowledge and experience, along with industry regulations, are far more important.

Turning to indicators of the impact made by the SIA, a continuous increase in (i) the number of innovations (the number of new or improved products/services/processes); (ii) the number of start-ups created; (iii) the number of business ideas incubated; (iv) the number of new graduates from EIT-labelled programmes; and (v) the sum of knowledge transfers/adoptions can be observed. In addition, the direct outcomes reported by KIC partners are promising. In the fields of climate change and environment; energy; food security; manufacturing; materials; and urban mobility and transport, the most frequently reported direct outcomes were process innovations. New technologies and new products were relatively frequent in the health and ICT sectors. Process innovations were especially frequent in the manufacturing sector. Patents have been registered in four sectors: climate change and environment; health; ICT and manufacturing. In general, however, patents are not very frequent as a direct outcome of collaboration under the KIC umbrella. Publications were quite frequent, but only in the health field. Finally, it should be mentioned that KIC actions respond effectively to the grand societal challenges faced by Europe.

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Scientific Cooperation and Research Projects with Third Countries

– prepared by Andrea Mervar, EIZ

Photo: John Amis

The main objectives of scientific cooperation with third countries (Commitment 31) are an increase in research projects with these countries and the improved international mobility of scientific knowledge and research results. The resulting long-term impacts should strengthen the capacity to tackle global challenges and should increase the attractiveness of the EU as a location for researchers, companies and investments in R&D, which should benefit the EU economy as a whole.

In the second phase of the project, the aim was to assess the state of implementation of Commitment 31 at the EU level and at the level of individual Member States. Another objective was to assess the direct impact of Commitment 31 on overall innovation performance. The latter task was highly constrained by the lack of appropriate indicators and the non-existence of a longer time series.

It can be stated that the objectives of the implementation of Commitment 31, as defined in the Innovation Union 2010 document, have been achieved. Specifically, the strategy of international cooperation with third countries was adopted and implemented in 2012; the work programme of the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation was published; international cooperation actions with third countries have been either launched or renewed (for example with China, India, the US and Brazil), while negotiations with individual countries have continued on the basis of agreed roadmaps.

There is also a lot of evidence supporting the view that cooperation with third countries, including their participation in EU programmes and activities, has increased since the implementation of Commitment 31. Nevertheless, the main bottleneck remains the fact that negotiations with each country are specific and distinct, with a large number of stakeholders and activities to be implemented, making this a complex area. At the national level, countries have increasingly opened their research programmes to international cooperation, but national approaches seem to be rather fragmented and require greater coordination.

Further work is needed, particularly with respect to monitoring strategic progress and impacts, using quantitative indicators, on international cooperation with third countries. This involves monitoring various dimensions of international cooperation activities and their impacts, beyond simple measurements of the direct participation of third country entities in Horizon 2020 grant agreements. Collecting more accurate and internationally comparable data is crucial for a better understanding of the nature, scope and impacts of collaboration with third countries. An important source of information is the Research and Innovation Observatory (RIO) website. The RIO website was launched in late 2015, replacing the previous ERAWATCH platform, which has been phased out.

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Facilitating Collaborative Research and Looking at Knowledge Transfer

– prepared by Andrea Mervar, EIZ

Photo: The Tax Haven

The two components of Commitment 21, facilitating effective collaborative research and addressing knowledge transfer, particularly through technology transfer offices in public research institutions, are interrelated.  The background idea of Commitment 21 is derived from the fact that as problems grow more complex, in-house research and development is often complemented with activities linked to external sources, such as universities, research institutes and centres or start-ups.  It is important to provide sufficient incentives for innovation, yet it is also important to balance this with facilitating the diffusion of knowledge. Commitment 21 reflects the Commission’s belief that improved collaboration and knowledge transfer will bring positive long-term economic and social benefits, and should therefore be supported.

Some objectives of Commitment 21, as set out in the 2010 strategic document, have already been achieved. For example, based on the experience gathered through the Framework Programmes, the Commission has proposed simple and clear rules for participation in Horizon 2020, including rules on the transfer and licensing of project results.  Although a large number of knowledge transfer offices have been established over the last decade, their quality and size, as well as the resources available to them, vary greatly across the EU. In addition, communication within and between national networks of knowledge transfer offices could be better developed.

In the empirical part of the study, which deals with the direct impact assessment of collaborative research, we have explored companies that are involved in EU programmes (notably Framework Programmes) and examined whether there is a pattern that emerges for companies that have/have not participated in such programmes. This analysis can give us rough answers as to whether firms that have collaborated through EU programmes (and in particular Framework Programmes) have better innovation performance than those that have not.  Although the answer is broadly positive, it remains merely indicative due to significant deficiencies in the data used.

In order to investigate the issues that TTOs face, the case of Croatia, the newest EU member, was chosen. The study included the analysis of all five TTOs at the university/research institute level in Croatia through structured interviews. New knowledge and technology transfer was considered in a broader context, that is, as an effort to share new knowledge and technologies among universities and public research institutes and other institutions. This will ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users, who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications, materials or services. The study considered TTOs of all types, including organisational units of a university or other public research organisations, as well as TTOs operating for universities.

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Open Access to Research Results in the EU

– prepared by Maja Jokić and Andrea Mervar, EIZ

Much work has been done on open access to research results and research information services (Commitment 20) in the second phase of the project. The team has focused on the availability and evaluation of scientific peer-review open access (OA) journals as well as OA repositories at universities in EU countries.

Photo: Michael Beckwith

The level of awareness and importance of OA in EU Member States was measured by the number and accessibility of OA repositories and OA peer-review journals in their respective countries. In addition to analyses of individual countries, results are shown for the four country groups classified by level of innovation, i.e. the European Innovation Scoreboard 2016. Results suggest that EU Member States already have a strong tradition in OA, in building infrastructure for OA repositories, in stimulating the establishment of OA journals, and in the transition of traditional publishing to OA.

EU countries finance OA activities (institutional repositories and journals) through government funding, EU funds, academic institutions, private and charity funders, and the APC (article processing charges) model. The proportion of OA repositories in EU countries, with respect to all repositories, currently stands at 37%. Though there is a relatively high potential for the use of such sources, there is currently no reliable data regarding this.

From the users’ point of view, it would be very useful to have a single interface to search multiple OA repositories or a unique interface in the form of portals. The ideal solution would be a single OA repository for the EU as a whole. While imperfect from a technological point of view, a good solution for users could be national repository portals in each EU country, or common repositories organised across publications and for certain document types or subject fields.

The quality and status of OA journals from EU countries was measured across quartiles, h-indexes and SJR indicators, and then compared to other scientific journals from 28 EU countries indexed in Scopus. The conclusion is that OA journals from EU countries are, on average, of a better quality than all other EU scientific journals indexed in the Scopus database. For the user, this assertion should be encouraging in terms of confidence and greater usability. Since it is widely believed that SMEs in particular can benefit from OA in their innovative endeavours, an online survey was conducted in order to determine the extent to which the community of SMEs in Croatia possesses information on the existence of institutional OA repositories, whether they use them and if so, their satisfaction with the service and their suggestions for further improvement.

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The State of Implementation and Direct Impact Assessment of SMEs in Research and Innovation Programmes

– prepared by Valentina Vučković (EFZG, EIZ) and Nevenka Čučković (IRMO, EIZ)

The policy plans for increased SME participation in EU R&I funding (Commitment 7) have been fulfilled and have gone above the targeted 20% of the budget, at least in the initial two years of Horizon 2020’s implementation. During the first two years (2014-2015), more than 1200 SMEs received funding under the SME instrument call; as such, 513 million Euros were invested in the success of innovative SMEs.

As for the effectiveness of the EU funding intervention, the analyses suggest a significant positive relationship between increased investment in innovation and the productivity of small- to medium-sized firms. The increased availability of public funding helps SMEs in dealing with financial constraints, particularly in the early stages of developing innovative products (products that are new to the market), which are the riskiest and most demanding stages of the innovation process.

The analyses focused especially on finding empirical evidence regarding productivity and employment gains from increased innovation in SMEs. A positive and statistically significant effect on economic performance comes not only from increased R&D expenditures, but also from the cooperation of firms with others (stressing the importance of knowledge transfer and spillovers) and from PCT patent applications (stressing the importance of the commercialisation of innovations).

However, the impact assessments done for this study are rather limited in scope and time and thus of a more indicative nature. Also, since the selected econometric analyses were based mostly on the use of cross-sectional CIS data, the correlations identified do not necessarily provide conclusions regarding causality. Due to substantial data gaps, the impact assessment analyses could not be performed with the scope and depth that would make them useful for inclusion in the NEMESIS model. Also, a determining issue for the scale of the results’ impacts is the issue of heterogeneity in firms in terms of size and age, which could not be recognised in the model.

Based on the results of an econometric exercise presented by five selected models for a sample of 13 EU countries, we can expect a positive future influence on the innovation performance output of SME enterprises, thanks to the increased availability of EU funding through Horizon 2020. The quantification of the scale of this positive impact will, however, very much depend on the firm’s size and age as well as on the competitiveness of certain industries (high-tech vs. low-tech industries). Also, the positive impact on productivity and employment will very much depend on whether the SMEs invest more in product or service innovations.

However, a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of EU R&D funding programmes targeted to SMEs rests very much upon the availability of and open access to longitudinal quantitative micro data. Specifically, what is missing is a homogenised database of firm-level data across EU countries, regions and industries. This primarily requires sorting out the CIS micro database across different survey waves and countries, but also making it available in the future for more, if not all of the EU states. This seems essential for proper evidence-based impact assessments and monitoring of the achievements of the EU 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union’s 34 commitments.

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