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Focused innovation policy: Lessons from international experience


Ron Crawford

Date published

20 April 2021

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This report is one of a number of research inputs into the Commission's inquiry into maximising the economic contribution of New Zealand’s frontier firms.  

Focused innovation policy is a means for governments to work with industry, knowledge institutions and other stakeholders to realise the potential for productivity growth and export success in chosen areas of the economy. Governments in most small advanced economies (SAEs) take a more deliberate approach to such policy than does New Zealand. They typically draw on decades of experience in using and adapting such a policy to changing circumstances.

Lessons that New Zealand can take from other SAEs include using high-level multistakeholder governance to develop and oversee the implementation of strategy (including choice of areas for focus); devolving governance of policy implementation in chosen areas of focus to independent multistakeholder bodies, and, together with other participants, marshalling sufficiently large and enduring resources to “shift the dial” on the outcomes sought.

Areas of focus do not necessarily or usually correspond to standard industry classifications. They could, instead, be technologies spanning more than one industry, diverse technologies serving specific industries, or innovation in linked upstream and downstream industries.

Governments employ focused innovation policies with a variety of objectives. For instance, mission-oriented policies address societal challenges such as those arising from climate change, technological disruption and social inequality. Focused innovation policies to enhance productivity will only be durable if they are also consistent with environmental and social objectives. 


Focused innovation policy: Lessons from international experience



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