Impact Assessment of Innovation Policy

What is Impact Assessment ?

This section provides an entry point into the work of the OECD on Impact assessment of public research including downloadable factsheets.

What is impact assessment?

Impact analysis is a component of the policy or programming cycle in public management, where it can play two roles:

  • Ex ante impact analysis. This is part of the needs analysis and planning activity of the policy cycle. It involves doing a prospective analysis of what the impact of an intervention might be, so as to inform policymaking – the policymaker’s equivalent of business planning;                                                                                                                   
  • Ex post impact assessment. This is part of the evaluation and management activity of the policy cycle. Broadly, evaluation aims to understand to what extent and how a policy intervention corrects the problem it was intended to address. Impact assessment focuses on the effects of the intervention, whereas evaluation is likely to cover a wider range of issues such as the appropriateness of the intervention design, the cost and efficiency of the intervention, its unintended effects and how to use the experience from this intervention to improve the design of future interventions.

Work will focus on the latter.

A significant danger  is to confuse impact assessment and evaluation because an impact assessment is not designed to answer as many questions as an evaluation and tend to focus on a narrow and tightly-defined set of impacts.

To read more about the nature of impact assessment and the challenges around the concept of impact, download the document below.

Mechanisms of Impact

In the aggregate, our societies tend to assume that research leads to increased welfare, in the form of wealth and quality of life. Intermediate impact mechanisms may be classified reasonably distinctly as:

  • Industrial innovation (including innovation in services as well as products and processes);
  • Research-influenced changes in policy, agenda-setting;
  • Tackling “grand” or societal challenges, that impede social and economic development or provide existential threats (e.g. climate change);
  • The provision of improved public goods (and potentially the provision of associated state services);
  • The improved exercise of professional skill, for example in research-based improvements in medical practice;
  • Human capital development – which is not orthogonal to the other categories but tends to feed into them.

To read more about these different impact channels, download the document below.

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