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Advisory report 33: Amendments to the Industrial Research Fund and Interface Activities Decree

7 November 2023

VARIO interprets the conclusions of the 5-yearly evaluation of the Industrial Research Funds and the interface activities of the associations as overall very positive and can therefore agree to the present (largely legal-technical) changes and clarifications in the short term. For the future, VARIO recommends to investigate the IOF distribution parameters. VARIO recommends investigating the IOF distribution parameters to ensure that the objectives put forward by the policy level are effectively achieved. In addition, VARIO also asks to use the insights from the IOF evaluation report in system analyses and to design those analyses in such a way that they facilitate the development of a strategic vision for research and innovation.

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With this new advisory report, VARIO answers a request from the Minister of Innovation regarding the draft order of the Government of Flanders amending Order of 23 May 2009 regarding the support of the Industrial Research Funds and the interface activities of the associations in the Flemish Community.

In spring 2023, the five-year evaluation of these subsidy instruments was conducted. VARIO interprets the conclusions of the evaluation report as overall very positive and is therefore not asking for major adjustments to the regulatory changes in the short term. The present amendments are largely legal-technical changes and clarifications. VARIO also takes previous VARIO advisory reports into consideration and thus arrives at the following recommendations.

1. Investigate whether adjustments to the distribution parameters are necessary to ensure effective achievement of the policy objectives.

The IOF is an example of output-driven funding for knowledge institutions, with which the Flemish government pioneered at the time. KPIs and output parameters are part of its funding rules and distribution keys. This approach has certainly delivered for Flanders; it stimulated the focused pursuit of measurable objectives and brought them to the international top. To ensure that during a next revision of the IOF and interface activities decision, a reflection can be made on the distribution parameters and the extent to which they align with the policy objectives, VARIO requests that the necessary study work on this be carried out in a timely manner.

2.1 Use the insights from the IOF evaluation report in system analyses.

VARIO has repeatedly stressed the importance of continuing to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of aid instruments, both individually and as a system. Some of the insights in the evaluation report are valid and genuine systemic concerns that deserve appropriate attention. VARIO recommends that those insights be addressed during the systemic evaluation planned by the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation starting in fall 2023.

2.2 Design the system analysis so that it can lead to the development of a strategic vision and a long-term budget for research and innovation.

The recent BOF and IOF evaluation reports contain recommendations regarding the creation of a future vision for R&D&I funding instruments. VARIO endorses that recommendation and reiterates the demand to rapidly build an overarching long-term vision around innovation and translate it into a strategy with concrete objectives, which was the first recommendation in the VARIO Memorandum 2019-2024. For VARIO, the principles of excellence, collaboration, interdisciplinarity and internationalization should be at the forefront of any funding model. VARIO asks that the approach of the planned system analysis be conceived in such a way that it fully facilitates the development of such strategic vision at the level of the Flemish Government as well as at the level of the policy domains involved and at the level of the instruments/structures/programs/actors.