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General presentation Home > Results > Multi-actor spaces and the governance of research and innovation in Europe >

General presentation

The substantive issues mentioned above about the content and direction of R&I policies take place in a fast changing environment which challenges the implicit assimilation of public intervention with the national state, made by all theories on research and innovation. We were witnessing an important decentralisation movement which tended to generalise the exceptional situation of Germany. This movement saw regions (or their equivalents : lander, autonomous communities…) invest into research and innovation (which was seldom the case before, even for the then West German lander). Similarly the growth of Community programmes in the 1980s and even more in the beginning of the 1990s demonstrated that the national state had lost its monopoly and that we were faced with what was very soon (and probably too rapidly) considered as ‘multi-level governance’. The term, following the policy fashion of subsidiarity, entailed a strong normative component, taking it for granted that there were ideal levels of intervention for each problem, and that it was natural that different public authorities should cooperate to look for the most rational answer. We questioned both assumptions. And proposed to do it along two lines of inquiry. On the one hand we wished to learn more on the new actors, their self-dynamics and the ways in which they developed an ability to behave as new or ‘quasi’ public authorities. On the other, we took on board one major result of foresight studies, the critical role of intellectual alignment and vision sharing in enabling coordinated strategies and policies.

Multi-actor spaces and governance of research and innovation in Europe : 3 lines of activity

Line 1 - understanding the role of selected key actors in this movement : regional public authorities, experts, new intermediary organisations as policy shapers (eg NGO, foundations)
Line 2 - understanding the emergence and stabilisation of multiactor spaces and the governance arrangement
Line 3 - learning about paths, processes and approaches and instruments of policy articulation and policy making

The former line of inquiry on new policy actors, proved very difficult to implement. The initiative on regional actors demonstrated that there were numerous developments on regional innovation systems (the most fashionable within innovation systems theory), innovative milieus and clusters, but little on policies per se, and what was there took it as ‘national policies writ small’. That was the conclusion of the first review action supported (and the policy oriented workshop organised at the Paris conference confirmed it) and it symbolically drove the project participants to propose a change of name (from ERA-Spaces to ERISP) in the continuation they proposed, for developing a conceptual framework specifically addressing regional policies. This has been – and still is – a long process, with articles on the path framing its development (Research Policy 2008) and still a pending book disentangling the different dimensions of such policies.
As for other new actors, it is one of the failures of our action not to have been in a position to generate work on other types of actors, especially NGO. This is partly due to the fact that it was difficult to be proactive on this dimension while having to reconsider completely the ways in which to address the other lines of activity. We took it sequentially, making of the former a priority for the expected second round of PRIME, and de facto an issue that is now raised by the new EU SPRI Forum.

The two other lines were subsumed into the exploration of developing “a forum of strategic intelligence for research and innovation”. The initial idea was to couple an experimentation (located in WP6 associated with stakeholder interaction) with research (both to prepare, interact with and learn from it).

Two developments had driven PRIME to propose such a direction. On the one hand the 1990s had witnessed multiple developments on participatory technology assessment or more widely participatory engagement and deliberation. The assessment made of such developments (see the ASSESS ST GOV workshop and review report, 2004) concluded that there was a dual need to better conceptualise the notion of participation (beyond its normative dimension) and to reflect about the multiple societal roles of pTA. On the other hand, the “Advanced Science and Technology Policy Planning Network” (ASTPP), taking hold of respective developments in evaluation, technology assessment and foresight (to which could be added now benchmarking), showed that R&I policies are becoming more evidence-based and increasingly rely on scientific and analytical input provided by sources of strategic intelligence. The Final report (June 1999) thus advocated for “improving distributed intelligence in complex innovation systems”. Edler and Kuhlmann, following their work on policy arenas, further explored the approach and proposed the concept of “fora of strategic intelligence for research and innovation” (see below for their definition). Such an approach should enable to couple and exploit the synergies of this dual movement of developing reflexivity in R&I policy while fostering participatory engagement and deliberation.

Two complementary definitions of a forum of strategic intelligence
Fora are conceptualised as …‘institutionalised spaces specifically designed for pre-political deliberation or other interaction between heterogeneous actors with the purpose of informing and conditioning the form and direction of strategic social choices in the governance of science and technology’.
Practitioners definition : a structured, more or less persistent interaction of different groups (policy makers, social scientists, scientists, industry, and other stakeholders) that is specifically designed for informing and conditioning the form and direction of strategic social choices in the governance of science and technology

The notion of ‘Forum’ subsumes a wide range of different institutional structures and procedural styles. Examples include open-ended programmes such as extended Foresight initiatives, statutory stakeholder consultation processes, participatory horizon scanning and interactive and constructive technology assessment as well as more specific and bounded exercises such as consensus conferences, citizen’s juries and focus group studies.

PRIME being conceived as a risk-taking machine enabling to test new conceptual designs, was enthusiastic about the idea of experimenting such an approach. It however adopted a rational approach asking promoters to further elaborate the concept including operational dimensions and recommendations for PRIME activities. This was the object of the Forum exploratory research project (see final report and thesaurus user guide,April 2006). Based on the development of a systematic characterisation of a set of experiences the report identified 5 types of fora, characterised the roles played by strategic intelligence within them and derived a set of lessons (see box presenting the project). These were translated into a set of points PRIME had to consider if it wanted to undertake a real-size experiment (see other box). These were intensely discussed at the Paris Conference (February 2006) where the Governing Board asked the Executive Committee to carefully review the possibility of mobilising the results of the Globpol initiative on policy implications of the globalisation of RDI activities of large firms (see theme 2, above) for initiating a bounded experiment. The conclusion of the Executive Committee was negative, considering that PRIME was not an adequate institutional setting to generate policy arenas. This line of inquiry was thus closed while the learning about such developments remains truly innovative four years later…

Forum Exploratory Project – an overview of objectives activities and outputs

The project had 2+1 objectives : (a) contribute to a better understanding of the shape and function of such Fora, (b) develop and test a web-based Thesaurus, (c) derive a list of conditions to satisfy in order for PRIME to initiate an experiment.
The project selected 13 fora including policy makers and professional SI providers, research-based and/or institutionalized (from Austria, France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK but also established at the EU level such as the RTD evaluation network, the 6 countries programme or the water platform).

It developed a characterization template and a web-based pilot application, with both a user handbook and a technical report for enabling the reproduction of the application. Dimensions for characterisation included the initiating actor(s), the political level, the stated purpose, the thematic issue, mains social science methodologies mobilised, participants and members, duration, level of persistence, resources, output, criteria for participation (level of formality, mode of participation, membership criteria), History and process of formation, context, wider social interaction, transparency, concrete activities (workshops and conferences, working groups, virtual interactions, seminars, fund-raising….), multiple purposes, effects (strategic actions, knowledge effects, normative effects… ), evolution of the forum over time, lessons learned, role of SI analysis, governance function.

The first exploitation of the DB built concern the identification of 5 types of Governance functions and the roles played by Strategic Intelligence in such fora.
The 5 types of Governance functions are : general non directed policy discourse / policy planning and development (visions, agenda, implementation), conflict resolution or consensus building, policy information on specific issues, improvement of intelligence provision and application. For each the results detail the rationale and mode of functioning, the role of policymakers, the potential role of SI, lessons derived on organisational features, and success factors. Finally they position them vis-à-vis alternative governance instruments.
The report also identifies the 4 actual functions of SI in Fora : facilitator/moderator ; enabler/teacher, entrepreneur/disseminator, issue based expertise. All fora mobilise at least one (the average being 2).

Some lessons (stylised) : form needs to follow function / constant but productive reflection on how best to steer the forum / The more complex the issue, the more need for SI providers to be integrated in the forum (however beware that analysts are only one group of actors) / forum have a dynamics and the function changes depending upon the state of articulation of the issues / forum objectives need to be clearly communicated / The learning of Forum participants about the issue at hand and their learning about other actors’ opinions about or stances on the issue impact on Forum participation / It is important to strike a balance between different types of debates (closed, half-open and fully open circles /


Creating a forum as a PRIME initiative
Extract from final report (April 2006) p 44-45

The following list of items would have to be considered very carefully within the PRIME Community when thinking about setting up a PRIME Forum :
a) SI (PRIME) as initiators : As a PRIME Forum would be initiated by SI rather than policymakers, the crucial question is : what is our purpose, what is in the focus : is it a concrete policy issue or is SI methodology and insights an issue (rather than an enabler) ? The definition of the function is the key ; Fora need to follow a functionalistic approach : form needs to follow function.
b) What would be the wider policy-space – and how would the PRIME Forum fit in here ?
c) Where is a governance gap, a governance function raising interest with policy makers (maybe the combination of issue and SI (methodological) needs) ? Only if a governance gap, such as lack of clear rationales and insights as regards a pressing political issue, is well defined and communicated would policy makers be ready to commit themselves.
d) On that basis : What set of policy-makers could be mobilised and how could their commitment be assured ?
e) What is the niche of PRIME collection of experts and experience ? Why should PRIME provide the sample of SI providers for a certain issue area – given the existing discursive activities ?
f) Which role of SI can be derived from the combination of governance function and the expert niche PRIME can – and is ready to – offer : issue expertise, methodological expertise, moderating, or enabling ?
g) Which rules for participation and institutionalisation ? It should be clear from the outset : who to include in order to make PRIME members more responsive – and learn.
h) With a given issue, how to strike a balance between wider interaction and openness on the one hand and core activities and confidentiality on the other hand ?
i) Is there a need to link with other SI expertise (e.g. if PRIME provides the moderation, but other experts contribute to the issue or method expertise) ?
j) Could the PRIME Forum take advantage of its in-built ability to link different policy levels (trans-national PRIME approach as asset of national and regional discourse) ?
k) How would the financing be organised ? This question is not only crucial against the background of limited PRIME budgets, but has a further aspect : a mix of funding sources, a multi-lateral financing seems to best ensure multilateral commitment.

Europeanisation processes and the ERA dynamics initiative
During these developments another issue arose about the research agenda itself. It contained no direct interrogation about on-going Europeanisation processes and the de facto dynamics of the ERA. The EC reviewers and the members of the Scientific Committee pushed the Executive Committee to update the agenda and to initiate a proactive development on the issue. This gave rise to a position paper on Europeanisation (January 2006). This served as a platform for discussing in a special plenary session at the Paris conference the interest of such an addition and the directions to follow (see Prime website). This drove to a new major activity line within this theme, called ERA dynamics. The discussion in Paris raised interest within the community. An open call for proposals, based upon the conclusions of the Paris conference gave rise to 8 proposals. The review made led to suggest a regrouping in 4 projects for a second round of proposals. The review of the 4 proposals is interesting to consider as such. It is illustrative of the interest but also weaknesses of top-down initiatives (see extract below of the general comments made before the review of the individual proposals). The ExC decided to fund only a first partial phase of the projects with a dual view of addressing limitations to make the projects more robust and of organising an overall consolidation in an articulated project. This was arrived at, and the ExC decided to continue support, still with strong discussions about the time frame of such a development (seen by many well beyond the then already known end of the EC contract). 

ERA dynamics initiative - Extract of the ExC decision – July 2006
The ExC welcomed the enthusiastic response to the ERA Dynamics initiative shown by the researchers involved, and their efforts to respond to earlier ExC comments on the emerging proposals. The ExC is keen to see substantive and original research on ERA Dynamics, an issue at the heart of the interests of the PRIME NoE.
However, in a more top-down initiative such as this, it is perhaps inevitable that the academic quality of the proposals prepared is somewhat less than that of many bottom-up proposals. The rapporteurs for each of the four proposals under consideration and the ExC more generally felt that all four proposals were weak in a number of respects, such as the general failure to engage with relevant previous literature, the identification of hypotheses that both followed from previous research and that were capable of being rigorously investigated and tested, the development of an appropriate conceptual framework, the definition of the phenomena under investigation and of the key variables to be studied, a rationale for the choice of case studies, the overall research design, and so on (see the reports on the individual proposals).

The thrust of the project has thus been to further develop a conceptual framework articulating knowledge and institutional dynamics, to develop a simple but robust set of indicators enabling to characterise knowledge dynamics, and to start organising the policy discussion on such topics, in view of political developments about the ERA (see Lisbon conference, Lisbon high level group, ERA rationales high level group, and the development of a 2020 vision). How can we appreciate developments made ? WP2 below reviews more in detail developments. Still an overall view is important to appreciate the overall achievements of the NoE compared to its initial ambitions. Concept papers have been very useful in raising policy discussions and the PRIME coordinator considers that the inclusion of key aspects into policy framing is a major success of our ‘percolation approach’, which is marked by the take-up of ideas generated by those who directly support policymakers and policymaking activities. Similarly innovative developments have taken place and are still under development about indicators. The time was however too short to complete a full experiment on chemistry and catalysis within it. This is still going-on at the time of writing of this report but with strong expectations to complete it by the end of 2010. It is however interesting to note that there is no funding space for such an activity at European level, where all research on indicators has been stopped and replaced by top-down tenders. Finally, as expected by the ExC, conceptual developments are far more challenging than anticipated in term of grounding the co-evolution of both S&T dynamics, innovation activities and institutional frames. The special issue agreed with Science and Public Policy has thus been delayed for one year now. This is one conceptual ‘challenge’ ahead for the new EU SPRI forum.



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