Innovation policy and instruments for the Flemish agricultural and horticultural sectors

Anne Vuylsteke & Dirk Van Gijseghem

November 2010

Innovation is nowadays considered as an important theme, because of its contribution to the competitiveness of companies and sectors and to economic growth. Knowledge creation and the transformation of knowledge into innovation are economic drivers, which also generate wealth. But despite the unanimous demand for innovation, it is a complex and evolving phenomenon comprising diverse elements. This requires an adequate innovation policy and associated innovation instruments. Both should also be adaptive in response to changes in the innovation process and to the better understanding of this process. The review by the expert group around Professor Soete (2007) showed that Flanders, in a general economic context, has a full yet also complex, opaque and not very user-friendly innovation toolkit.

In the agricultural and horticultural sectors, innovation has also become a keyword for businesses to remain competitive. At the same time, the sector is experiencing some limitations that hamper companies to go through an innovation process. They are not only faced with the same limitations SMEs encounter in terms of innovation (see the Soete report). But extra obstacles are the family-held nature of these businesses, the level of resources needed to innovate and the fact that farms are operated by individuals.

These limitations and Europe’s specific policy framework have stimulated the development of policy instruments, which are specifically aimed at the agricultural and horticultural sectors. The aim of this report therefore is to gain a better insight in the innovation policy that is implemented in agriculture and horticulture and in the available instruments. The aim is to assess whether there are gaps and where and where policy or the instruments may be improved.

The results of the analysis show that at present there is no innovation policy for the agricultural and horticultural sectors strictly speaking. Also, the available instruments are not considered to be an innovation toolkit. And yet there is a wide range of instruments available. These are mainly aimed at businesses, and focus on knowledge and learning processes.

The analysis shows that the tools that wish to improve the relations within the innovation system and the functioning of the system itself are not available. In addition, in a general economic context, there are instruments that support companies in the development of entirely new innovations. But agricultural and horticultural businesses have a difficult time accessing these instruments. Finally, the sector and the businesses also have to evolve so that they can participate more actively in the management of research and of the innovation system as a whole.

Original version:
Vuylsteke A. & Van Gijseghem D. (2010)
Innovatiebeleid en –instrumenten voor de Vlaamse land- en tuinbouw
Departement Landbouw en Visserij, afdeling Monitoring en Studie, Brussel.

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