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Research programmes with a mission. Lessons for challenge-driven innovation policy

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 27 April 2022

Rathenau Instituut (2021). Research programmes with a mission - Lessons for challenge-driven innovation policy. The Hague.

Authors: Laurens Hessels, Jos van den Broek, Isabelle van Elzakker, Leonie van Drooge and Jasper Deuten

In recent years, the Dutch government has been trying to focus science and innovation policies more strongly on societal challenges, such as reducing climate change, keeping healthcare affordable or transitioning to a sustainable system of food production and consumption. This is reflected, for example, in the Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) and in the government's mission-oriented top sectors and innovation policy introduced in 2019. This policy change is part of a broader international trend in which governments are seeking to use research and innovation in a more targeted way to address complex societal challenges. This ambition differs from previous research and innovation policies that focused on economic earning power, technological opportunities or scientific curiosity. The new ambition to help address societal challenges in a targeted way calls for a new, complementary genre of research and innovation policy. We call this challenge-driven research and innovation policy. The Rathenau Instituut wants to contribute to the development of this new genre, and does so in various projects. In previous publications we reflected on, among other things, developments within Dutch innovation policy (Rathenau Instituut, 2020c) and the way in which the European Union is fulfilling its ambition to refocus research and innovation on societal challenges (Rathenau Instituut, 2020a, b). In this study, our focus is on research programmes, as there is little experience with these programmes to date. The key research question is: what requirements does a challenge-driven approach impose on the design and management of research programmes?

Based on desk research, a workshop, and an analysis of international examples, this report explores what it takes to design and manage challenge-driven research programmes. Our goal is to provide practical insights for those involved in the funding, design, governance and management of research programmes, such as research funders, programme managers, and policy staff in the various government departments.

The report consists of four parts:

  • In the first part (Sections 1 and 2), we position challenge-driven research programmes within a broader trend in which the government is trying to mobilise research and innovation more specifically towards societal challenges. We describe characteristic differences between challengedriven programmes and innovation-driven programmes.
  • In Section 3, we discuss three international examples of programmes with challenge-driven features.
  • In Section 4, we identify practical building blocks which can be used to design and manage challenge-driven research programmes.
  • Finally, we reflect on questions that this new way of programming raises about the multiple roles of government in mobilising research and innovation in challenge-driven research programmes.





1 Introduction

  • 1.1 Background
  • 1.2 Objective
  • 1.3 Our approach
  • 1.4 Reading guide

2 Challenge-driven innovation policy

  • 2.1 A new genre of innovation policy 
  • 2.2 Missions in challenge-driven innovation policy
  • 2.3 The logic of challenge-driven research programmes

Interlude - Food transition

3 Three international examples

  • 3.1 Analytical framework.
  • 3.3 DARPA
  • 3.4 VINNOVA/challenge-driven innovation
  • 3.5 Comparative analysis.

4 Implications for challenge-driven research programmes

  • 4.1 The essence of challenge-driven programming
  • 4.2 Building blocks for challenge-driven programmes

5 Concluding remarks on roles of government.

6 Bibliography.

Appendix 1: Methodology


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