IndustryResearch & Innovation

Pushing a long-term vision for PPPs

By Jarosław GOWIN, Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education

Globalized and competitive economy and society require new approaches to solving crucial challenges we face.

Well designed, structured partnerships between the public and private sectors could gain a more prominent role in the European research and innovation support portfolio.

In order to provide sustainable economic growth and strengthen competitiveness at both European and national level as well as to adequately address societal challenges the European Union is facing nowadays we need well-structured partnerships between the public and private sectors jointly framing and implementing research and innovation agendas.

Properly functioning, long-term public private partnerships in the area of scientific research are necessary to achieve the objectives of Horizon 2020 and the Europe 2020 strategy by, among others, enhancing interdisciplinary approach in tackling emerging socio-economic issues, facilitating introduction of innovative technologies on the European market, attracting international research and development investments and decreasing fragmentation of sectors by building collaborative networks.

Given the considerable advantages of the partnership instrument, it is crucial to make full use of its potential.

However, it seems that the current landscape of public private partnerships, which consists of multiple initiatives operating under different rules, with different funding mechanisms and sometimes focusing on overlapping thematic areas, is too complex and to be efficient, needs to be reviewed.

Taking into consideration the fact that a need for simplification and streamlining of the partnership environment was indicated unanimously by Member States and stakeholders during the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 and the fact that the High-Level Group on maximizing impact of the European Union’s Research and Innovation Programmes chaired by Pascal Lamy recommended to cut the number of R&I funding schemes and instruments, there is no doubt that now – during the preparation of the next Framework Programme – is the time to take appropriate actions in this regard.

To fully seize the opportunities resulting from public private partnerships it is essential to adopt a strategic and holistic approach involving a broad spectrum of aspects that should be taken into account in the future definition and operation of partnerships.

The above refers not only to an open and transparent process of topics selection – representing the interests of all Member States and being coherent with priorities set out at European, national and regional level in particular with Smart Specialization priorities – but also to the monitoring of established initiatives based on a set of duly elaborated Key Performance Indicators.

Among criteria measuring progress towards pursued objectives the following should be included: economic and societal impact demonstrated as European Added Value of undertaken activities, as well as openness to newcomers, including smaller R&I entities and SME’s, throughout their duration.

As far as the latter is concerned, it is worth underlining that partnerships should be open not only at the moment of their creation but throughout all their duration.

Moreover, the above mentioned approach towards PPPs should involve their mid-term evaluation and higher degree of flexibility, which would allow to implement necessary changes in justified cases including assessment of a partnership relevance in contributing directly to competiveness and EU policy goals.

Apart from the need for a strategic process of selecting and monitoring of PPPs, it is essential as well to define from the outset a phasing out strategy from the EU funding and a leverage effect for each newly established partnership.

Simplifying the partnership landscape and reinforcing effectiveness of the partnering instruments should begin with a horizontal and comparative analysis of all existing PPPs in research and innovation.

Taking into consideration the importance of reducing the number of undertakings by, among others, combining the initiatives with similar intervention logic and overlapping areas of activity, modifications in the current partnerships might become indispensable.

Additionally, it is necessary to be aware of the fact that the European innovation system is consistently undergoing changes and, as a consequence, requires creation and implementation of adjusted policy instruments.

In this regard the comparative analysis of existing PPPs would be helpful to submit recommendations concerning replacing or adapting the current partnering instruments by the new, enhanced ones, that would be better aligned with the purposes jointly set by Member States and the European Commission.

Redefining the role of partnerships in the future European R&D&I framework is of crucial importance as it connects with the recently proposed mission-oriented approach, that should be a major new element for future Framework Programme.

The concept of developing a coordinated mission-oriented approach for tackling jointly agreed challenges implemented by, among others, PPPs is an idea worth considering and needs to be further discussed.

A well thought-out design of public private partnerships system can contribute to achieving the core European policy objectives.

By clearly defining the role of Member States and industry in setting priorities and steering the process, optimizing the contribution of public and private entities as well as by properly balancing top-down with bottom- up approach, the instrument could provide solutions to current and upcoming societal and economic challenges.

Nevertheless, while reforming the partnership landscape it is necessary to bear in mind that any modifications should bring more simplification and transparency to the process with the aim of creating a more efficient, accessible and open next European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.