This publication looks at regional innovation in Wallonia, Belgium, by examining the political context, governance issues and the role of innovation in the economy, along with regional innovation strategies to promote growth.
Wallonia is a region with a long industrial tradition, highly open to foreign markets and investments, showing dynamic export performance making it attractive to foreign investors.
The labour market participation and employment rates in Wallonia are somewhat low by international comparison. The manufacturing sector has retained its share in value added, even if its employment has contracted between 1980 and 2010 from 24% to 12% of the regional workforce.
The Walloon economy is dominated by services, which account for three-quarters of regional value-added. The growing number of new enterprises in highly knowledge-intensive services constitutes an important, if less visible, potential for this segment of the Walloon economy.
The region displays marked territorial disparities. On the one hand, the province of Walloon Brabant (part of the hinterland of Brussels-Capital region) has a highly-skilled workforce and attracts foreign investors and high value-added activities. At the other extreme, the Hainaut exhibits high unemployment, an unskilled workforce with needs for more training, and low GDP.
Wallonia is heavily dependent on foreign investors for its private R&D activities, in the medium and high-tech sectors, that are attracted by the region's human capital and its research capacities.
Wallonia’s R&D and patenting performance is driven by a small number of very large firms.
Key policy issues
How can Wallonia speed the transformation of the traditional sectors towards higher value-added and more sustainable activities?
How can policy makers endow the region with adequate human capital and critical mass to ensure this transformation?
How can the innovation policy mix be rebalanced between supporting technology supply and supporting open innovation capacity?
How can policy makers adopt more effective policies related to regional innovation?
Increase the allocations for research and innovation within the budgets of the Region and the French Community.
Structure the policy around the twin objectives of broadening and deepening innovation.
Break down barriers in the governance of innovation policy and distinguish the functions of policy orientation, programming and execution.
Improve the policy mix and add instruments that target innovation demand.
Reinforce strategic intelligence throughout the policy cycle, such as i) the establishment of a “Research and Innovation Observatory” for analyzing and monitoring the regional situation, with feedback from beneficiaries and ongoing international benchmarking and ii) the generalization and professionalization of independent evaluations.