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How to evaluate innovation strategies with a transformative ambition? A proposal for a structured, process-based approach

: Kroll, Henning


Science and public policy 46 (2019), No.5, pp.635-647
ISSN: 0036-8245
ISSN: 0302-3427
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISI ()
policy; implementation; smart specialization; process; actor-based; evaluation

In recent years, policymakers have increased their ambitions to shape the development of national and regional innovation systems. More often than was, innovation strategies now come with the ambition to support economic transformation and societal change in a way that requires the rearrangement of existing policy mixes. With a view to policy assessment, these developments raise new, so far untackled challenges. Against this background, this article illustrates that standard approaches to programme evaluation must be unfit to assess overarching strategies. It finds that this is not only a function of their complexity but also of the open-ended nature of processes required to translate strategic ambitions into concrete actions. To better grasp those, it puts forward a novel heuristic to structure our understanding of the discursive process preceding the definition of tangible policy measures at three levels: strategy agenda setting, thematic orientation, and instrumentation. Subsequently, it demonstrates how this approach helps localize and clarify instances of failure for later assessment. Based on a detailed case study, it underlines that efforts to ensure the consequential translation of ambitions into corresponding measures will lead to better results than the futile attempt to keep the resulting policy mixes free of any formal inconsistencies.