Learning and innovation in enterprises

2012 – This report created by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), looks at innovation and learning in enterprises and examines the role that Vocational Education and Training (VET) and learning-conducive working environments play in fostering enterprises’ innovative capacity. It covers the EU-27 plus Norway. Furthermore, it provides an overview of program portfolios in the various European countries and analyses the impacts of publicly funded innovation programs on the innovative ability of organizations.

Main questions

The study addresses questions like the following. What are the links between work organization, workplace learning, training and innovation? How can workplaces be developed that are conducive to learning and innovation? Which types of programs are used to foster the innovative ability of enterprises in Europe?

Some results

The first set of results concern the impact of work organization and learning on innovation.

There seem to be significant positive correlations between learning-intensive forms of work organization and innovation performance, at least at country level. Task complexity seems to have a stronger impact on innovation performance than other characteristics of learning-intensive forms of work organization, such as autonomy of employees.

The results suggest that task complexity and human capital formation in enterprises are the two main driving factors for innovation performance.

The second set of impacts that was explored in this study concerns the effects of publicly funded programs on the innovative ability of organizations. In total, 1 030 publicly funded programs were implemented in the EU-27 and Norway. In the study these programs are clustered along the line of their investments in either human capital, or in organizational structures and processes with a focus on the workplace or on organizational level (business development programs), or in relational capital (involvement in networks) or directly in R&D&I; or specific combinations. 

This analysis was completed with telephone interviews (CATIs) with program managers and program owners and with 10 case studies (extensively described in an annex in the report). The analysis of these qualitative data generally shows that the programs are geared towards and have an impact on the dimensions (human, structural, relational capital) for which they are designed.

Interestingly, the analysis reveals that, in programs exclusively geared towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), both the expected and actual impacts are greater than those of the other, non-SME-specific programs.


The study’s findings lead to a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • VET-related indicators should be integrated in R&D&I reporting systems.
  • Workplace-centered programs should be developed and implemented; they should be used to raise awareness of and focus attention on the importance of learning-intensive forms of work organization and workplace learning for innovation, as this awareness seems to be lacking in many European countries;
  • The involvement of the social partners, professional and industrial organizations and other intermediaries should be further increased and developed in all types of programs.

Reference: CEDEFOP, Learning and innovation in enterprises. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2012. Research Paper No.27. (See attachment).

Themes: Innovation & Innovation capacity, Talent development

Source: Research Reports