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PASSPARTOOL: Key tools to assess and improve soft innovation policies

Date:22 July 2019

Thijs Broekhuizen, Erzsi Meerstra-de Haan, and Florian Noseleit are to take part in the PASSPARTOOL initiative to assess and improve soft innovation policies. This 30-month project, funded by Interreg Europe (total sum: €1.6M, sum UG: €124K), aims to improve the capability of public policy-makers to develop efficient policies supporting soft and open innovation processes in 7 regions with a focus on non-R&D-driven and social innovation. The University of Groningen acts as knowledge partner to help develop the partners’ ability to evaluate, stimulate, and monitor the impact of innovation activities.

Here is a Q&A with the researchers:

Q. Why is this an important area of study?

This project focuses on innovation dynamics of SMEs, coming from 7 different regions across Europe. These regions aim to improve the strength of the regions by stimulating the innovative power of non-high tech sectors (e.g., service and creative industries) via small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These sectors are particularly relevant to these regions as they contribute substantially to job growth, and because such SMEs can also strengthen high-tech sectors. Innovation for these SMEs is not R&D driven but comes from organizational and relational dimensions (soft or open innovation). This project aims to understand, monitor and facilitate soft and open innovation practices of low technology sectors, which are often overlooked by current evaluation systems. The objectives are (a) to assess how the SME landscape looks like in each region, and (b) how to drive innovation in each region.  

Q. What are the societal implications?

The project will result in innovation policies and interventions that stimulate soft innovation within different regions. Also, the system for monitoring and evaluating innovation dynamics within SMEs will be improved, such that policy makers gain a better understanding of how to steer innovation. The cross-region comparison and sharing of experiences between partners will help to develop good practices. The capabilities of public policy-makers will be improved in order to develop efficient and effective policies stimulating innovation.

Q. How did you land on this topic as the subject for your research?

The project targets a common challenge of the project-partners: how to design effective policies to facilitate soft innovation. The University of Groningen team (consisting of Thijs Broekhuizen, Erzsi Meerstra-de Haan, Florian Noseleit) is involved in this project as a knowledge partner, and has expertise on this topic resulting from the development of the Innovation monitor. The Innovation monitor – an instrument co-developed with SNN – tracks the innovative performance of SMEs active in the three Northern provinces. Recently, the results of the fourth Innovation monitor have been presented (see

Q. What will the grant allow you to do?

The grant will allow us to expand the scope of the Innovation monitor. By interacting with policy makers from multiple regions, and by collecting and analyzing specific regional SME data, we hope to expand our existing knowledge on how to stimulate regional innovation. Ultimately, this should help to develop valid evaluation methods that can be used by policymakers in a variety of contexts.

Q. How will you conduct your research?

The main focus of the partners involved is on sharing experiences and developing new instruments to collect and analyze data suited for non-high tech industries. The project partners will gather data on soft innovation practices from SMEs in their corresponding regions. A common methodological approach will be adopted to ensure interregional comparison. Three types of activities will further facilitate the peer learning processes: interregional learning meetings, study visits and thematic workshops. During this process ‘Good Practices’ will be exchanged that provide valuable input to the development of region-specific action plans.

For more information, contact Thijs Broekhuizen here