7.2.2VARIO set of indicators for science and innovation

The objectives and indicators for science and innovation are the starting point for selecting ‘smart’ indicators.

1) An important step is the identification of critical success factors for science and innovation (identification is based on the VARIO memorandum, VARIO advisory reports and dialogues with the VARIO council members). Based on these critical success factors, objectives have been formulated. The various objectives are bundled into building blocks (see figure).

2) Measurable quantities - indicators - are then linked to the objectives for science and innovation. This makes it possible to monitor whether or not an objective has been achieved and to follow the path towards it. The identification of objectives and the systematic linking of indicators to these objectives is discussed in this dossier. In order to increase transparency, only individual indicators are selected and not composite indices. A robust set KPIs requires good quality control. Several criteria are therefore considered when defining the indicators; availability (at Flemish or Belgian level), international comparability, frequency of indicator availability (annual, biennial...) and reliability (does the method of generating the indicator offer enough guarantees of reliability).


The result of this comprehensive exercise is a set of 20 VARIO-core indicators for science and innovation (see table 1). The set of 20 core indicators is an integral part of a larger grouping of a total of 49 indicators that together cover the broad spectrum of the Science and Innovation system as fully as possible.

Although there is clear overlap with the RIS, EIS, GII... the present tool is not simply the compilation of indicators from those existing indicator sets, but a thoroughly documented exercise. The Regional Innovation Scoreboard and the European Innovation Scoreboard are drawn up from the perspective of innovation/business activities. VARIO prefers to take a broader view and include the entire ecosystem of science and innovation in its monitoring set.

  • Most of the proposed indicators are already existing and well-developed statistics. With regard to some objectives, however, VARIO encountered gaps in the indicator landscape in its exercise and suggestions are made for indicator development. Therefore a distinction has been made between on the one hand those indicators for which the first steps have already been taken and for which the data (sources) are also available (e.g. citations of patents) and which are referred to as ‘indicator under development'. On the other hand, for some objectives the data are currently lacking and indicator development should be undertaken (e.g. 'stay rate' of foreign students and share of international R&D personnel in companies). These indicators are referred to as ‘to be developed'.
  • In addition, VARIO emphasizes that it is difficult to put indicators on ‘impact' because there are many factors that are beyond the control of the policy initiatives set up and because it is not easy to isolate the specific impact of an initiative. In this respect, impact analyses - complementary to indicators - can help to gain more insight in the results of a particular policy initiative.

The 20 core-indicators reflect the critical success factors identified by VARIO and the related objectives. The set of core indicators is also sufficiently easy to manage, allowing the Flemish status regarding Science and Innovation to be closely monitored on a regular basis. The indicators are transparent and generally score very high on the predetermined quality conditions of availability, international comparability, frequency and reliability.

Table 1: Overview of VARIO core indicators for science and innovation for the different building blocks

The 6 Building blocks:

(1) Sufficient resources for S&I
(2) Talent is crucial for a knowledge-based society
(3) Science and knowledge as foundations
(4) Knowledge, innovation and production skills of companies
(5) Links between S&I actors
6) An open and international Flanders