ENTITIES AND PUBLIC POLICIES
26 march 2018
PIA TOOLS DEDICATED TO THE VALORISATION
OF PUBLIC RESEARCH
A strong strategic ambition, but disappointing results
Valorisation of public research refers to the way in which knowledge developed by
researchers in public structures is used by companies or the researchers themselves to
produce economic and social value.
This may be achieved via partnerships between public laboratories and companies,
technology transfers or researchers’ moving between the public and private sectors.
This valorisation is vital to nurture companies’ innovation and stimulate
competitiveness and growth in the economy.
New solutions designed to improve valorisation of public research have been created in
the framework of the future investment programme (PIA). The Cour des Comptes has
prepared an initial assessment of their functioning in order to analyse their
effectiveness, following on from its report in 2015 on management and governance of
The government’s support for this policy can only be assessed over the long term.
Nevertheless, the results obtained by some valorisation structures set up by the PIA,
which are well below initial forecasts, should lead to the public authorities rapidly
tightening the scope and funding of these new tools.
The creation of new valorisation structures
a risky gamble by the PIA
Rather than reforming and simplifying the existing valorisation solution, the public authorities
chose, in the framework of the first future investments programme (PIA 1), to set up new
structures from scratch, gambling on their effectiveness and viability at the cost of a massive
investment of public money. The PIA's ambitions in terms of excellence and disruption ran into
a series of difficult obstacles from the outset, however.
The new valorisation structures sometimes found themselves competing with existing entities,
particularly those set up by national research bodies and universities. Concerns over territorial
coverage led to the generalisation of solutions designed to be selective. The objectives defined
often proved inappropriate, leading to the continued existence of some structures when their
difficulties could have raised doubts over their viability.
The internal governance of those structures is complex and often involves a large number of
disparate participants, sometimes with divergent objectives. Finally, the ANR (National Agency
for Research) encountered difficulties fulfilling its role as facilitator of PIA initiatives.
Mixed and, so far, disappointing results
Compared with their broad and ambitious initial objectives, the first results from the new
valorisation structures created by the PIA appear very varied, often below initial ambitions and
disappointing overall compared with the significant financial resources allocated.
Creation of the new valorisation structures involved a number of gambles, particularly including
their appropriation by public higher education and research institutions. This has been very
mixed, however, resulting in insufficient integration of the new structures into the valorisation
ecosystem. The existence of duplicates has so far prevented the anticipated economies of scale
The simultaneous creation of new structures has also led to a certain amount of confusion in
the public research valorisation sector.
Finally, the structures’ economic model presents intrinsic fragility, which appears to have been
underestimated at the outset and which could, for many of them, imply continued reliance on
public funding, even outside the PIA.
Tightening the perimeter of the PIA tools and improving public research
The results obtained by some structures, which are well below initial forecasts, should lead to
the public authorities rapidly tightening the scope and funding of these new tools.
Most of the new valorisation structures created by the PIA are now at a pivotal point, particularly
in view of the upcoming three-year reviews, whose results will be decisive for use of the
remaining credits from PIA 1 and 2 and potential allocation of PIA 3 credits. Those demonstrating
insurmountable intrinsic or system weakness, most notably the SATT Grand Centre, should be
immediately closed down. The Cour des Comptes also believes that the CVT (Consortia of
Thematic Valorisation) system should be ended.
For those structures justifying an extension of public support beyond the initially planned period,
assessment of their value-added should be based on robust socio-economic impact indicators
that can be used by both their governance bodies and the supervisory authorities.
In any case, to achieve all their expected outcomes, in addition to a favourable regulatory
environment these new PIA tools require a sufficient level of commitment from companies.
The Cour des Comptes has made 11 recommendations, which are designed to:
tighten the perimeter of the PIA valorisation systems;
reinforce the integration of these new structures in the innovation ecosystem;
measure their socio-economic impact;
reinforce the circulation of competencies between public research and the private sector.
Read the report
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