Measuring Innovation in the Public Sector: a literature review



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3. Europe


In 2010 the Innovation Policy development Unit of the Innovation Policy Directorate, Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General in the European Commission (EC) called for tenders for the provision of analytical reports related to innovation performance at national level and other related aspects, in particular, innovation in the public sector. These reports target innovation policy making at regional, national, and European level.

The aim of the project “European Innovation Scoreboard 2011-2012” was to provide the innovation policy community with statistical and economic analyses allowing evaluation of the characteristics and performances of national and regional innovation systems. Measurement of innovation in the public sector is one component of the work.

A set of relevant indicators to measure innovation in the public sector and/ or public services on a comparable basis across the 27 Member States and other countries participating in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, is envisaged.

Task 1 – European Innovation Scoreboard 2011 and 2012

Task 2 – Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2011

Task 3 – European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard 2012

Task 4 –Exploratory Reports

Task 5 – Dissemination activities.

Preliminary work on measurement of public sector innovation was conducted in 2010, with a more elaborate methodology planned for 2012 to be published in the European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard (EPSIS) 2012 report. A set of relevant indicators to measure innovation in the public sector and/ or public services on a comparable basis across the 27 Member States and other countries participating in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, is envisaged. A regular European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard and public sector innovation surveys are anticipated outcomes.

As an initial step, an Innobarometer survey consisting of 24 questions was conducted in 2010, with the results reported in January 2011. The survey involved 5000 public sector bodies in public administration, higher education, local authorities and hospitals across the 27 member states.

The survey found that two-thirds of public administration institutions introduced a new or significantly improved service in the last 3 years. Larger institutions were more likely than smaller ones to have introduced innovations. The single most important driver of innovation was the introduction of new laws and regulations. Decreases in budget were responsible for the greatest amount of innovation in the largest organisational segment (250+ employees), although the overwhelming majority of public sector managers stated that factors which would encourage innovation would be more money (rather than less). A top-down approach to innovation was also prevalent, with the public sector being less likely than the private or non-profit sector to use bottom-up innovation practices.

The Innobarometer 2010 Analytical Report: Innovation in Public Administration was published in 2011.. Conducted in October 2010 in 27 Member States of the EU and Norway and Switzerland this survey studied the innovation strategies of the European public administration sector in response to changing constraints and opportunities.

In each participating country, public administration organisations with at least 10 employees were randomly selected to be included in the survey. The number of interviews were adjusted according to the size of the country. For example 400 institutions in the six largest Member States to 10 institutions in the smallest Member States. Overall 4063 public administration organisations were interviewed using a fixed-line telephone methodology. Eligible respondents were senior managers responsible for strategic decision-making.

The report primarily discusses results at the EU level due to the small sample sizes in several member states, such as Malta and Cyprus. Individual country results are weighted by the size of their general population for EU-level estimates.

There were several methodological constraints faced by the project. Country-by-country comparisons were challenging due to sampling frame issues, country-specific structural factors, small sample sizes for some countries, classification of organisation based on which sectors they were involved in, and inability to make the share of the countries in the sample proportionate due to the absence of accurate information to determine the correct probability weight for each sample.



The main findings were:

  • At the EU level two-thirds of public administration institutions introduced a new or significantly improved service in the last 3 years

  • The likelihood of service innovation increased linearly with the size of the institutions. State institutions were just as likely as independent ones to introduce innovations

  • At the EU level, 17% or surveyed institutions were classified as leading innovators. Leading innovators were typically large and national or central organisations

  • The most important driver of innovation was the introduction of new laws and regulations

  • Mandated decreases in budget and budget cuts were very important but mandated budget increases were thought to play no role in innovation

  • Ideas from staff and management, input from clients or users, and best practices from other public sector organisations were found to be important.

  • Almost all of these came from within the EU

  • A top-down approach to innovation support has been prevalent in developing public sector innovations.

  • The main barrier to public administration innovation was lack of resources, financial and human. Rigid regulatory requirements was also important

  • Innovations improved the work of public administrations, rarely having negative effects

  • Company segments that were frequent innovators reported higher proportions of staff with degrees

  • Not many employees were part of an innovation-related team. Just over half of the innovation-related teams involved less than a quarter of employees

  • Intensive teamwork around innovations, involving at least 50% of staff characterised national-level institutions, and was more frequent among health sector organisations

  • Most organisations that had introduced an innovation during the past three years had provided training courses for staff to adopt, use or provide the innovative solutions introduced.

  • Most of the innovation-related tenders published by the survey participants sought providers for information technology solutions

  • Most organisations usually consult some outside source in preparation of their tenders

  • Most organisations involved with tendering felt that in the evaluation of proposals the innovativeness of the services offered were about as important as the cost of the services

  • More than half of these organisations indicated that the procurements delivered or contributed to innovative service solutions

  • Most organisations expected an increase in innovations introduced during the next two years

  • Organisations thought that new technologies, increased demands from citizens, new policy priorities, and new regulations would improve their ability to innovate

  • Managers thought that increased funds would help innovation, but the findings of the study suggest the opposite is true.



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