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Report: Transformative innovation policy: a joint country review by VARIO and AWTI

14 December 2023

Lessons from Sweden, Switzerland and Austria

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VARIO and the Dutch AWTI (Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation), have each been working for some time on an advisory project on transformative innovation policy. This is a new generation of innovation policy that includes both transition- and mission-driven innovation trajectories. It leads to economic and deep societal system change. The AWTI published its advisory report on transformational innovation policy in mid-December; the VARIO advisory report was published in early 2024.

To substantiate their own advisory work, VARIO and AWTI investigated in a joint country review how transformative innovation policy is shaped in Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. The aim was to learn from the policy approach of these countries, taking into account that this new policy paradigm is generally still very young to already see results and impact. The study situates the transformative policy approach in the broader policy traditions and policy mix of these countries.

The approach to transformative innovation policy is different for each of the three countries, depending among others on the existing R&I system and its history. However, it is noteworthy that Switzerland and Austria, with a strong bottom-up tradition, also find it necessary to focus on societal challenges in parallel to classical innovation policy. The Swedish country study moreover shows that steering should go beyond merely setting objectives from above. Lessons can also be drawn from the three countries in terms of coordination and alignment of policies between innovation and the 'problem domains' (e.g. Energy, Mobility, Environment...). In Sweden, for example, climate and innovation fall under one ministry. Austria has recently created a 'super' ministry that brings together 'problem' domains with research and innovation and regulatory capacities. For Switzerland, on the other hand, coordination by a separate entity outside the government is favored, in order to actively manage projects of (technological) missions based on the US ARPA model.