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Work program 2023

Every year, VARIO draws up a work programme in consultation with the guardian minister, describing the activities for that year. The advisory processes include own (ongoing) initiatives as well as requests for advice. In the course of the working year, new requests for advice from the Flemish Government or the Flemish Parliament may be added to the work programme.

What is on the programme for 2023 is briefly described below.

1. Strengthening Flanders’ technology position with regard to patents

In 2021, VARIO provided its filled-out VARIO core indicators to former 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. At the request of Minister Hilde Crevits and in consultation with her successor, Minister Jo Brouns, VARIO is working on a follow-up to the specific indicator concerning patents and on policy recommendations that can be formulated to strengthen Flanders' position on this matter. This advice is underpinned by an analysis performed in close cooperation with ECOOM. VARIO delivered this report to Minister Brouns in mid-April.

2. Broadening our strategic international orientation – part I Europe.

For this advisory process, VARIO starts from the observation that the European science, innovation and industrial policy is becoming increasingly vertical, ever more focused on specific challenges or sectors, and in this way is more decisive for 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 optimized? VARIO aims to have this opinion ready by the summer, well in time for the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2024.

3. Broadening our strategic international orientation – part II World.

In line with the recommendations of its evaluation report of 2022, VARIO always adopts an international perspective when preparing its advisory reports. In 2020, for example, VARIO selected a number of European benchmark countries and regions (VARIO-advisory report 10), as a benchmark for the Flemish innovation system. Here VARIO observed that it is important to look wider than just Europe. More specifically, an extensive case study was made of Singapore's STI system (VARIO-analysis report 14). In March 2023, VARIO will undertake a follow-up study trip to Singapore to learn further lessons for Flanders from this successful ecosystem. This is the first phase of a new advisory process, in which VARIO will take a broader view. Which successful innovation systems outside Europe (e.g. Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Moscow, Nairobi, New York, Shenzhen, Silicon Valley,…) can serve as a source of inspiration for Flemish STI policy? What makes these innovation systems successful and others less so? The next phases of this advisory process are planned after the completion of Part I Europe. This advisory process will continue in 2024.

4. Transformative Innovation policy

Transformative Innovation policy is a new generation of innovation policy and involves both transition- and mission-driven innovation processes. It leads to economic and broad social system changes. But what exactly does that mean? How can Transformative Innovation Policy be given concrete shape in Flanders? What kind of policy instruments are required? What are success factors to make transformative innovation policy successful? These are some of the questions VARIO will attempt to answer in the advisory report. For this advisory process, VARIO works together with its Dutch counterpart, the AWTI. Specifically, VARIO and AWTI will jointly conduct an international benchmark analysis. In this advisory process, VARIO will further build on the 'policy mix' advisory report, (VARIO-advisory report 27) and also on aspects from earlier advisory reports, including the Sustainable Development Goals (VARIO-advisory report 17 and VARIO-advisory report 20) and involving the citizen in science and innovation policy (VARIO-advisory report 16)). VARIO will finalize this advisory trajectory by autumn 2023.

5. VARIO-memorandum 2024-2029

In anticipation to the Flemish elections of May 2024, VARIO wishes to present its priorities for the future in relation to its work domain of science, innovation and entrepreneurship to the next Flemish Government in the form of a Memorandum. VARIO will, among other things, reiterate key points from its recent and current advisory reports. VARIO will organize stakeholder consultations, in order to include their priorities and concerns. To generate as much impact as possible, the VARIO memorandum will be submitted to the political parties at the end of 2023.

The Memorandum will also be the topic of the 2023 VARIO colloquium, which will take place on Thursday, December 14 2023.

6. Strengthening international ambitious entrepreneurship

Complementary to foreign knowledge-intensive investments, we must continue to focus on ambitious domestically-owned companies that have the potential to grow in the longer term into international ‘flagships’. This advisory process on the importance of International Ambitious Entrepreneurship for a small region like Flanders is in line with Recommendation 5 from Advisory report 28Foreign private investments in R&D and knowledge-intensive production (d.d. June 2022). Flanders itself, unlike innovative benchmark countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden ... has (too) few large multinational companies of its own. This advisory process also fits in with the pursuit of open strategic autonomy and technological sovereignty. At the end of 2023, VARIO will continue this follow-up advice to Advisory Report 28.

7. Program note climate leap (klimaatsprong)

On 24 February 2023, VARIO received a request for advice from Flemish Minister for Innovation Jo Brouns on the draft programme note regarding the Flemish industrial energy and climate transition (also called ‘Klimaatsprong’) for the period 2022-2025. VARIO is satisfied that its request to be consulted on the draft programme note was heard. VARIO verified the draft programme note with his recommendations in advisory report 19 of September 2021 (with respect to the embedding of the Moonshot and the climate transition programme in the decree), and hopes that their recommendations will contribute to the further implementation of the transition programme ‘Klimaatsprong’.

VARIO provided its advisory report 29 to minister Jo Brouns end of March 2023.

8. Proposal from the European Commission for a regulation on plants obtained by certain new genomic techniques and their food and feed

VARIO was asked by the minister of Economy, Innovation and Agriculture, Jo Brouns, to advise on the European Commission's proposal of 5 July 2023 for a regulation on plants modified with certain new genenomic techniques (NGT), and food and feed produced from them. The advisory report is expected by the end of September.

More specifically, the minister expects a response to VARIO's reading of the European Commission's 5 July 2023 proposal and the views of the council and its stakeholders regarding the European Commission's proposal.

9. Host ‘European STI Councils’

VARIO is an active member of the network of European Science, Technology and Innovation Councils. These councils gather semi-annually for a preliminary spring meeting with the directors-secretaries and for a formal autumn meeting with the chairs and directors-secretaries of the advisory councils. On November 16 and 17, VARIO will host its European sister councils for the annual autumn meeting in Ghent.