Working paper

Research and innovation policies and productivity growth

Can research and innovation policies power growth? The answer currently can only be a timid yes.

Publishing date
10 May 2021
Hand holding a light bulb

This Working Paper is an output from the MICROPROD project,

which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 822390.

We review the evidence on the impact of public intervention on private research and innovation, and how research and innovation and R&I policies affect growth in the applied macro models most commonly used in European Union policy analysis. The evidence suggests that R&I grants and R&I tax credits can have positive effects in terms of stimulating investment in innovation. In terms of the impact of public R&I interventions on economy-wide GDP growth and jobs, the available applied macro models predict positive effects over the long term. It therefore takes time before short-term negative effects associated with reallocations of high-skilled labour from other productive activities to generate the extra innovations, and the negative effects from displacing older, more labour-intensive production processes, are compensated for. To the question of whether R&I policies can serve to power growth, the answer can only be a timid yes at this stage. R&I policies certainly have the potential, but still too little is known of what drives their actual effects. More micro and macro evaluations are still needed.

Recommended citation:

Veugelers, R. (2021) ‘Research and innovation policies and productivity growth’, Working Paper 08/2021, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Reinhilde Veugelers

    Prof Dr. Reinhilde Veugelers is a full professor at KULeuven (BE) at the Department of Management, Strategy and Innovation.  She has been a Senior fellow at Bruegel since 2009.  She is also a CEPR Research Fellow, a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and of the Academia Europeana. From 2004-2008, she was on academic leave, as advisor at the European Commission (BEPA Bureau of European Policy Analysis).  She served on the ERC Scientific Council from 2012-2018 and on the RISE Expert Group advising the commissioner for Research.  She is a member of VARIO, the expert group advising the Flemish minister for Innovation. She is currently a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of the journal Science and a co-PI on the Science of Science Funding Initiative at NBER.

    With her research concentrated in the fields of industrial organisation, international economics and strategy, innovation and science, she has authored numerous well cited publications in leading international journals.  Specific recent topics include novelty in technology development,  international technology transfers through MNEs, global innovation value chains, young innovative companies, innovation for climate change,  industry science links and their impact on firm’s innovative productivity, evaluation of research & innovation policy,  explaining scientific productivity,  researchers’ international mobility,  novel scientific research.


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