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Increasing social benefits
Commitment 27-B
Research Programme on Public Sector and Social Innovation
Innovation Union commitment text

"Starting in 2011, the Commission will support a substantial research programme on public sector and social innovation, looking at issues such as measurement and evaluation, financing and other barriers to scaling up and development. As an immediate step, it will pilot a European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard as a basis for further work to benchmark public sector innovation. It will explore with Member States whether it is appropriate to bring together new learning experiences and networks for public sector leaders at European level."

Targets of Innovation Supports Measures (EU-27, 2009)
Note: TrendChart database of support measures (data downloaded on 7 October 2009); analysis Technopolis Group.
  • What is the problem?
  • What is our objective?
  • Implementation
  • Milestones
  • Background documents
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Social innovation has been developed through a 'bottom-up process" with little conceptualisation of theories of social innovation, its value, and its definitions. In this respect, methodological developments are necessary for a better measurement of cost and benefit analysis from economic, social, environmental, cultural and policy points of views, including the social return on investment. There is also an insufficient culture and practice of ex-post and ex-ante evaluation of social innovation initiatives in Europe based on similar definitions and approaches. National, regional and local public authorities as well as social economy, non-profit sector and private companies should be guided by common principles in this respect in order to be able to compare, validate, scale-up and monitor such initiatives or to transfer more easily good practices. The promotion of effective instruments (economic and financial) also needs a better knowledge about legislation, barriers and public procurement linked to social innovation. The role of social entrepreneurship and networks of practitioners also have to be better understood to be promoted.

Although the public sector needs to innovate to meet the increasing demand of citizens, innovation in public sector is more difficult to define and identify. Efforts to better understand and to promote public sector innovation are greatly hindered by a lack of quantitative evidence. Therefore, we strongly need a measurement framework, which could provide internationally comparable indicators, and which would give information on the characteristics of public sector innovation, particularly on its drivers and barriers, providing thus scientific evidence for effective policy making and benchmarking. Apart from some national and regional pilot initiatives, there is no such a conceptual framework at EU level, which could provide comparable information on how the public sectors of Member States innovate, and also on the policy responses needed to enhance innovation in the public sector.

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Public services are among the most knowledge-intensive and value added of all sectors. Therefore, the public sector has a huge potential for innovation, and public sector innovation is now perceived as a fundamental factor in addressing globalization and grand societal challenges and also as a stimulus for business innovation. Public sector represents about 45% of the EU’s GDP, 15% of the total employment in the EU and, as regards public procurement, 17% of GDP. There is a strong need for efficiency gains, better governance, more user involvement, as budgetary and human resources pressures are imminent.

A common conceptual framework of public sector innovation, which could provide internationally comparable indicators. These would give information on the characteristics of public sector innovation, particularly on its drivers and barriers, providing thus scientific evidence for effective policy making and benchmarking.

The public sector has an interest in promoting and facilitating social innovation, to answer unmet social needs or address societal challenges, both through its own provision of services to address these needs/challenges and supporting and working with other societal actors to do so. In this context, important questions to consider is to what extent social innovations can improve and complement existing public services, and what kind of partnerships can be established.

Social innovation offers a way forward to tackle societal challenges when the market and public sector do not respond to the social needs. It is about developing new forms of organization and interactions to respond to social issues. Social innovation can address a social demand or need (e.g. elder care), contribute to addressing a societal challenge (e.g. ageing society) and, through its process dimension (e.g. the active engagement of the elder, new services) it contributes to reshaping society in the direction of participation, empowerment and learning. Social innovation can be defined as a new idea (product, service and model) that simultaneously meets social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and creates new social relationships or collaborations.

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  • The Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities Theme of the Cooperation Programme of FP7 is publishing annual calls for proposals containing specific topics about social innovation and its role in the society and economy. The 2011 call had, for example, a topic entitled "New innovation processes including social innovation" and a topic on a "Social platform on innovative social services". The calls in 2012 and 2013 contained topics related to the methodological aspects of measurement, validation and monitoring as well as the issues of social innovation and the public sector. Specific welfare systems related to urban and local cohesion, families and other social issues will be subject of conceptualisation.
  • The next EU research and innovation funding programme, HORIZON 2020, will include a dedicated activity line on "new forms of innovation, with special emphasis on social innovation and creativity".
  • The Commission is piloting a European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard (EPSIS) under the European Innovation Scoreboard, the results of which are likely to be available by the end of 2011. Based on this work, in 2012 a more comprehensive EPSIS will be developed as part of the European Performance Scoreboard on Research and Innovation. This could provide a solid basis for further work in this field, potentially resulting in an established scoreboard providing data annually on public sector innovation in Member States.
  • In the context of Social Innovation Europe, 2 thematic reports have been published in 2012 on respectively funding and measurement of social Innovation (see attached documents).
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Milestone
Summer 2010 FP7 SSH 2011 Call "Social platform on innovative social services"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 1.5 million
Milestone
Summer 2010 FP7 SSH-2011 Call "New innovation processes including social innovation"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 2.7 million
Milestone
Summer 2011 FP7 SSH-2012 Call "Social innovation against inequalities"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 2.5 million
Milestone
Summer 2011 FP7 SSH-2012 Call "Social innovation for vulnerable populations"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 1.0 million
Milestone
Summer 2011 FP7 SSH-2012 Call "Social innovation in the public sector"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 2.5 million
Milestone
Summer 2012 FP7 SSH-2013 Call "Economic underpinnings of social innovations"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 5 million
Milestone
Summer 2012 FP7 SSH-2013 Call "The impact of the third sector on socio-economic development in Europe"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 5 million
Milestone
Summer 2012 FP7 SSH-2013 Call "Social entrepreneurship for innovative and inclusive societies"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 5 million
Milestone
Summer 2012 FP7 SSH-2013 Call "Social Innovation – empowering people, changing societies?"
Type: Financial support
Indicative resources: € 10 million
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File type funding-social-innovation_en.pdf (845.28 KB)
The report explores all possible (and also innovative) sources of funding for social innovators through EU programmes, at the level of national or local authorities and from private investors. It was published in February 2012.
File type SI_policy review_final_Oct 2013.pdf (3.03 MB)
This policy review has produced a systematic overview of research findings of 17 comparative European projects in the area of social innovation. The review focuses on how these projects address ‘social innovation’ in terms of theory, methodology, policy areas, actors, and level of analysis with the aim of bringing the results to the attention of policymakers, wider groups of stakeholders and the broader public in a comprehensive way.
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Lead Directorate-General/Unit, Head of Unit

Directorate General Research and Innovation, Unit B5: Robert Burmanjer/Heiko Prange-Gstöhl

Directorate General Enterprise and Industry, Unit B3: Xavier Le Mounier, Grzegorz Drozd

Other Directorates-General/Units associated

DG INFSO, DG EMPL, DG SANCO, DG REGIO, BEPA

Key external partners
  • Policy makers;
  • Transnational networks of public administrators, professional associations, NGOs;
  • Researchers having expertise in public sector, innovation and/or statistics
EC flag European Commission Departments (Directorates-General) and services new window link
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