Survey of Strategic Competence funds within Rise
– structure, use and follow-up
The aim of this report is to describe how strategic competence (SC) funds are used at the research institutes under the RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) umbrella. Strategic competence funds is the name given to the annual contribution that Rise receives from the state for its activities. The purpose of the contribution is for the research institutes to be successful internationally and participate in the renewal of Sweden’s trade and industry. The report is part of Growth Analysis’ commission to design and propose an impact assessment system for Rise.
The institutes’ interest in developing feedback
The survey has shown that Rise and the research institutes are interested in developing methods that better clarify both the institutes’ activities and the benefits and impacts that these have for trade and industry and society. Today’s feedback to Rise aims to cover many areas at different levels of detail, which makes it appear fragmented and unsystematic without giving a real picture of the institutes’ activities and development. This has also led to the institutes seeing a greater need to develop other ways of communicating their activities and their results, and they have also begun to try out ways of reporting effects and benefits to society of major efforts. Rise and their impact team of representatives of the institutes have also been working for some time to create a more holistic view of these issues.
Procedures exist today for describing how SC funds are used and results, but mainly at the institute level
The funds and the conditions are based on an annual appropriations letter issued by the Government and are distributed via Rise to the four groups of institutes according to a special distribution index together with an annual follow-up template. The fact that the guideline and distribution system runs on a yearly basis means however in practice that the institutes’ internal process for how they intend to use SC funds in coming years must be run and decisions made before the conditions in the guideline document have been set by the government. The current picture is that the institutes on the one hand have their own development strategies that as a rule do not link back to a discussion on the use of SC funds, and on the other concrete plans on a yearly basis for the specific SC funds. It is expressly stated that the SC funds are to be used on the basis of the institutes’ own strategies for building up knowledge in their activities and operations, but also to contribute to the development of a common institute sector. All the institutes’ activities and funding are followed up and assessed every year within the respective institute groups on the basis of their strategies and goals.
The SC funds play an important, tangible role
Despite their constituting slightly less than a fifth of the institutes’ total funding, the SC funds play an important, tangible role as regards the institutes’ activities and development opportunities. All the institute groups also have a clearly defined plan for how the SC funds are to be prioritised and used over the year. The institutes also emphasise that the SC funds are only used in open R&I activities and not in individual company assignments.
In general, SC funds are used for competence development and strategic cooperation in early phases of the innovation process to build up in-house competence and networks and to finance action before industry sees any interest in participating, but also as leverage in later phases to be able to intensify on-going efforts with industry with the support of other external resources, for example EU projects.
SC funds are used in different ways and are often integrated in major projects
Even if the areas of application are roughly the same in all the institute groups, it is important to emphasise that they also have quite different structures, target groups and prerequisites for their activities, which means that the SC funds are used in slightly different ways and in different phases in order to give the most benefit in the context in question. The differences in activities thus also to a certain degree influence the kind of results and impacts that can be expected from both the SC funds and the institutes’ activities as a whole.
The institutes have chosen different internal models to account for their SC funds. Swerea and Innventia have pure SC fund projects with separate activities and goals, at the same rime as they are often part of a larger context of other projects and actions. SP and Swedish ICT, on the other hand, instead report the main projects where SC funds may be included as separate parts.
Regardless of how they are accounted for, the SC funds in practice often constitute integrated parts of major projects with other external players and various sources of funding.
Through three in-depth examples of projects, the survey among other things shows that the SC funds have different significance depending on the type of R&I action in question. A small proportion of SC funds in a large joint project might indicate that the funds were only of minor importance but also that this action proved at an early stage to be of crucial importance to continued development in that particular field. From the point of view of impact assessment, it is therefore possible to not only consider the SC funds separately but also assess their importance on the basis of the proportion of an action that they make up. Results and impacts of the work done by the institutes and of how the SC funds are used thus need to be seen and understood in a broader context and most preferably in a process perspective in which where in the innovation chain the action is taken is also considered.