Unintended Consequences of Innovation Policy Programmes: Social Evaluation of Technological Projects Programme in Croatia

By Svarc, Jadranka; Perkovic, Juraj et al. | Innovation : Management, Policy & Practice, April 2011 | Go to article overview
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Unintended Consequences of Innovation Policy Programmes: Social Evaluation of Technological Projects Programme in Croatia

Svarc, Jadranka, Perkovic, Juraj, Laznjak, Jasminka, Innovation : Management, Policy & Practice


The paper presents empirical results of social evaluation of the first innovation policy programme, technology projects (TEST), in Croatia to identify and explain the main bottlenecks of the programme and put them in perspective in terms of the entire innovation system. The motivation is the growing criticism of innovation system's efficiency and perception of poor return on public investment in innovation policy programmes. The proposed method of social evaluation is based on combination of the institutional theory and the sociological approach of intended and unintended consequences. It reveals that expected outcomes of the programme such as commercialisation of research and technological outputs are exchanged, in the majority of projects, for essentially scientific results such as scientific publications and extension of the on-going scientific projects. The reasons are found in the institutional deficits that point to the persistence of some common 'systemic' problems in the innovation system. Their drivers are identified in three types of institutional deficits: administrative rules and procedures, some aspects of social capital and broader socio-economic environment that commonly determine behaviour and interaction of the main stakeholders of the programme.

Keywords: innovation policy programme; social evaluation; institutional theory; technology projects; Croatia


The evaluation of science, technology and innovation (STI) policies and related government-supported programmes is a relatively new phenomenon which dates from the late 1960s in the United States and the late 1970s in Europe (Luukkonen 2002; Roessner 2002; Molas-Gallart & Davies 2006). The interest for STI policy evaluation is mainly driven by the need of policy makers to legitimise R&D expenses and to demonstrate the impacts of STI policies on productivity, competitiveness and economic and social welfare in general.

Nowadays, within the 'broad-based' innovation policy (Edquist et al. 2009) and 'systemic approach' (Smits & Kuhlmann 2004) which underlines innovation as a contextual and endogenous process, the performance-based evaluation suffers certain limitations in assessing innovation policy measures (Perrin 2002). It assumes a direct relationship between input and output, whereas innovation is mediated through context and interaction with many other activities. Therefore, the evaluation of innovation policy instruments should go beyond standard quantitative measures to more formative approach to perceive wider socio-economic contexts which determine the outcomes and possible impacts of policy instruments (Kuhlmann 2003, 2006). The new trends in evaluation practice and methods ranging from quantitative to qualitative measures and from summative to formative types of evaluation have been introduced and elaborated by many authors (Georghiou & Roessner 2000; Perrin 2002; Roessner 2002; Kuhlmann 2003; Arnold 2004; Bozeman 2005; Molas-Gallart & Davies 2006).

The main argument for social evaluation of the government-supported innovation programmes comes from the 'new innovation paradigm' (Mytelka & Smith 2002: 1469) drawing on the evolutionary and institutional view of innovation which is broadly elaborated by scholars like Nelson and Winter (1982), Freeman (1988), Lundvall (1992), Lundvall and Borras (1997), Edquist (1997) and others. In this new context, the ability of businesses to be competitive increasingly depends on their capacity to apply new knowledge and innovation shaped by the partnerships and interactivity among many actors of the innovation system, primarily companies and research institutes/universities. The underlying theoretical idea was that innovation through interaction occurs in specific institutional contexts in which government has a critical role by defining the 'rules of the game' through various incentive measures and polices like legal rules on intellectual property, financial assistance, transfer institutions etc.

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Unintended Consequences of Innovation Policy Programmes: Social Evaluation of Technological Projects Programme in Croatia


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