In a bid to boost cooperation between business and science, Lithuania commissioned a team of innovation policy experts to propose new ways of connecting the country’s science, technology and innovation (STI) to the realities on the ground. Their findings, presented on 8 December during an online dissemination event, point to the need for mission-driven approaches to help Lithuania “design modern and effective STI policies”.

“This is a great opportunity for Lithuania to reinforce strategic orientation, tackle existing disciplinary, sectoral and policy silos, and encourage collective effort among different stakeholders as well as different policy-makers,” noted the authors of a new policy briefing summarising the findings of a one-year study of Lithuania’s R&I landscape.

The combination of mission-led policy-making and innovation-centred public procurement practices, the authors added, will reinforce a “culture of cooperation and co-creation” not only between businesses and science but also with other relevant stakeholders.

“Our recommendations will set Lithuania on the road to a mission-driven approach to STI.” (EFIS Centre, Visionary Analytics)

More than 80 people attended the online dissemination event marking the end of the EU-backed research project ‘Enhancing the efficiency of the cooperation between business and science’. Supported by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM), the project was initiated by Lithuania’s Ministry of Economy and Innovation (MoEI) and delivered by experts from the European Future Innovation System (EFIS) Centre in Belgium, and Visionary Analytics in Lithuania.

Findings from the study will help the MoEI and relevant national stakeholders to design and implement R&D programmes that improve and stimulate business-science cooperation. A particular focus was given to the R&D activities in the engineering (including laser technologies), agro-food industry, life sciences, and information and communication technology sector. Recommendations from the project can also be used to guide the drafting of National Science and Technology Programmes (NSTPs) and inform measures supporting pre-commercial and innovation-centred public procurement, as well as innovation development in the public sector.

The event was opened by Kaspar Richter, Head of Unit Growth and Business Development, DG REFORM, who stressed the importance of business-science cooperation in developing innovative products for Lithuania to make a leap forward. Jekaterina Rojaka, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Economy and Innovation shared the floor and emphasised that the project findings also offer insight into the current bottlenecks and future prospects for Lithuanian STI policy.

Agnė Paliokaitė, Partner and Director of Visionary Analytics, presented an overview of the business-science cooperation policy mix in Lithuania, explaining how a more targeted sectoral approach since 2000 has not delivered the desired results. Recent developments in the country, she said, stem from the introduction of the Law on Technology and Innovation which mandated the creation of NSTPs which promoted “experimental development” and increased investments in the procurement of innovation (up to 20%). In a further evolution, the National Development Plan 2030 foresees innovation as a “horizontal priority”.

The next decade is a critical one for Lithuanian STI policy. Recommendations from the expert team, presented by the study’s project manager and EFIS’ Research Director Jelena Angelis, seize the moment. Simply removing identified barriers or supporting drivers of business-science cooperation will not be enough, she noted. Having a shared goal, inclusive and flexible STI programmes, and bringing more actors into the cooperation mix is the key to deeper, more sustainable cooperation. The study team made eight recommendations centred around introducing a mission-oriented approach to STI policy, either to the already existing policy mix, or as a plausible new alternative. While several scenarios on how this could be achieved were suggested, two key elements were stressed: the importance of involving a wider stakeholder community to measure implementation; and engaging cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary teams.

Edifying discussions

Some edifying discussions and international perspectives followed the presentation of these recommendations. The OECD’s Philippe Larrue explored several mission-oriented innovation policies and how public- and private-sector actors can break free of disciplinary, sectoral and policy silos through commonly agreed missions.

Göran Marklund, Deputy Director General of Vinnova (Innovation Agency), presented Sweden’s experience of introducing missions into the innovation policy mix. Lisa Higgins, Head of Challenge Research at the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), highlighted that ambitious goals have to match the societal challenges they address, which can be complex and often seem intractable. The missions need to be visionary, inspirational and impact-driven but still achievable, she suggested, offering the SFI Future Innovator Prize as an example. Meanwhile, Kees de Gooijer, Head of the TKI-bureau Agri-Food Netherlands, summarised mission-driven STI policy and his organisation’s (‘Topconsortia’ for Knowledge and Innovation’) role in promoting better dialogue and more awareness among stakeholders. He said it is important to keep agendas flexible and put in place teams who are ready to work and build trust around common goals.

A segment of the online event and line of enquiry in the study focused on the role of procurement in innovation. Speakers from Sweden, the Netherlands and the OECD discussed the relative merits of different approaches and initiatives.

The OECD’s Silvia Appelt presented their work on public procurement of R&D and innovation. Nina Widmark, Programme Manager for Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI) at Vinnova, summarised available support in Sweden for PPI, pre-commercial procurement (PCP), pre-procurement purchasing networks, studies, etc. Floris den Boer, Senior Adviser at the Public Procurement Expertise Centre in the Netherlands, or PIANOo for short, said their PPI works together with large public buyers in the country, focusing on digital innovation and sustainable innovation. Lisa Cowey rounded out the session, and outlined the expert team’s recommendations for Lithuania to continue developing its PCP/PPI good practices and capabilities.

With some closing words of thanks and encouragement from Ričardas Valančiauskas, representing the Lithuanian Ministry of Economy and Innovation, and DG REFORM’s Enrico Pesaresi, the event was formally closed, marking the successful conclusion of the ‘Enhancing the efficiency of the cooperation between business and science’ project.

Project’s final dissemination event agenda and presentation can be viewed here