Rewatch the VARIO colloquium 2022

Transformative innovation policy

Rewatch the VARIO colloquium 2022

On Thursday November 17th, the annual VARIO colloquium on the theme 'Transformative Innovation Policy' took place. We would like to thank everyone who followed the event on site or via the live stream.

Those who could not attend can watch the recordings

The colloquium opened with an interview with Flemish Minister for Innovation Jo Brouns and VARIO chairman, Lieven Danneels. For Minister Jo Brouns, Transformative Innovation Policy is about working on common, substantiated visions of the future and actions to address challenges, in cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders from society. It is about making connections between different policy domains, something that he is already striving to do for the policy domains Economy, Innovation, Work and Agriculture. Lieven Danneels, VARIO chairman, referred to VARIO's previous work on the SDGs and the right policy mix between free and thematic support for R&D, and how VARIO wants to go a step further with this advisory project and look at what our innovation policy still lacks to accelerate transitions, without jeopardizing our Flemish strength of bottom-up support.

Prof. Sylvia Schwaag Serger (LinkedIn) immediately set the tone. The key role for science and innovation in transitions, sets high expectations on innovation policy. Today, innovation policy is mainly focused on distributing project grants rather than driving transformation through market creation, regulation, legislation or the elimination of conflicting policies. Horizontal policy coordination falls short, and stakeholder engagement as we know it today is far from taking collective responsibility for transformation. The biggest challenge will be to reconcile 'accountability' - essential for our democracy but time consuming - with the necessary agility and speed. A clear appeal to strong leadership.

Evaluation of transition policies is still in its infancy. Bas ter Weel (LinkedIn) has given us insight into what frameworks and methods may be appropriate in this regard. Above all, we must dare to experiment in order to learn what really works. Therefore it is crucial to provide ex ante evaluation in transformative innovation policy.

Prof. Anne-Mieke Vandamme (LinkedIn) championed transdisciplinary education and research programs, in which co-creation is paramount to find solutions to social problems. This is necessary to prepare students for their task as future 'changemakers'.

Ann Mettler (LinkedIn) asks us to focus on Green Premiums. Many technologies already exist but need to be scaled up to lower their cost. That's the intent of Breakthrough Energy. Qpinch is a great example of this. The company emerged bottom-up, from an idea by Wouter Ducheyne, CEO Qpinch (LinkedIn), who was able to demonstrate his technology with support from the VLAIO-R&D channel. VLAIO's ecology premium+ helped to win the first customer. This illustrates why it is imperative that we continue to nurture free bottom-up support. In this context, Lieven Danneels already referred to our advisory report 'vision of a good policy mix between free and thematic support for R&D in Flanders', where we ask not to simply shift resources at the expense of bottom-up support.

Ann Mettler also talked about the interface between digital and sustainable technologies as a huge driver of innovation and how we can leverage Europe's strength with it. Our continent has completely missed the digitization of consumer markets, but there are real opportunities in digital industrial markets. Think of energy, manufacturing, mobility, healthcare ... This is the ambition of the new spearhead cluster Medvia, as Ann Van Gysel, CEO MEDVIA (LinkedIn) so beautifully outlined: to give all patients in Belgium and abroad access to the latest healthcare solutions developed in Flanders through the convergence of medical biotechnology, medical technology and digital technology.

As transitions more than ever build bridges between policy domains, innovation policy must also innovate.  VARIO has long been calling for a more transversal innovation policy, just think of our "9 ministers of innovation" campaign.

During two intense hours we received answers and solutions, but even more new questions and challenges. Complexity and uncertainty are clearly part of the transition from old to new systems.


You can download the presentations of our speakers below.

You can view the photos of the colloquium here.