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General presentation Home > Results > New rationales for public intervention and the shaping of R&I policies >

General presentation

The classical rationale for public intervention has been based upon the famous works by Nelson and Arrow. It drove to recognise that apart from satisfying the research needs of its public missions (so called mission oriented research), the two central reasons were associated to ‘science as a public good’ (requiring the State to fund ‘fundamental’ research) and to ‘market failures’. Evolutionary economics has added the notion of ‘system failures’ while its policy uptake and its inscription into instruments and evolving policy mixes has remained difficult beyond the development in the 1980s of collaborative programmes, a central feature of the EU intervention. The research agenda drove to identify two major entry points and six lines of activity to address these issues more in detail.

New rationales for public intervention : 6 lines of activity

A- Conditions for knowledge production, ownership access use trade and circulation
  • Line 1 Changing patterns in knowledge production and impact on policy
  • Line 2 Globalisation, firms strategies and RTD
  • Line 3 IPR issues in the context of innovation
B- Science technology and innovation policy
  • Line 4 ST&I policy mixes : issues about their framing, implementation and evaluation.
  • Line 5 Public procurement and innovation in public/collective goods.
  • Line 6 Institutional arrangements and academic research


When reading the research agenda, some clear overlap can be seen with the previous theme on public sector research.
Line 6 on academic research was handled within university projects.
Line 3 was focused on collective IPR. This was done taking into account the wealth of on-going work and the emergence of targeted settings in connection with EPO, in particular the EPIP project and then association (see for instance its 2010 annual conference). Our analysis was that an important theme articulated to public sector research, that is intellectual property generated by academic research, raised specific issues. It was addressed through the CIPR project. Two important outcomes derive from the project. One deals with the organisational handling of publicly based IPR remobilised in other research projects (see article on the collective management of IPR – Menière et al. - or the position paper in favour of the mutualisation of genomics research in agriculture - Joly, Hervieu and Menière, 2006). The other one deal with ontological assumptions in IPR (Bonaccorsi, Calvert & Joly, 2010) : it demonstrates that, in the case of genomic research, the assumed relationship one gene – one disease did not work and thus questioned the basis on which patents were asked for and granted. Both issues are very promising but still pending.

Line 2 did not deal with the globalisation per se of firm RDI but considered the implications of the globalisation of firm RDI for innovation policies. Our choice was to push colleagues inquire such connections through a first exploration. This gave rise to a wide conference (2005) largely exploited in the later special issue of the Journal of Technology Transfer (2008, vol 33, n°4, guest editors : J. Edler and W. Polt). One outcome of it was the development of a comprehensive cost-benefit matrix in order to support policymakers in their reflections and in the policy rationales they select/adopt. This is an interesting case of PRIME intervention. The round made in a short time demonstrated that what was needed related more to a policy-oriented method (which was developed through discussion) and that most further work had to be related to a deeper understanding of firm globalisation of RDI, more in line with the sister NoE on innovation dynamics per se, DIME. It was thus decided to close that line of policy inquiry. This drove to reappraise the research agenda and to consider the alternate aspect : the internationalisation of R&I policies. PRIME participants (in particular Edler as a co-organiser) took advantage of an EC conference on the ‘drivers of international collaboration in research’ to start considering the nature of the phenomenon, beyond on-going Europeanization processes (see below). The conference showed that without further positioning of the issue, it was difficult to go beyond ‘faith’ and ‘anecdote-based’ views. This was taken up in the research agenda for indicators and has given rise to numerous workshops (e.g. Vienna 2010) and to an EC project (JOREP, 2010-2011) (see section 32).

Line 5 on public procurement was not taken up at all by PRIME members in the first 3 years. We thus decided that it was important to be more proactive, thus the specific line in JPA4. In view of the coming closure, those interested decided not to mobilise it and to organise themselves in another way (in particular using the OECD platform). This has given rise to very visible work by one PRIME member (supported by its national programme) on demand-based innovation policies. The results were at the core of the dissemination workshop organised jointly by PRIME, DIME and the French FUTURIS platform (2009) questioning the future shape of R&I policies with an audience mostly made of industry R&D managers and policymakers (see section on key events).
However the other topic in this line – innovation in collective goods – has remained fully orphan. It is all the more interesting that the issue is becoming again politically sensitive with a new round of questions about the economic and social effects of mission oriented organisations (c.f. the 2008 conference on agricultural research in the US, the 2009 Spanish workshop supported by the OECD, and the new 2010 IFRIS project asked for directly by French public research organisations). They demonstrate how important it would have been to anticipate such needs, and in a way are a proof of the interest of ‘long-term agenda setting’. 

We had high expectations on line 4 on policy mixes, especially following the preparatory events that took place at SPRU (see Prime TN final report). There we hypothesised that our view of normative rationales based mostly on economic theory did not capture the de facto dynamics of policy making. Collaborative research programmes was a case in point where the first academic articles arrived at least 5 years after they had been initiated. We thus considered that there could be rationales arising from policy practice, with as large dissemination and embedding than theory-driven rationales. PRIME thus supported an exploratory project (EPOM, 2005-2006) which gave rise to a very interesting set of findings (Bach 2007) distinguishing “production policy rationales and “governance policy rationales. The former rely on scientific insights, on theoretical frameworks of knowledge creation which justify public intervention and define the types of policies required. The latter, on the contrary, reflect causal beliefs in the political system about how the state should govern and rule. What was demonstrated is that both must be taken into account to explain sectoral policy design. It also became clear that, taking both into account and connecting them to dominant path dependency, drove to highlight time dimensions and the existence of “windows of opportunity”. Problems arose when willing to implement this approach at the level of effective policies. What should we understand by a policy mix ? Basically initial steps drove to recognise the existence of different types of policy rationales (an initial typology of each was made recognising 5 main production PR and 6 main Governance PR) and of different ways in which they are articulated (3 archetypical situations were sketched and tested driving to two empirical observations : the existence of a dominant pattern in each country with in some cases a shift over time associated to the second observation of an on-going “rationale struggle”). However whatever articulation was arrived at, initial observations also drove to recognise the existence of lasting mixes in the choice of policy tools associated to these rationales and in the ways and structures to implement them. All this remained at this stage, is available in conference papers and in reports, is mobilised and cited by colleagues but has not driven to specific publications or to specific projects aiming at converting these intuitions into robust demonstrations.

Finally line 1 on changing patterns of knowledge production and their implications on R&I policies was both very productive and also mostly articulated to other developments. The proposal by A. Bonaccorsi of the notion of search regime was widely discussed within meetings of the NoE. It underlied a number of projects, in particular the nanodistrict project which in part was dedicated to developing indicators able to characterise the 3 dimensions of search regimes (growth, convergence and complementarity) and the ERA dynamics project which proposed a network-based approach to indicator building and interconnected it with institutional dynamics (using chemistry as a case). The workshops organised within that frame helped A. Bonaccorsi to structure its proposal (articles in Science and Public Policy and in Minerva) while the policy-oriented workshops organised by the ERA dynamics project (see below theme 2) helped circulating the approach (see in particular the special session organised at the Toulouse French Presidency conference in 2008, cf. section on key events).
This reasoning drove to consider the existence of different sectoral dynamics (this converges with work on technological systems or sectoral systems of innovation). It was not the intention of PRIME to support sector focus developments. What was at stake was to see how R&I policies could take into account the simultaneous existence of different dynamics and potential divergent needs for policy interventions. It was addressed at the same time Europeanisation processes were (see following theme). However there was one situation, very important in large OECD countries that remained puzzling. This is why PRIME supported a limited group of scholars within PRIME willing to address the changes in the articulation between military and civil R&D. Since the work of the 1980s (in particular Made in America) which highlighted the negative effects on civil innovation of a large presence of military R&D, no work had revisited the issue, apart from the highly discussed notion of “dual use technologies”. We thus supported an initial effort to articulate both communities (defence scholars and innovation systems scholars). De facto three successive workshops were needed before a project could emerge (see FP7 Sandera project 2009-2011). These workshops were based on a systematic review of state of the art work and of empirical developments. They have proven academically productive, giving rise to a special issue of the Journal of Technology Transfer (2009) and to a extensive book due to be published in the Autumn 2010 (Edward Elgar, Prime collection).



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