Collaborative governance in mission-oriented innovation policy: Lessons learned from the German High-Tech Strategy 2025
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The 21st century is characterized by grand environmental and societal challenges, such as climate change or public health, stimulating national governments to revise their innovation policies by implementing missions. A mission is a well-defined goal that connects and enables stakeholders on the shared objective. With mission-oriented innovation policies (MOIP), policymakers attempt to intentionally generate a shared direction for innovation activities and guide various actors around a common goal. Therefore, a significant aim of MOIP is to enable cross-disciplinary collaboration by including actors of various groups of interest, such as civil society, industry, and local governments. The following research question is addressed: “How can collaborative governance be implemented in transformer missions?” Additionally, two sub-questions are posed to address hampering and facilitating factors of collaborative governance and the differences among the missions regarding the collaboration process. In this context, Germany has formulated twelve missions in the High-Tech Strategy 2025 (HTS) which have already been characterized. For this study, the transformer missions were analyzed because of their broad scope and complex socio-technical system that they comprehensively aim to target. A comparative case study analyzed two transformer missions, namely ‘Creating sustainable circular economies’ and ‘Substantially reducing plastic discharged into the environment’. This aim was to better understand the MOIP processes with collaborative governance. Therefore, fifteen semi-structured interviews with stakeholders connected to the two transformer missions were conducted. The results showed that collaborative governance in transformer missions is essential. For a better understanding, the HTS was divided into three levels: the HTS, mission, and program level. Variances among all of them were observed. While the HTS and the program levels were well structured, the mission level hardly received coordination resources. Another overall finding on mission collaboration indicated the importance of time commitment for a multi-stakeholder collaboration process. The collaborative process factors are therefore essential to maintain and not negligible. On the basis of these findings, the following two implications are recommended. First, the formulation phase of the mission already determines crucial factors such as scope, participation, and uptake. Therefore, early inclusion of the target groups is crucial to create MOIP. Second, each mission needs coordinative governance structures to connect stakeholders – public and private – for collaboration, leading to the aimed knowledge transmission among them and consequently spurs the endeavoured innovation.