From the JRC-IPCTS (Joint Research Center – Institute for Prospectctive Technological Studies Directorate General Research) 1st reading: Effective research and innovation agendas to tackle societal challenges. The case of Strategy Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) In the EU policy landscape, long-term trends, often referred to as “grand” or “societal” challenges such as climate change or population’s ageing, call for efforts that go beyond mere public regulatory intervention. These challenges demand a major and sustained effort and their realization is not possible without major breakthroughs in Research and Innovation (R&I).
Priority has been given by the new strategic R&I initiatives to solution to societal challenges. This is leading to the emergence of the concept of “innovation partnerships” and should materialize many of the ideal characteristics of an effective R&I agenda, such as strategic coherence, an integrated approach to R&D, innovation and education, the establishment of favorable framework conditions, the promotion of cooperation between all actors, good governance and adequate funding.
In 2007, the European Commission has presented a plan which aims to accelerate the development and deployment of cost effective low carbon technologies: the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). The SET-Plan provide a strategy concerning the research and innovation (R&I) to green the EU
The SET-Plan puts some order by introducing a strategic framework at European level to organise and align efforts. Proper attention must be paid to the heterogeneity of the various instruments: differences not only in the hierarchical levels and the type of actors involved, but also at the unequal coverage of different technological areas and the different financial size of implementation initiatives. 1) Integration: – Setting clear priorities and defining the contribution of existing instruments:
To tackle the societal challenges, a broad strategic framework needs to be provided. This mean among others taking stock of R&I activities in the field and stressing the importance of relying on existing instruments. A number of key technologies based on their technological maturity is selected by the SET-Plan and to help bring innovation to the market, each key technologies is targeted by a European Industrial Initiatives (EIIs), established after consultation of the relevant stakeholders.
Nevertheless research initiatives are launched also in technological fields that had not been identified as priorities for the first phase of implementation because they are not mature enough for a joint research and innovation effort, Even if these technologies are considered priorities, R&I initiatives may be launched in other fields as well, reflecting different stages of maturity, provided that the criteria used to determine when and how a technology becomes eligible for inclusion in an integrated R&I plan are sufficiently transparent.
The widespread adoption of new technologies will require an adequate supply of professionals, technicians and workers to guarantee a rapid and cost-effective deployment and proper maintenance. This strengthens the case for a thorough integration of education into R&I activities, in order to realize the so-called Knowledge Triangle (research, innovation and education). The SET-Plan rightly considers research and innovation as closely interwoven and recognizes the need to further add education policies to the picture. reducing, reusing and recycling policy instruments: We might need new policies if the existing ones do not provide an ideal mix. In that case we could also consider the possibility to use new instruments. A top-heavy governance structure or a too frequent re-focus of the EU’s initiatives are avoided thanks to restraint in the adoption of new initiatives. – Ensuring that R efforts do not remain isolated: This is very important and espacially sinds the needs of integration with other policies in the field have been identified.
The contribution of education and training policies, the design of the regulatory framework and the development of lead marketsare the main “concernes”. The SET-Plan goes beyond sectoral policies, by recognizing that R do not work in isolation but are sensitive to framework conditions. The relative importance of different technologies also differs across countries, so that their complementarities can be exploited only provided that they are accompanied by the necessary investment in infrastructure. 2) Partnerships
Action at the European level should catalyze and align Member States’ and regions’ efforts towards the agreed strategic objectives. This collaborative approach must be further extended beyond public authorities, to involve all relevant actors of the R systems in the field of energy. The SET-Plan shifts the focus from cooperation on specific projects to joint design and execution of whole research programmes. The European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) well illustrates the partnership approach. Its joint research programmes are set up after recognizing for which topics there is a common interest in aligning research programmes.
Participation is open to all research organizations willing to contribute their own R capacities and resources (financial, human and organizational). The SET-Plan explicitly mentions the role of public-private partnerships as a way to accelerate the deployment to the market of new or improved technologies. – Clarifying the criteria for cooperation: The adoption of a one size-fits-all cooperation scheme is required for complex technologies, differing distances to market and financial requirements, heterogeneous national interests and comparative advantages in R. This lso argue instead for a flexible modes of collaboration based on variable geometry. 3) Governance – Clarifying the governance of policy instruments and establishing formal links between them: A strong steering instrument enhances coordination, ensures coherence, and tracks progress, ultimately ensuring transparency and accountability. In order to ensure the joint planning and implementation of its initiatives and ensure this global coherence, avoid unnecessary duplication and create potential synergies, the SET-Plan has instituted a steering group (the SETPlan Steering Group).
Another useful step is to clarify the hierarchy of existing R initiatives by establishing solid links between such a group and its counterparts in other programmes and organisations. – Relying on a system of indicators and reconciling pre-existing targets with it: Effective governance depends not only on the institutional design but also on the availability of timely and reliable information. The SETPlan put in place a dedicated information system, the SET-Plan Information System (SETIS), with the goal of supporting planning, monitoring and assessment within the SET-Plan.
This is to be achieved through the establishment of an open-access information system and the development of an integrated approach for information exchange on energy technologies and capacities for innovation. The SETIS is managed by the European Commission through its Joint Research Centre (JRC), in close cooperation with a broad range of stakeholders. To increase transparency when economic interests are at stake, an independent body with the necessary scientific credibility can be put in charge of its operation.
The SETIS thus works as a transparent information platform both between the actors involved and towards the broader public. The information provided by SETIS allowed for the first time to have an estimation of the financial effort needed, also thanks to a close collaboration with industry. SETIS determined in the first place the amounts currently being invested, including the relative contribution of the public and private sectors. Comparing these figures with what is needed to achieve the objectives of the SET-Plan allows determining the share of financing being already covered.
Another difference between technologies is the different stage of maturity and the relevance of market failures, which influences the degree of private sector involvement. This information is useful to determine how much leverage should be expected from different support mechanisms and to establish the degree of co-financing required. In areas characterized by more mature technologies or having lower exposure to market failures it should be relatively easier to attain a high degree of co-financing.
The very fact that such data were not previously available in a harmonized way confirms the important role played by the SET-Plan as a planning instrument. Determining financial needs and resources is essential also beyond the planning phase. Future estimates should be more publicized, in order to give more visibility to the whole process, increase transparency and track progress. Key performance indicators can provide the necessary milestones and quantification of targets for different technologies. 4) Financing – Defining the financial contour of the challenge and standing up to it:
It is important to enhance the need to identify the financial means being invested in R and their characteristics and to compare them with reliable estimates of the financial needs over the programming period. On the implementation side it is important to ensure that financial commitments are in line with the needs identified. This information helps raise the awareness of decision-makers during budgetary discussions and assist them in allocating scarce resources according to priorities and specific needs. 2st reading: Connecting the dots. How to streghten the EU Knowledge Economy
The Lisbon Strategy will be replaced by a new strategy based upon the proposal to be made by new Commission. The 2010 spring European council will be the first key date to determinate the new strategy. The new post-2010 EU strategy knowledge will have to occupy a central role. This will constitue a perfect opportunity to strengthen the role of knowledge in promoting the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of the European economy. To recall, the overall policy aim of the Lisbon Strategy is the transition to a knowledge-based economy and society. The Commission has been expressing the eed to better integrate all the parts of the knowledge policy agenda for some time, noting in particular: the lack of innovation and entrepreneurial culture in research and higher education the lack of investment, in particular private investment, in research and development the difficulty Europe has in translating R results into commercial opportunities The first major question to answer is: “Why despite the official statements supporting investment in R, education and innovation, the objectives of a knowledge-based economy and society has been attained just in part? ”
Further progress toward a knowledge society requires recognising that: There is a need to look for in a synchronized way the progress in the research, education, and innovation areas: the lack of progress in one of those can prevent advances in the others too. There is a need to pay attention to the links between the three domains: single policy domain will be ineffective if there is a lack of proper links between the elements of the system. The different degree of overlapping of institutional responsibilities at the EU and MS level make it even more difficult to adapt corresponding policy measures.
This implies that at least some objectives within each of the knowledge domains cannot be attained if addressed in isolation. For instance, cross-disciplinary research domains and innovations, concepts such as “web of innovation” argue for the new approach which is a systemic view of the subject. The concept of “Knowledge Triangle” allow to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current EU knowledge policy agenda, it emphasises the importance of jointly promoting research, education, and innovation, and of paying due attention to the linkages between them in the follow-up to the Lisbon Strategy.
Mettre figure 1 The three areas (research, education and innovation) share an important economic feature: the difference between private and social returns. For instance, if externalities exist, private return to innovation will be lower than the social one. This will lead to underinvestment in innovation from the private side and it will create incentives for public intervention in order to correct this market failure (the same purpose can be applied for investment in R and education).
The concept of “Knowledge Triangle” goes further acknowledging the relevance of R, education and innovation. These policies areas are also important for economic growth that can be explained by positive externalities generated by the connection between these three areas. The need for improving the societal relevance of investment in these three areas calls for systemic and continuous interaction. Figure 2 A greater focus must be paid on those links between policy domains that are still non-existent. For instance:
The importance of education for research and innovation: highly skilled personnel are required to perform R and the whole workforce can more easily adapt and exploit innovative production process only with a good basis of education and proper training. Nevertheless, as it is stressed by the knowledge triangle, education must not be treated simply as an input within the context of human resources policies for R and innovation. Some scientific discoveries have applications that can be turned into commercial innovation,
However, innovation should not be confined to the bottom of the knowledge creation process, being considered as a simple output of education and R activities, thus shorting the knowledge circuit. Commercial innovation can leverage research efforts by increasing their efficiency for instance; The relation between each area must not be a unidirectional approach, By examining how the current EU knowledge agenda is set up, it is possible to identify its main strengths and weaknesses concerning in particular the degree of interaction and coherence between the 3 strands of research, innovation, and education.
The starting point is the analysis of the current Lisbon agenda, namely of the relevant integrated guidelines for growth and jobs of the Community Lisbon Programme (CLP). In the current provisions, a huge extent goes towards laying down the objectives to be followed by each element of the knowledge triangle; however, more attention should be paid to the networking of the different elements in order to avoid a mismatch of efforts.
In the same way, institutional arrangements, both at EU and MS level, should be designed in such a way that bodies dealing with research, innovation, and education policies properly take each other into account in order to avoid the pursuit of conflicting objectives. The need of stronger governance mechanisms between Members States and the Commission will be decisive to guarantee an ideal implementation of the new knowledge triangle. A new streamlined EU knowledge agenda should be put at the core of the post-2010 EU Strategy.
Currently, an integrated governance of the EU knowledge agenda is in part ensured by the governance structures of the Lisbon strategy (European Council) and the decisions taken annually during the Spring meetings. In May 2009, Member States have agreed on a new strategic framework (“ET 2020”) including a reference to the knowledge triangle, common strategic objectives, a series of benchmarks linked to them and concrete priority areas for the first three-years cycle (2009-2011).
Since it has been clearly identify that attempt to bring together the research and innovation agenda, education still seem to be dealt with mainly separately, thus it should rely more on a more integrated R and innovation policy strongly connected with key relevant elements of education and training. Reinforced governance mechanisms, based on a stronger and more integrated Open Method of Coordination (OMC) for research and innovation policies, will be crucial to ensure its implementation.
In order to complete the governance structure, adequate coordination mechanisms between the new reinforce OMC for research and innovation and the OMC for education and training should be established. Conclusion: It emerges that: 1) Emphasis has been correctly put on progress in the research, education, and innovation areas. 2) Greater attention should be paid to the missing links between policy domains. In a single policy, a lack of proper links between elements of the knowledge system can neutralise advances in the whole system.
Due attention should be paid to two-way relation between policy areas: progress towards a knowledge society requires devoting the necessary attentions between the vertices of the knowledge triangle. This is a major point because of externalities, multiplier effects and self-reinforcing dynamics. (mettre la figure 3) 3) A new streamlined EU knowledge agenda should be put at the core of the post-2010 EU Strategy. It has to integrated more R and innovation policies, which are also connected with key relevant elements of educaton and training.
The number of headlines objectives (common for the 3 sides of the triangle) should be limited. Concrete measures and instruments should be link to such common objectives. 4) Improved governance mechanisms will be crucial to ensure implementation of the new knowledge agenda. There is a need of stronger cooperation mechanisms between Member States and the Commission to implement the European Research Area. Then a reinforced open method of coordination responsible for implementing the proposed research and innovation streamlined agenda should be seriously considered. This OMC should directly report to the Competitiveness Council.