Innovation of policy, regulatory systems, and of products and services is the most basic ingredient to bring economic growth. It drives business competitiveness, and it is the basis of the welfare state. Obviously, this constitutes a challenge to path dependency in many policies and to regulatory architectures often conceived long ago.

In any governance system, and certainly in the a complex supra-national one such as the EU, there is always a risk that the established underlying policy paradigms will dominate critical re-examination in view of fundamental contextual shifts. This would be to the detriment of business competitiveness and welfare growth. It is the key reform challenge to politicians, business leaders and civic society in the coming decade.

For nearly a decade, EPPA has followed a holistic approach based on the ecosystem concept. An innovation ecosystem aims to emulate nature in its organizational complexity, and to create the dynamics, interactions and feedbacks that produce desired outcomes, spin-offs and cumulative effects. It requires an effort of parallel construction and deconstruction and of creation of the right framework conditions.


Since innovation processes are by nature complex, and complexity cannot be managed alone, shared, collaboration is essential. Therefore, EPPA used its experience of developing constructive dialogues in designing open innovation platforms, based on the interface between innovation thinking and design in business, governance and academia.

These platforms are autonomous, standalone public-private partnerships for which EPPA provides the secretariat, and organises the research inputs. They focus strictly on analysis and advice to EU policy makers, working under so-called Chatham House Rules and they stay away from advocacy.

These independent and tripartite groups provide an innovative method for policy initiation, preparation or amendment, designed to:

    - align different (public and private sector) interests about a particular policy sector or issue

    - improve mutual trust and consensus between leading stakeholders

    - inject outside-the-box creative policy ideas into the European Union system

    - develop operational recommendations outside its legalistic and procedural constraints

    - facilitate political agreement in the formal decision-making procedure

There are already three such public-private think tanks in operation. Its reports are available on the website:



Following an initiative of the Polish Council Presidency in December 2011, EPPA was tasked with designing the model and operational method of this innovative way of public-private collaboration to inject new policy ideas into the EU system.


The first HLG focussed on research and innovation policy and promoted the concept of ecosystem approach, now widely accepted in the EU. It advised on the innovation principle and its implementation, on the Innovation Council and on Innovation Europe, and worked also on European policy concerning industry 4.0, the circular economy, welfare systems' innovation, and European public sector innovation. 

Its work inspired the use of this model of public-private think tanks in other policy areas.

The Chairperson of the HLG on Innovation Policy Management is Professor Klaus Gretschmann, former German Sherpa in the G8 and former director-general in the Council Secretariat.

Innovation comes from a paradoxical process, combining ‘thinking-outside-the-box’, and rigorous scientific method. As shown in the work of Suzanne Berger, Mariana Mazzucato and others, governance plays a key role in successful innovation processes, from research to market.


The purpose of this group is to develop practical recommendations on how to manage the negative externalities of free trade, while maintaining the efficiency gains from free trade through strengthening and innovating WTO rules, helping to foster fair competition and prevent protectionism. It is addressing the principal negative externalities of free trade and seeking practical ways forward through design policy innovations that are socially acceptable and that enable the gains from trade to be shared more evenly. It uses experience from successful countries and from other policy areas to develop the necessary innovation proposals and toolkit.

The chairperson of the HLG on Trade Policy Innovation is John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland and former EU Ambassador to the USA.


Creative, outside-the-box thinking is also required in the biosphere sector. The recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and operationalization of one of these goals through the Paris Climate Agreement, are important new policy frameworks. Europe should now take a lead in sustainable and resilient agricultural production, but this will require urgent innovation in agriculture and innovative CAP reform. 


It is well understood that farmers need income support in many cases and for good reasons, namely the public services of farming (biodiversity, water protection, landscape preservation, animal welfare etc.). These need to be paid for by society, because the purpose of farming is not to produce biodiversity, but food.


However, there certainly are ways and means to allow all this to happen and to promote simultaneously innovation at farm level, to support investments into innovative tools at farm level which contribute to the public services, the food production and the farm income together. Path-independent thinking by a tripartite group is dealing with these intertwined challenges and working on policy recommendations.  

Its chairperson is José Manuel Silva Rodriguez, former director general for agriculture in the EU Commission.

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