Research and Innovation (R&I) grants remain one of the cornerstones of governments’ efforts to promote business R&I in Europe. The purpose of this MLE was to facilitate the exchange of views and experiences between volunteering Member States on the evaluation of business R&D grant schemes, taking into account the specific contexts in which these evaluations take place.
The 'Policy Support Facility' (PSF) was set up by the Directorate-General for Research & Innovation (RTD) of the European Commission under the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 'Horizon 2020', in order to support Member States and associated countries in designing, implementing and evaluating reforms of the national science, technology and innovation systems. One of the services offered by the PSF are Mutual Learning Exercises (MLE) which are a project-based learning processes whereby over a period of about six months participating countries jointly examine a challenge-driven policy question in detail. The MLEs involve information acquisition and information sharing activities. The purpose of this particular MLE was to improve the exchange of information and identification of good practices between the participating countries (Denmark, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden) and in this way contribute to put in place better systems for the ex-post evaluations of business R&I grant schemes. This MLE discussed various examples of what some regard as the “golden standard” in evaluation. The three key observations were: evaluations using econometric analyses are far from standardized and complex to perform; econometric analyses are very demanding in terms of data-availability and quality; the obstacles regarding access to data and data confidentiality are far from being removed in only but a few cases. While the trend towards econometric analysis continues unabated, it was consensus within the group that it would need to be balanced with an understanding of behavioural effects, i.e. the “innovation journey of firms”, of the use of R&D and innovation grants. Thus, some of the main challenges and questions discussed by this MLE group included: the use of econometric analyses from other domains, as for example education and labour market studies; how to deal with the interaction of various schemes used in combination and how to measure and understand behavioural effects.
The day started with a presentation of the PSF and MLE exercise by the EC; thereafter 10 minute-presentations about the national policy challenges by participating countries were held and a state-of-play on the subject matter was discussed. At the end of the workshop a project plan was developed.
The morning session was composed of three themes, firstly evaluation as a strategic issue, secondly monitoring – a tool for evaluations and finally why econometrics is important. Thereafter the focus was on how to disentangle the joint effect of different schemes and international dimensions.
During the morning session the strategic approach towards the choice of the evaluation framework was presented as well as an introduction to the Danish R&D data infrastructure; later issues concerned with multiple participation, additionally and credibility were discussed.
The final workshop was used to present results of the MLE participants' survey and as a feedback session on the MLE instrument; the structure of the final report was discussed together with future plans.
Experts and participants discussed their findings. It was recognized that despite differences, many of the challenges are shared. The willingness to maintain this learning community was expressed. A new project-based MLE on business R&D grants evaluation will be launched in the beginning of 2017.