VARIO advisory processes 2021

VARIO advises the Flemish Government and the Flemish Parliament on science, innovation and entrepreneurship policy. In its advisory projects both own initiatives (proactive advice) and requests for advice are possible (reactive advice). Moreover, in the course of the working year, new requests for advice from the Flemish Government or from the Flemish Parliament can be added.

You will find a brief overview of the current advisory projects for 2021 below. As the advisory trajectories progress, you will learn more about it here and and elsewhere on our website. Be sure also to keep an eye on VARIO Update, our newsletter, and social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) for news (in Dutch only).

1) 'Sustainable Development Goals'

In 2021, VARIO will work around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. On the 5th of March the council has published a first, concise advice (VARIO-advisory report 17), with which it wants to draw attention to the high relevance of the SDGs for science, innovation and entrepreneurship policy.

VARIO formulated three recommendations to the Flemish Government:

  1. Rely on an ambitious, comprehensive and coherent framework with the SDGs as a compass and develop a clear vision on the role of science, innovation and entrepreneurship for all goals within this framework;
  2. Make companies more aware of the opportunities that the SDGs hold for them;
  3. Learn from the approach of our benchmark countries.

The post-Covid crisis relaunch and the large amount of resources that are being released for it, must be seized to further increase the societal impact of science, innovation and entrepreneurship. In a subsequent, more extensive advisory report, VARIO will investigate how the SDGs can be opportunities to strengthen research, innovation and entrepreneurship in Flanders and to put them on the map internationally.

In a written response, Minister Crevits expresses her appreciation for VARIO's work around the SDGs and more specifically for the three recommendations in this first advisory report. For the following stages, Minister Crevits asks VARIO to additionally develop a vision on a good policy mix between bottom-up support, which Flanders has mainly focused on in the past, and more thematic / mission-oriented support. VARIO has decided to elaborate on this in a separate advisory text.

For the second advisory report on the SDGs, VARIO has put together a sounding board group consisting of four VARIO members, Lieven Danneels, Johan Martens, Leen Van den Neste and Marc Van Sande, and four external experts, Marion De Bruyne (Vlerick Business School), Lieve Jacobs (CERA), Olivier Van Haute (Degroof Petercam) and Peter Wollaert (CIFAL).

2) Strategic Autonomy

Policies regarding strategic autonomy and strategic domains has been put high on the European agenda. It can focus on various areas, such as the recovery of essential companies or production processes, the concentration of government resources in strategic areas, the creation of a favorable environment in which strategic companies flourish… Under the umbrella of strategic autonomy, VARIO bundles two advisory trajectories to strengthen the strategic autonomy of the Flemish region.

2.1) IPCEI-major projects of common European interest

In 2020, VARIO was asked for advice by Flemish Minister of Economy and Innovation Hilde Crevits on IPCEI (Important Projects of Common European Interest). IPCEI is a new instrument of the European Commission that makes state aid for companies compatible with the internal market. In this context a number of topics for strategic value chains were identified to stimulate new projects:

  1. Clean, connected and autonomous vehicles
  2. Smart health
  3. Low CO2 emissions industry
  4. Hydrogen technologies and systems
  5. Industrial internet of things (Industrial IOT)
  6. Cybersecurity

With regard to these six value chains, Minister Crevits asked VARIO to carry out a strategic exploration and analysis of the strengths and opportunities in Flanders.

As various European (incl. Flanders) initiatives with regard to the hydrogen value chain were already set up in the spring of 2020, VARIO decided to analyze this value chain first. The advice on the hydrogen valuechain has been delivered to Minister Crevits in the summer of last year.

In the autumn of 2020, the analysis of the other value chains was also started. VARIO plans to deliver an overarching advice to Minister Crevits in the first half of 2021.

2.2) Attracting private knowledge-intensive investments from abroad

One of the Flemish 2030 goals is to increase the number of knowledge-driven foreign investments in Flanders that also generate employment... In 2019, foreign companies invested around 5.2 billion euro in affiliates in Flanders; this concerns 258 new investment projects that generated a total of 5384 new jobs. 58 projects invested in R&D. In Flanders, 66% of business R&D expenditure takes place in branches under foreign control (2017). In the advisory project, VARIO will both look into foreign business R&D investments as in knowledge-intensive production investments (e.g. pharmaceuticals, EVs…). What is the economic and innovative added value of foreign knowledge-driven investments for Flanders? How can Flanders attract and retain more knowledge-driven investments from abroad? Which factors and actors are important in determining the location of R&D activities? From Production Facilities? Which policy measures to support the location of new activities through inward foreign direct investment already exist and how can we learn from foreign best practices?

3) Setting a baseline for a high-quality set of indicators for science and innovation

At the request of the Minister-President of the Government of Flanders Jan Jambon and Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation Hilde Crevits, VARIO compiled a set of strategic policy indicators in 2020. This set allows to monitor the progress of Flanders in an objective and transparent way towards a top knowledge- and innovation region. The tool consists of 20 key indicators reflecting critical success factors and associated objectives as closely as possible.

In 2021, at the request of Minister Crevits, VARIO will set a baseline for these indicators (in coordination with the Flemish Indicators Book 2021 and the Flemish Statistical Authority).

4) Annual Colloquium

In VARIO’s work program, we also mention the annual colloquium of VARIO that will be linked to one of the planned VARIO advices of 2021.

On the agenda for 2021-2024

In addition to the advisory trajectories mentioned above, other ideas for advisory projects will be elaborated in the light of the new VARIO mandate 2021-2024. These relate to:

VARIO advisory processes 2021