VARIO work program 2022

VARIO advises the Flemish Government and the Flemish Parliament on science, innovation and entrepreneurship policy. In the 2022 advisory trajectories, both own (current) initiatives and requests for advice will be addressed. In the course of the work year, new requests for advice from the Flemish Government or the Flemish Parliament can be added to the work program.

1. 'Policy mix'

In a written response to the VARIO advisory report 17 'SDGs as a compass for science, innovation and entrepreneurship policy' from 2021, the Flemish Minister of Economy and Innovation Hilde Crevits asked VARIO to additionally develop, in the follow-up process, a vision for 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 this in a separate advisory report.

This advisory trajectory was already started in 2021. In May VARIO issued its advisory report  27 on this topic.

2. Transformative innovation policy

Innovation policy has undergone a number of evolutions and has become increasingly broader. Three generations of innovation policy can be distinguished that do not replace each other but are cumulative. Each of the three is relevant to current policy:

  • The first generation of policies, during the 2nd half of the last century, focused on solving ‘market failures', encouraging companies to invest sufficiently in R&D through subsidies and tax incentives. The protection of intellectual property was also central. This policy is strongly industry and technology driven.
  • The second generation innovation policies, starting in the 1990s, also identified a ‘systemic failure’. In doing so, the policy also focused on facilitating innovation ecosystems and public-private partnerships.
  • Policy that is based on the idea that governments must also focus on innovation in order to tackle the major, complex societal challenges of the 21st century in terms of climate, energy, mobility, food, health, ... has recently been added. It is based on a ‘transition failure'.

What can or should a transformative innovation policy look like in Flanders in concrete terms? In this advisory trajectory VARIO will build further on the advisory report 'policy mix', and also on aspects from earlier advisory reports, about the Sustainable Development Goals (VARIO-advisory report 17 and VARIO-advisory report 20) and involving the citizen in science and innovation policy, among other things (VARIO-advisory report 16). As part of this advisory process, VARIO is also conducting an international benchmark study, together with its Dutch counterpart, the AWTI.

3. IPCEI - important projects of common European interest

VARIO was asked for advice by Minister Hilde Crevits in 2020 regarding the IPCEIs (Important Projects of Common European Interest). IPCEI is a relatively ‘new instrument' of Europe that makes state aid (for companies) compatible with the internal market. In the context of IPCEI, the Strategic Forum on Important Projects of Common European Interest has identified a number of topics for “strategic value chains” within which projects should be stimulated:

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

Minister Hilde Crevits asks VARIO to perform a strategic exploration and analysis of the strengths and opportunities that exist for Flanders with regard to these possible IPCEIs.

VARIO decided to develop this advisory trajectory in three parts:

  • Since several initiatives in the context of hydrogen were already set up at European level (including Flanders) in the spring of 2020, VARIO decided to analyze this value chain as a priority. The IPCEI advisory report part I on the hydrogen value chain (VARIO-advisory report 12) was already delivered to Minister Crevits in the summer of 2020.
  • Subsequently, in late 2020, the analysis of the five other value chains was launched. However, in the wake of the corona crisis and the European relaunch policy, a number of “new" IPCEIs gained momentum in the spring of 2021 (microelectronics 2, cloud, health...). In order to support the minister in responding to such unexpected future opportunities regarding IPCEI and in the choices to be made, a trade-off framework was drawn up by VARIO in its IPCEI advisory report Part II in October 2021 (VARIO-advisory report 22). This trade-off framework draws on the conclusions from the strategic analysis of the six value chains and discussions with experts and stakeholders (advisory report part III in preparation).
  • In a third and final phase, four external expert reports were published in 2022, with the results of the strategic analyses of the value chains ”Clean, connected and autonomous vehicles”, “Smart health”, “Low CO2 emissions industry”, “Industrial internet of things” and “Cybersecurity”. These reports reflect the vision and recommendations of the external experts, supplemented by information from validation workshops with a wide range of stakeholders.

4. Foreign private investment in R&D and knowledge-intensive production

The trajectory focuses on foreign private investments in R&D and knowledge-intensive production such as pharmaceuticals, electric vehicles, green and digital technologies... Taking into account the complexity of the internationalization of R&D and innovation, this advisory trajectory uses an integrated, systemic framework. In addition to a quantitative analysis (based on, among other things, the data from the R&D survey) and a thorough literature study, this advisory trajectory also zooms in more in depth on a number of individual foreign business cases.

Which factors are important to perpetuate foreign R&D activity and knowledge-intensive production in Flanders? How do we keep the foreign production facilities located in Flanders up-to-date and future-proof? What is needed, in an integrated, coherent policy framework, to strengthen the added value of foreign investments in Flanders, taking into account the local economic actors and entrepreneurship?...

This advisory trajectory was initiated in 2021 and was completed in spring 2022. VARIO issued its advisory report 28 on this in June. 

5. Broadening our strategic international orientation - part I Europe

For this advisory process, VARIO starts from the observation that European science, innovation and industrial policy is exerting more and more influence on Flemish policy in this area. Flemish researchers and entrepreneurs must also increasingly take this into account. VARIO wants to draw attention to this with its advisory report. VARIO examines a number of questions around which it will formulate its recommendations. How can Flanders best deal with what is happening at European level in order to get the most benefits out of it? How and to what extent does Flanders weigh on European policy and how can this possibly be optimised?

6. Science communication policy plan 2022 – 2030

On January 14, Minister Hilde Crevits shared her Science Communication Policy Plan 2022-2030 with the Flemish Government. At the same time she asked VARIO for advice. With this policy plan, the Flemish Government aims to stimulate the dialogue between science and society. The communication refers to previous advisory reports from VARIO; VARIO-advisory report 16 ‘Involving citizens in science and innovation policy' and VARIO-advisory report 8 ‘Keep science and innovation as a priority. Through an efficient and effective budgetary growth path’.

VARIO issued its advisory report 26 on this topic in February.

7. Strengthening Flanders' technology position with regard to patents

In 2021, VARIO provided the interpretation of the VARIO core indicators to Minister Hilde Crevits (VARIO-advisory report 24), a follow-up to VARIO-advisory report 13 dating from 2020 in which a set of high-quality indicators for Science and Innovation was compiled. Minister Hilde Crevits now asks VARIO for a follow-up on the specific indicator related to patents and which policy recommendations can be formulated to strengthen the position of Flanders in this area.

8. Annual colloquium

This year's VARIO colloquium took place on Thursday 17 November. It was the kick-start of the VARIO advisory process on Transformative Innovation Policy.

9. Evaluation VARIO

After his first five years of operation, VARIO considers it time for a critical reflection to help the council optimize its operation and impact. To this end, in 2022, VARIO (on its own initiative) will have an external committee evaluate its operation.


VARIO work program 2022