VARIO Advisory Report 27: Vision on a good policy mix between free and thematic support for R&D in Flanders

VARIO Advisory Report 27: Vision on a good policy mix between free and thematic support for R&D in Flanders

With this new advice, VARIO responds to the request by vice-minister president Crevits for a vision on “a good policy mix in Flanders between the rather traditional bottom-up channels and a more thematic/mission-oriented approach”.

VARIO conducted a quantitative analysis of the relationship between free (bottom-up) and thematic (top-down) Flemish R&D resources, and its evolution over the past ten years. Among other things, the analysis shows that:

  • Almost all categories of Flemish R&D resources have grown in absolute terms.
  • Free resources account for more than two thirds of the total, but show a slight downward trend from approximately 70% to approximately 66.5%.
  • The budgets for the strategic research centers represent about half of the thematic resources.
  • Within thematic resources, the strongest increase over time is for initiatives with mission-like characteristics. The Moonshot is the clearest example of such initiatives.

VARIO attaches great importance to strong bottom-up channels. However, there are no objective criteria to determine the correct numerical proportions in relation to  top-down resources. VARIO therefore puts forward a number of principles in its recommendations:

  • Provide a clear strategic framework with clear long-term objectives.
  • Make objective, clear and steady choices and keep them broad.
  • Set up policy mix evaluations and examine how each instrument individually, as well as the total mix of instruments, contributes to the objectives.
  • Keep the effective achievement of goals or missions in mind and look beyond financial resources.
  • Preserve and nurture bottom-up channels.
    • Be more transparent on thematic initiatives in the bottom-up channels.
    • Map out how bottom-up channels also contribute to societal objectives on their own initiative.
    • Bringing societal impact into bottom-up channels in a limited way is fine but keep it very broad so as not to impede freedom.
    • Pay special attention to fundamental research.
  • Create optimal conditions for companies to contribute to goals and missions.
  • Keep the support instruments simple and transparent.
  • Invest sufficiently in policy-supporting research from all policy areas in function of evidence-based policy.
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