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Shortcomings in governance and evaluation of innovation investments

The Swedish National Audit Office has identified a number of shortcomings in two major Government investments in innovative capacity and competitiveness. These include unclear governance, time pressure in planning and lack of follow-up and evaluation.

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Government investments in Strategic Innovation Programmes (SIP) and Strategic Innovation Partnership Programmes (SIPP) are to strengthen Sweden’s innovative capacity and competitiveness.

The programmes in the SIP are intended to run for twelve years, with Government funding of a total of SEK 8 billion. The programmes in the SIPP lasted for about three years. The costs the SIPP depend on the priorities for each programme, and are spread between a number of actors. Vinnova, Sweden’s innovation agency, has been allocated about one billion kronor.

The Swedish NAO has audited whether the Government and responsible agencies have created conditions necessary for the programmes to be effective. The audit shows that the conditions are better for the SIP than for the SIPP, but that there are shortcomings in both types of programmes.

Both types of programmes suffer from the fact that externally contracted experts may exert great influence on the programmes without any independent systematic assessments on the part of the agencies responsible, and that these agencies had to plan implementation under tight time constraints.

In the SIPP, the shortcomings mainly consist of the lack of systematic processes for prioritisation of measures and for follow-up and evaluation.

“The Government reports to the Riksdag that the programmes are successful. However, as they have not been systematically evaluated or followed up, we do not see the grounds on which the Government makes that assessment,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

The shortcomings of the SIP mainly consist of:

  • the Government giving the agencies responsible mixed messages concerning how to select programmes
  • the agencies’ responsibility being partially unclear and some tasks being at risk of falling between stools
  • the agencies’ assessments when deciding on the programme portfolio being unclear, both when selecting programmes and when assessing them
  • assessment of the programmes being hampered by unclear expectations.

“The identified shortcomings undermine the potential for effectiveness in the SIP and increase the risk of it not achieving its objectives,” says Peter Jörgensen, project leader for the audit.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish National Audit Office recommends that the Government:

  • addresses the lack of clarity regarding responsibility, collaboration, and priorities in the SIP
  • ensures that the SIPP are followed up and evaluated
  • ensures that the agencies are given enough time for preparation and planning of new initiatives.

The Swedish National Audit Office recommends that the agencies responsible for the SIP:

  • develop criteria for what the programmes are to achieve
  • document their own assessments concerning the external evaluators’ recommendations
  • document the organisation, division of responsibility and working methods.

Please see the report for the full recommendations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 23 April 2020

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