Stimulating innovation

Position Paper | Year 2009
Stimulating innovation
Class of Technical Sciences
Innovation is now generally considered as an important prerequisite for a prosperous and expanding economy. As a consequence, any government anxious to boost the economic growth in its region should consider innovation as a priority. International comparative studies have repeatedly shown that, with regard to innovation, Flanders is lagging behind its neighbours despite the considerable financial means which are being spent to invigorate the innovation process. CAWET has followed with profound interest the innovation performance of the Flemish industry, and has regularly published its findings and recommendations (the last report was published in April 2001). In the present report an evaluation is made of the current innovation policy and the impact of the engaged financial means. Indeed, on the one hand injecting huge amounts of money in the economy is by no means a guarantee for a strong development of innovation. On the other hand, though, it is encouraging that progress has undoubtedly been made: innovation is now generally considered important and the government has given a high priority to innovation incentives. CAWET’s working group concluded its report with the following recommendations:
1. Considering the importance of innovation and against the background of a dire and still worsening economic situation, parliament should dedicate more time and interest to the innovation issue. The impact of governmental bills and measures with respect to innovation should be monitored and, when needed, corrective actions should be proposed.
2. Creation of an “Innovation Council” to audit current innovation programmes and to advise the government about new innovation initiatives. Preferably, a suitable existing organization could be charged with those tasks.
3. Establishment, with the participation of the major actors, of a Strategic Master Plan for the Flemish economy. Selection of the spearhead economic domains, which consequently should be fostered and deserve a priority treatment.
4. Critical evaluation of results, goals, efficient use of funding, overlaps... of all programmes, initiatives, organisations,... set up to boost innovation.
5. Quicker suspension of underperforming programmes and initiatives. Improvement of collaboration and cooperation between services and organisations covering overlapping
6. A systematic and thorough evaluation of innovation programmes has to assure a proper “return on investment” of the engaged financial means. Suitable consideration should be given to the commercial value of the obtained results. This is, after all, the ultimate goal of the innovation effort.
7. Progressive lowering of the administrative burden involved in obtaining government funding with a view to replace it by a comprehensive midterm and post evaluation.
8. Setting up of a freely accessible and user-friendly database containing all relevant information about innovation initiatives, programmes and projects .
9. Keep a proper balance between basic and applied research. Basic research efforts should be maintained at a sufficiently high level to fulfil the needs and expectations of the Flemish economic tissue.

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