The objectives of the NIS project are set out in the following statement:
"For policy makers, an understanding of innovation systems can help to identify leverage points for enhancing innovative performance and overall competitiveness. The concept of national innovation systems directs the attention of policy makers to possible systemic failures that can accompany the more generally recognised market failures in the development of technology. The lack of interaction between the actors in the system, mismatches between basic research in the public sector and more applied research in industry, malfunctioning of technology transfer institutions, and information and absorptive deficiencies on the part of industry may all limit innovation and the diffusion of knowledge. In search of improved interactions, governments can provide the foundations for effective partnering among the elements in the system".
The rationale behind the NIS project is laid down in Accessing and Expanding the Science and Technology Knowledge Base , which established a useful link between the concept of national innovation systems and the knowledge-based economy which was gaining increasing attention from policy makers.
During the Phase I of the NIS project, pilot-country case studies were undertaken to demonstrate the feasibility and policy relevance of this new approach to identifying and benchmarking the main determinants of innovation performance.
In the Phase II , the NIS project evolved around two tracks: general analysis involving all countries and in-depth analysis of specific aspects within focus groups.
The work of the first two phases of the project is summarised in Managing National Innovation Systems (OECD, 1999).
In the Phase III of the NIS project, in order to concentrate resources on promising themes, three focus groups were created:
Innovative firms and networks (lead countries: Austria and Australia).
Clusters (lead country: the Netherlands), and
Mobility of human resources (lead country: Norway).