Public sector research - core policy instruments - inter-sectoral mobility schemes



The performance of innovation systems in the OECD countries depends on the intensity and effectiveness of the interactions between the main actors involved in the production and diffusion of knowledge. Consequently, public-private interactions have grown in importance as a central concern for innovation policy in recent years. In this context, inter-sectoral mobility schemes, which refer to a wide range of initiatives targeted at researcher secondments and graduate placements, aim to enhance the mobility of workers between public research sector and business and government.


Broadly, what activities and outcomes do inter-sectoral mobility schemes seek to influence?

Inter-sectoral mobility schemes are targeted primarily at providing the right conditions for researchers and new graduates to move between the public research sector, namely research universities and public research institutes, and business and government. By definition, they aim to support inter-sectoral mobility. Through doing so, they promote technological development, but also influence other activities through which the public research sector can contribute to innovation, including R&D collaboration and advice, consultancy and extension.


How do inter-sectoral mobility schemes have an influence?

The relative lack of movement of personnel between public research sector and business is mainly due to structural barriers and a lack of incentives that inter-sectoral mobility schemes seek to overcome:

  • Inter-sectoral mobility schemes are targeted at researchers, graduates, and other types of workers such as professional managers and experienced staff in public research institutes, research universities, and industry.
  • In most OECD countries, inter-sectoral mobility is hindered for a variety of reasons, including: the training content and environment of public sector researchers, which do not necessarily correspond to industry needs and practices; a lack of publicised opportunities for temporary mobility and difficulty in matching the skills needed; academic appraisal systems, which often do not value inter-sectoral mobility; and finally legal barriers related to labour market regulation and different pension and social security rights for the public and private sectors.
  • Inter-sectoral mobility schemes seek to promote the flows of researchers and graduates among the different R&D performers through a wide range of measures, for instance: preparing early stage researchers for a career in both sectors with awareness on key employment skills; increasing inter-sectoral mobility possibilities for both early stage and established researchers, in particular through PhD studentshipspost-doctoral fellowships, consultancy and internships; advertising vacancy positions and providing access to researchers’ industry relevant expertise online; proving incentives for inter-sectoral mobility through appropriate evaluation criteria, and a fair and transparent career evaluation process; recruiting more staff on permanent positions with experience from the other sector; removing administrative barriers and providing the necessary autonomy to public sector organisations, especially with regard to recruitment; and setting the framework conditions for academia-industry partnerships by favouring co-location, collaboration through jointly funded research grants and fellowships.


What factors should be considered when implementing inter-sectoral mobility schemes?

Several factors should be considered when implementing inter-sectoral mobility schemes:

  • Interventions of public research sector and industry: several measures aiming to overcome barriers to inter-sectoral mobility can be implemented by research universities, public research institutes, and industry in many OECD countries. These measures include, but are not limited to: providing adequate training to institutional researchers in order to better work with industry; publicising vacant positions and providing access to researchers’ industry relevant expertise online; adapting evaluation criteria to reward inter-sectoral mobility; and involving industry representatives in management committees in the public research sector.
  • Changes in legal and administrative environment: other measures nevertheless have to be implemented by policy-making organisations and regulatory organisations in several OECD countries. These measures are for instance those aiming to provide more autonomy to research universities and public research institutes in their recruitment decisions and evaluation processes or those requiring changes in labour market regulation and social security and pension systems.


Further resources

European Commission (2006), Mobility of Researchers between Academia and Industry: 12 Practical Recommendations, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities

European University Association (2009), Collaborative Doctoral Education, University-Industry Partnerships for Enhancing Knowledge Exchange, Brussels: European University Association asbl.

Public sector research

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Discretionary organisational funding

Competitive R&D project grants

Support for R&D infrastructures

Centres of excellence

Collaborative R&D platforms

Technology platforms

Cluster initiatives

Science and technology parks

University-industry linkage schemes

PhD studentships

Post-doctoral fellowships

Inter-sectoral mobility schemes

Risk capital measures in support of spin-offs

Entrepreneurship training schemes

Technology diffusion schemes

Innovation vouchers

   Technology incubators




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