Better integration of evidence on the impact of research and innovation in policy making

Specific Challenge

The growing attention given to research and innovation over the past decades has resulted in increased amounts of public funding being channelled to research and innovation, but also to a variety of policies and funding programmes being put in place in Europe, in order to maximise the quality and impact of this funding.

These policies have been wide in scope, ranging from basic research all the way up to supporting the market introduction of innovation and used a variety of instruments, oriented not only towards the production of knowledge and innovation, but also towards optimising the processes by which innovations are generated (including Co-Creation).

Investments in R&I must be smart and efficient and obtain the most value for every euro invested. This requires clear strategies for investing in R&I coupled with quality R&I programmes and strong institutions capable of implementing these programmes in close connection with the business sector and other stakeholders such as civil society. In addition, there is a clear need to improve the overall framework conditions for transforming R&I investments into tangible results, whether as new products or services or in terms of less tangible impacts such as improvements in the quality of life or inclusion.

The challenge for policy makers is to design policies and programmes with targeted funding to address well identified bottlenecks and which are adapted to the specific context of the research and innovation system in question. This is key to improving the efficiency of the European research and innovation system as a whole, as was stressed by the Commission in its Communication on 'Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth'. [[COM(2014) 339 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth.]]

Designing such policies and programmes requires a sound evidence base around the performance of research and innovation systems, the impact of research and innovation policies, the impact of research and innovation on economic growth, job creation and societal progress, and on the way in which public funding and policies can influence performance and impact. The Commission regularly publishes authoritative reports (e.g. the Innovation Union Scoreboard and the Innovation Union Competitiveness Report) which contribute to this evidence base, but given the increasing importance of research and innovation and recent evolutions in this field, the analysis regarding these issues needs to become more sophisticated.


Research will focus on establishing new methodologies for assessing the performance and impact of research and innovation and the ways in which public policies and funding can influence these. This should focus in particular on the following aspects:

(2016) Integration of research and innovation in macro-economic models: fiscal policies are often supported by macro-economic models to make an ex-ante assessment of the impact of budgetary measures and structural reforms. This includes dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models, macro-sectoral models and econometric modelling. A common shortcoming of these macro-economic models is that they typically do not account for the long-term benefits of public research and innovation investments and policies, fail to take full account of the quality of these investments, or do so only in a limited manner. Projects should focus on developing modelling approaches which go beyond the current state-of-the-art by incorporating for instance: the distinction between public and private research sectors and the different ways in which public funding and policies can incentivise increased activity and quality in these sectors; the fact that quality of research and innovation is not homogenous (including at sectoral level) or the influence public policies can have on the quantity and quality of the stock of highly skilled people, on the link between human capital and the production and use of knowledge, on the productivity of knowledge production or on spill-over and technology diffusion mechanisms;

(2016) Improving the parameterisation of the aforementioned models: in addition to developing novel modelling approaches, further work is also needed on empirically determining the underlying parameters (elasticity factors) used in the aforementioned models and which link for instance the human capital stock to knowledge production, the production, diffusion and use of knowledge to innovation or which quantify the effect public policies have on these parameters;

(2017) New indicators for assessing research and innovation performance: projects should focus on developing and applying new indicators for assessing the performance of distinct elements of the research and innovation system, including the impact of research and innovation policies. These should go beyond the typical bibliometric and patenting indicators, as these only offer a limited view, in particular in an evolving landscape in which for instance open access mechanisms, social media, social innovation people mobility assume an increasing role. Such new indicators should allow policy makers to assess in a broader and more comprehensive way evolutions in performance and how these are linked to policy reforms;

(2017) Determining the societal impact of research and innovation funding: policy makers need to justify research and innovation spending by demonstrating the impact it has in terms of broader societal benefits. Projects should develop and test new ways to assess the societal impact of public funding allocated to research and innovation, for instance by building on examples of quantitative approaches (such as the USA's Star Metrics initiative or the European SIMPATIC project) or could develop qualitative approaches . Projects should take a broad approach and go beyond evaluating impacts in terms of productivity growth, economic growth and job creation, by also assessing the impact of public funding on tackling major societal challenges such as those defined in Horizon 2020.

Projects to be funded on the 2016 budget should address either the first or second issue described above or can combine them in one project. Projects to be funded on the 2017 budget should address either the third or fourth issue described above or can combine them in one project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 1.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

Depending on the aspect addressed, and in line with the scope above, projects are expected to respectively deliver the following impact:

  • The development of models which provide a realistic assessment of the variety of ways in which research and innovation activities transmit into outputs and impact and of the ways in which public funding and policies can influence this transmission;
  • An empirical determination of realistic values for the underlying parameters used in the models;
  • A monitoring of research and innovation performance which captures the broader spectrum of ways in which research and innovation activities translate into outputs and impact, in which knowledge circulates between public and private sectors and internationally or through which quality of research and innovation can be assessed;
  • A reliable assessment of the societal benefits generated by public funding for research and innovation, not only in terms of productivity growth, economic growth and job creation, but also the impact it has on tackling major societal challenges.
Application date
Social sciences
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology