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The newsletter of the European Commission's Innovation Directorate





September 2003




Case Study
Policy co-ordination in Portugal

    Often new governments reorganise policy-making structures to suit their own priorities, but this can affect efforts to address long-term goals.


Traditional industries may benefit from innovation as much as high-tech ones.

Traditional industries may benefit from innovation as much as high-tech ones.

ollowing elections in March 2002, Portugal's socialist government was replaced by a centre-right coalition made up of the social democrats and popular party. About a year after chairing the March 2000 European Council, which agreed the Lisbon target, the socialist government unveiled PROINOV, designed to co-ordinate innovation policy across government. Chaired by the Prime Minister, PROINOV was about raising awareness among stakeholders and developing co-ordination mechanisms.

The new government introduced some major changes in 2002, for example the Ministry of Science and Higher Education replaced the old Ministry of Science and Technology. As for PROINOV, the new government has chosen to focus more on productivity and competitiveness. The Innovation and Knowledge Task Force (UMIC - Unidade de Missão Inovação e Conhecimento) was created from the basis of PROINOV. Chaired by a Minister reporting directly to the Prime Minister, UMIC still focuses on co-ordinating innovation policy, but the emphasis is now on implementing specific measures rather than overall policy. First steps

"PROINOV was a major initiative to introduce new measures in support of innovation," says Maria João Rodrigues who, as an adviser to the then Prime Minister, was responsible for PROINOV's creation. "We had to start by reorganising the 'back office' first. We held a range of meetings with different stakeholders to convince them that they belong to the same system, and to get them to work together."

One priority for PROINOV was to encourage clusters in different industries. The aim was to create 'networks for innovation', bringing together industry, research institutes and investors. Each cluster should develop an action plan for its development, and set targets for the different members. New beginnings

"PROINOV was about developing an innovation plan for Portugal, something like a White Paper setting out the orientations and priorities for innovation policy," says Antonio Santos, from UMIC, who previously worked with PROINOV. "In the new structure we are focusing on implementing specific measures in areas such as human resources, access to and diffusion of knowledge, networks for innovation, and supporting the development by entrepreneurs of new products and services."

The first project to get going helps Portuguese SMEs wanting to participate in the EU's Sixth Research Framework Programme. Another project soon to go live will provide scientific institutes with easy on-line access to scientific journals through a digital library.

"Innovation is a cultural thing, about attitudes and behaviour," Santos emphasises, "so we intend to focus on areas where we can help to change these. We are working closely with both the Ministry of Economic Affairs and of Science and Higher Education, aiming to co-ordinate our activities and avoid duplication." For example, UMIC is working with the Ministry of Economic Affairs to develop a seed capital fund.

The change of government may have changed the mechanism, but the will to co-ordinate policies in support of innovation still appears to be strong.


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