From our decades of experience working in the interface between government, universities, and industry to build high-performing research and educational enterprises, we know how critical the right advice is—and how much time and money inaccurate or incomplete advice can waste.
As governments try to leverage research (particularly university research) to build modern innovation-inspired economies, their main instruments are policy, funding, and dynamic monitoring for steady improvement. Typically these tools are guided by a government agency focused on delivering results.
But these tools must be applied across multiple government agencies, industrial enterprises, and universities, which each has its own aspirations and culture. Initiating, calibrating, propelling, and sustaining programs that activate and unify these cultures around shared goals requires experience in each sector and with managing their linkages.
We include here summaries of three complex projects of this kind that our IAP team members played a significant part in shaping. Each concerns the establishment of new funding bodies that have made a large impact on their economies and national innovation ecosystems. A core reason for the success of each initiative is that it began with our understanding of the existing complexity of the enterprises involved, which we paired with our strategic and unrelenting focus on outcomes.
Case Study 1: Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)
- Founding Director General was IAP Director, William Harris.
- Established competitive grants aligned with strategic goals of the government to advance and diversify the economy.
- Developed all policies and procedures and established new centers for science, engineering and technology.
- Engaged government, business and university leaders—as well as faculty—to establish high-performance research programs.
- Implemented a system that ultimately transformed the universities and country and helped seed the modern, innovative Ireland.
- 15 years after SFI started, Ireland is now ranked #10 on world innovation rankings.
- In five years as Director General, Harris nurtured and developed an organization that continues to add value to Ireland, including by building an Irish team to ultimately guide SFI.
Case Study 2: The European Research Council (ERC)
- Two of IAP’s directors were key members of the High Level Expert Group (HLEG) that set the main policies and directions for the ERC. William Harris chaired the HLEG and Mats Nordlund served as an industry representative.
- The IAP directors played an instrumental role in developing the Frontier Research Policy that underlies the ERC and has been a main component of EU research policy.
- The HLEG made the ERC complement the existing research funding system, and established mechanisms to award funds only based on excellence rather than national quotas.
- The ERC has become the most prestigious source of funding in the EU, and one of the most prestigious worldwide.
Case Study 3: The Swedish Engineering Design Research and Education Program (ENDREA)
- Designed and implemented under the chairmanship of IAP Director Mats Nordlund.
- Initiated to bring Swedish research in innovation and product development up to international excellence, and produce Ph.Ds. for industry employment.
- Created novel governance systems that have since become standard practice in Swedish research funding organizations.
- Became instrumental in making Sweden the first country implementing the CDIO framework in engineering education.
- Has contributed strongly to the competitiveness and innovation levels of Swedish industry—Sweden now consistently ranks at the top of the innovation and competitiveness lists.
- Operated as a research funding organization for seven years, before and merging with a funding organization in manufacturing to cover the whole product realization cycle.